Robotic End of Arm Tooling

At our factory in Ricoh Telford we injection mould five million components every month for Ricoh’s core imaging and electronics products. When an automated pick and place system suffered an unexpected breakdown due to a broken robot gripper, FDM 3d printing proved itself essential to the continuity of operations.

Specially designed robot grippers are required to pick the parts from the injection mould tool, present them to an inspection camera, move them to a QR code laser engraving system before finally placing them onto a conveyor to be packed.

With the system down, production halts meant disruption to the supply chain. It was critical to get the machine back up and running as quickly as possible.

Conventional CNC machining of a replacement part would have taken three days.

However, with FDM 3D printing, the parts were printed and refitted to the machine within just two hours.

This meant production lines, and part supply to other production lines further downstream, were not affected by the delay.


Phil Greatrex – Senior Moulding Engineer:

“With 1,200 parts coming off one machine alone every hour, having the system down for up to three days could significantly impact the scheduled supply of parts. We simply could not accommodate this unscheduled downtime and would have been forced to switch production and change our schedule on this machine. With 3D printing, we could absorb the relatively small amount of downtime and keep to schedule with no effect on other areas of the business.”

Typically at Ricoh 3D, we hold two days buffer stock to allow for scenarios like this.

However, with the potential for the production line to be impacted for three days, stock would have been depleted and production lines would have ground to a halt. Once up and running, the depleted stock would then have to be re-stocked via extra shifts. This would be a high-risk scenario for some businesses, but at Ricoh 3D the confidence in our 3D printing capability moves us increasingly closer to a Just-In-Time system.

Joseph Fowler – Operations Manager:

 “With 25,000 filled toner bottles being distributed globally out of the factory every day, any disruption can have significant impact on the assembly, filling and packaging operations further downstream. To avoid any impact to our customer, we have put in place every possible preventive measure whilst avoiding wastage and maintaining super-low-cost manufacturing. 3D printing is at the heart of this – which most importantly to me improves productivity.”