Ricoh has for many years now been producing quality print heads for industrial applications. Almost quietly it has very much been part of the revolutionary change in demand for inkjet solutions for manufacturing. Ahead of InPrint 2015, I caught up with Dave Varty and we talked about changes afoot for industrial print and for the Japanese technology giant itself in its approach to industrial inkjet.
How have you seen the market develop in the past 18 months since the first edition of InPrint?
“Back in April last year was clear that industrial inkjet was more in a more formative stage of development. The landscape was more fragmented with independent component makers, integrators, inks and electronics etc. and the end user would have to bring all the facets together. However, what has happened for us and possibly some others in the meantime is that it has formed more clearly. For example, we have been begun to understand more fully what the large Ricoh means. How do you make Ricoh relevant for a company wanting to integrate industrial inkjet? Well you need to start thinking about what it is that the market needs now and in the future by evolving your business to meet this need. You must constantly adapt and for us we think this means extending our service offering to users.”
So Ricoh is developing a new partnership approach?
“Yes it is. 18 months ago, around the time of InPrint 2014, the technical solutions were available but were not joined up. But now I think it is much more so and it is now down to the end users to take advantage.
This is a key part of our message for InPrint 2015 and beyond. For some companies in the market, they will sell you whatever they have but this will not be a joined up solution that helps the manufacturer through all of steps they need to fully integrate inkjet. Ricoh has a huge amount of experience and resources in project management and delivery. We can really help with this especially with the quality and breadth of technology we have to offer.
At Ricoh we spend a lot of time speaking about solutions as opposed to the technology. Unlocking the resource we have internally and focusing more clearly on building our partnership approach with businesses is a key part of our future strategy. It makes sense for the larger companies to approach the market with more of an end to end solution by being more involved in the integration over a longer period of time. We see the ideal partnership as being one that will last many years as we help our customers to grow their industrial inkjet processes within their manufacturing.”
So do you think that inkjet really is developing industrially?
“Yes it is. I think we are on the cusp of the industrial inkjet revolution. The technology is ready. What now needs to happen is the industrialists need to really give it a go by finding the right partner. We are a good one, we are large and able to help by removing the risk by enabling customers to try the technology and learn.
In the future I think more and more partnerships will develop. For example partnerships between companies linking factory automation, material handling, integration, software and robotics all working together to create end to end solutions, not just one off technology transactions. As a result we will see lots of new partnerships and they will do new things. In the future it will not be about adding digital inkjet an existing print process like we have seen with the growth of hybrid print technologies. In the future it will be less about the normal printing press and more about creating the right technologies for the job. Merging technology will decrease because we have to offer something new. At Ricoh we see the revolution really occurring when the digital technology does something completely new and exciting.”
What application areas do you think are developing next for inkjet?
1) Product decoration
Direct to shape: And this is what I think will happen with product decoration. We will eventually see the end of the decorative label designed to either provide brand identity or attract a purchase. As soon as brand owners accept digital direct to shape I really think this will occur. The barriers still remain. These barriers remain to be quality, speed and the challenge of printing onto a 3D object. But I really think that direct to shape will take off as progress has been really fast and the projects that are under NDA are very exciting and compelling.
Still only 5% of textile is printed digitally. Only apparel has shifted significantly to digital production, so there is still a big opportunity as the drivers for change in this sector are very strong. So for textile used for interior décor, upholstery, carpet and curtains it will surely grow. For this we need to think about home décor rather than apparel. However this is much more challenging to print. It is a mutually exclusive technology requirement in that the textile print must be both light fast and rub fast and this is difficult to achieve with inkjet. I think the adoption of digital in the textile printing segment will accelerate when the first ink manufacturer brings out a pigment ink that prints like a dye ink. Then we will see a new expansion in this market as well.
3) Coding and Marking
Thirdly we see a continued growth with coding and marking. This is because the demand will continue to become more complex. Legislation is driving variable data as a standard requirement. Track and trace is becoming much more in demand. You can track a product to the till where the transaction took place. And this is popular with retailers because ultimately it is about protection. So you have to code the object and it has to have a unique number. You have to track this and it has to be digital. This area is adopting quickly and for industrial print it is relatively basic, therefore the barriers are quite low.
How are you exhibiting at InPrint?
I guess unsurprisingly our booth at InPrint will be focused around the key message of partnership and we will have a number of different technologies and partners on our booth including: Cyan-Tec, Colorgate, GIS, Ardeje as well as some really interesting packaging technology from our colleagues at Ricoh Scotland. This is an opportunity for us to really begin positioning ourselves as a partnership and full solution provider for industrial inkjet now and into the future.
Ricoh are exhibiting in Hall A6 booth F31