Ricoh has been quick to focus attention on biomass plastics as a material that contributes to preventing global warming while reducing consumption of petroleum, an exhaustible resource. We have been accumulating new technologies and applying them to product materials.
Ricoh has been developing components of imaging devices that utilize biomass plastics as a part of its effort to develop alternative materials while considering the best methods of manufacturing to support a low-carbon and recycle-oriented society.
In 2002, we started to develop biomass plastics with a 50% biomass content(*1)for multifunction copiers, which we applied to interior components for the first time in the industry in 2005. Ricoh continuously made efforts to increase the biomass content of materials and in 2008 was able to successfully introduce components that use materials consisting of nearly 70% biomass content.
Furthermore, Ricoh has been working towards the commercial application of highly-flame retardant biomassplastics that conform to the strict standards of strong fire redundancy and durability that are required for the exterior components of imaging devices in order to expand the use of such materials. In August 2013, we successfully introduced such biomassplastics to the exterior components of the production printer RICOH Pro 8120S/8110S/8100S.
(*1)The ratio of biomass plastics to the total used for components
|Figure 1: Circulation of biomass plastics|
|Figure 2: Proportion of plastics adopted for multifunction printers based on application and properties required|
Three major issues exist with regard to the increase of biomass content with polylactic acid, a plant-derived crystalline polyester, which Ricoh has applied as materials in imaging devices.
- Crystallinity (degree of crystallization) influences heat resistance and impact resistance.
- Crystallization speed influences molding cycle time.
- It is difficult to secure fire retardancy using polyester.
Traditionally, we coped with these issues by blending a certain ratio of petroleum-derived plastics with polylactic acid; however, doing this meant that we could not increase biomass content (*2) in the way we wanted. The highest content we could achieve was around 50%. To improve the proportion, Ricoh developed new additives jointly with a material supplier. This was done to control crystallinity without mixing petroleum-derived plastics, while ensuring heat resistance and impact resistance. The new biomass plastics have a higher biomass content (about 70%), which is top-class in the industry (Figure 3).
Furthermore, this material can be formed as fast as conventional petroleum-derived plastic materials and can also be mass processed. We first used this material for a manual pocket for imagio MP C2200, which was released in October 2008(Figure 4).
(*2) Biomass content: The proportion of biomass resources used as the raw material of a plastic component.
|(a) Conventional biomass plastics
Biomass content (about 50%)
|(b) New biomass plastics
Biomass content (about 70%)
|Figure 3:Comparison of biomass content using conventional and new methods|
|(a) The imagio MP C2200 manual pocket||(b) Installation position on imagio MP C2200|
|Figure 4: A part mounted on the imagio MP C2200 (October, 2008, sold in Japan)|
(*3)UL 94(the Standard of Underwriters Laboratories Inc.), the Standard of Safety for the Flammability of Plastic Materials of Parts in Devices and Appliances testing: the classifications are HB, V-2, V-1, V-0, 5VB, and 5VA （Underwriters Laboratories Inc., standard）.
(*4)Ricoh's estimate by comparing with emissions from the production of conventional PC+ABS plastic components.
Figure 5:Highly fire-retardant biomass plastic is being used for the back cover of the operation panel in RICOH Pro 8120S/8110S/8100S.
Going forward, in order to achieve Ricoh's environmental target of cutting the new input of resources by 25% from the FY2007 level by FY2020, we will continue to improve rigidity and formability, which are requirements of materials used in larger components, as well as heat resistance and water absorbency, which are essential properties of functional parts, while ensuring durable dimensional accuracy(*5). Through such technological development, we aim to expand the use of biomass plastics (figure 6). In addition, we are working to enhance recycling activities to make a greater environmental contribution in the biomass plastics lifecycle.
(*5)Durable dimensional accuracy: dimensional accuracy that needs to be ensured for multiple years without causing any dimensional changes due to heat/water absorption for the application to plastic components of imaging devices that will be used for more than five years.
Figure 6: Development image of biomass plastics