30 September 2018 Digital Printing Technologies

Ricoh backs inkjet, but do not write off toner

There is still an opportunity for toner based digital printing with significant advantages over inkjet, but Ricoh will be ready when the components fall into place.

Ricoh is working on the next generation of electrophotographic printing presses, eventually to replace the Pro C5200, Pro C7200 and Pro C9200 or fill a gap between these presses. This is despite the millions of dollars that the company is pouring into inkjet applications and technology.

The Pro C5200 was introduced last year, the Pro C7200 and Pro C9200 have been introduced this year and are helping the company grow its market base. However, as some of the new presses are replacing machines in the field, the growth in annuity revenues and from machine sales are not quite marching in step, says Peter Williams, global head of the commercial and industrial print division.

Heavy demand for the new machines meant disruption to supply over the summer and some delay for some customers. As well as targeting its existing user base, Ricoh is aiming to replace older generation machines from other suppliers. “We are through the disruption now,” says Williams. “The market launch in Europe was excellent. Now we are starting to roll out in the American markets.

The Corporate and Industrial Print division was formed as part of the shake up under Jake Yamashita who became CEO a year ago. As part of this, Ricoh's separate divisions have been more closely aligned to the markets they serve and the products offered rather than Ricoh's own footprint across the world. It means, says Williams, “that we are the only true global division”. Previously there was a gap between delivering the the products and the sales channels to take them to customers.

This means that Williams heads a division on a global basis that combines inkjet and laser printing in the Commercial and Industrial Printing group. “Production print is close to a $2 billion business and is growing fast,” he says.

Key to this is taking advantage of inkjet printing across a number of segments. Ricoh has been a major producer of inkjet heads, supplying these to third party manufacturers to incorporate in end products. And while it all continue to do so, Ricoh is now delivering its own, sometimes competing machinery. The Pro T7210 flatbed inkjet printer is a first example of this in display graphics, but there are also textile machines, printers for floor coverings and wallpaper that now include the Ricoh technology, if not its brand, some the result of co development projects.

“We aim to align inkjet and production print technology to assist the transition from toner to inkjet in production print,” says Williams.

This has resulted in the VC range of continuous feed presses replacing the former IBM Infoprint developed machines. But it will not happen immediately in the cut sheet segment. The product cycle will come up with new toner machines, perhaps being showcased at Drupa in June 2020 for two-page formats, and while Ricoh has the capability of developing a four-page sheetfed inkjet press, Williams says the company is in no hurry to introduce this.

“Some 20% of Ricoh revenues go to R&D, and disproportionately so for inkjet, but there is still a lot of opportunity in laser based machines.” The next generation of inkjet heads will deliver the same quality as toner, but electrophotographic has lots of things going for it, so will not automatically be replaced by inkjet.

“Inkjet is not as flexible and there is the ink costs. We will offer an inkjet press when we think we can be successful. Our approach is that we want to have a commercially viable product: the component parts are not there yet.”

Gareth Ward

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Ricoh at Telford

Ricoh at Telford

Ricoh is investing heavily into inkjet, not least at is plant in Telford where an inkjet centre supports partners and applications in Europe, which dominates in terms of activity for Ricoh. But alongside the investment in inkjet, the company continues to develop its toner based digital presses.

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