We will create products and technologies that help transform customer workplaces and resolve social issues.
The Ricoh Group has R&D sites in Japan, the United States, India and China. Each site explores market needs and conducts research and technology development attuned to regional characteristics while deepening cooperative connections among global sites. Our corporate map also includes RICOH Global Technology Centers and RICOH Customer Experience Centers, and we have launched value creating activities involving our customers through a framework for gathering feedback on market needs ascertained directly through customer support activities to enhance future product development.
Ricoh’s technology development process for core businesses is broken down into three stages—research and technology development, product development, and sales and support. We emphasize system solutions development and customized development to fuel more robust responses, from the development of key technologies based on technology strategy through efficient product development without relying on prototypes, and then to customer needs.
We are drawing on open innovation with universities, research institutions, and enterprises to accelerate efforts to help resolve social issues and streamline the development of advanced technologies.
We are applying our inkjet, machine vision, image processing, and other technologies in diverse initiatives. They include the Japanese government supported Funding Program for World-Leading Innovative R&D on Science and Technology and joint R&D with universities and independent administrative corporations. We are reinforcing relationships with start-up enterprises to accelerate the creation of new businesses.
In November 2017, we concluded a comprehensive collaborative research accord with Chiba University to pursue wide-ranging innovations. We take part in an innovation business of RIKEN Innovation Co., Ltd. established by leading Japanese research institution RIKEN in September 2019.
In April 2019, we launched RICOH ACCELERATOR 2019 as a business cocreation program that supports startups. We conduct comprehensive business contests for selected internal and external teams. At the same time, we support activities by providing environments for the open usage of resources, and seek to help create new businesses through the efforts of participants and exchanges between people.
In March 2016, we established a fund to support the creation of technology ventures and foster future industries. The fund had assisted 13 companies through June 2019.
The Ricoh Group consistently earmarks 5% to 6% of consolidated sales for R&D to ensure a steady stream of innovation. In the year ended March 31, 2019, R&D expenses reached ¥111.0 billion, or about 5.5% of sales. Of this amount, 13.3%, or ¥14.8 billion, went into basic research.
Intellectual property, the fruit of our R&D efforts, is vital to our competitiveness. We therefore encourage efforts that yield valuable intellectual property and seek to acquire and use intellectual property that protects and grows our businesses.
We have accordingly continued to secure highly effective patents in Japan and overseas. As of March 31, 2019, the number of registered patents overseas exceeded the number in Japan in the year ended March 31, 2015. We are conducting a review of maintained patent rights by assessing future market and business conditions and determining whether to abandon any unnecessary patent rights.
We have broadened the application of technologies that originated in office printing to encompass commercial and industrial printing, as well as “applied printing.”
The Ricoh Group has key inkjet technologies that work together to deliver top-quality results. Inkjet printheads ensure that droplets of a desired size are applied uniformly and properly to print media. Ink supplies reproduce image quality as applications require. Printing system controls precisely. Our inkjet technologies for various media provide new value in fields such as apparel, food, medicine, and industry.
In genetic testing, we developed a manufacturing technology for reference DNA plates, a reference material for controlling individual DNA molecules to accurately confirm issues with testing processes, equipment, and reagents.
This plate is a benchmark for measurements in which the components of ingredients are clearly specified, and can be used in controlling precision for genetic testing equipment and reagents.
We develop bioprinting technology that employs a unique inkjet technique to accurately discharge live cells.
Reference DNA plate manufacturing process requires fixed numbers of cells to enter each well. Ricoh thus developed an inkjet printhead to eject cells for bioprinting. This simple configuration eliminates the flow path and makes it possible to form droplets with small solution amounts. We additionally developed a new technology to count cells in droplets by synchronously irradiating pulsed lasers with droplet ejection and observing fluorescence from cells. It is therefore possible to strictly control cell numbers.
Cell count technology
We are using our inkjet technology to develop techniques for creating micro particles of uniform size. One potential benefit of applying this technology to inhalants and other medicines is that they could reach targeted parts of the body and suppress side effects.
An inkjet printhead jets out very fine droplets at a high frequency, with Fine Droplet Drying technology drying very quickly, making it possible to generate uniformly micron-sized particles.
Our website showcases the broad applications of our inkjet technologies. It also presents our core technologies, as well as our history in this field, and details of our innovations.
Since its foundation, the Ricoh Group has provided value to customers in various fields. We currently support knowledge creation for more than 1.4 million customers. We are developing technologies that help create new value for customers by digitally linking offices, frontlines, and society at large.
Workplaces vary among different businesses and fields and are expanding everywhere. With globalization, people in different locations and time zones are connecting digitally and are constantly exchanging information. The Ricoh Group views such interactions as sources of knowledge creation. The Internet of Things organically links inputs from edge devices, processing through AI, and optimized visualization. We are drawing on the Internet of Things and other technologies so we can innovate and energize society.
Companies need to seek ways to become more competitive as people’s perceptions about the value of work change. The Ricoh Group is drawing on visual communication and AI technologies to offer productivity, economic viability, and work practice solutions.
Since 2019, we have installed RICOH Always Current Technology on new MFP and printer models to keep their device software up to date.
This setup enables customers to access the latest features and functionality available on the latest models whenever they purchase systems, including newly developed functions. They can also add functions that match industry requirements to enhance workflows, while security features also remain up to date.
One option in our RICOH Contract Workflow Service is an AI-based clause check tool that uses Deep Alignment. This proprietary technology incorporates Ricoh’s natural language processing to automatically align two documents to associate sentences and paragraphs with similar content with each other. Synthesizing the meanings of phrases through Deep Alignment makes it possible to precisely associate meaning. Deep Alignment can be applied to one-to-many associations, where one sentence with multiple meanings is associated with multiple different sentences, or even to tasks where association counterparts are missing.
The Ricoh Group combines information inputting, processing, and visualization technologies to visualize situations in various frontlines and societies and enhance added value.
In January 2019, we announced the world’s first inkjet technique-based technology to manufacture lithium-ion secondary batteries in desired shapes.
We materialized the production of low-viscosity, high-density electrode material ink that can be ejected from inkjet printheads. We created ink from most electrode materials and separator materials used in lithium-ion secondary batteries. These battery materials are digitally printed on target location using inkjet technology, simplifying processes and enabling multi-product manufacturing. This approach minimizes electrode material waste, as materials are printed only on necessary parts.
We developed a vehicle-mounted system with stereo cameras to evaluate road surfaces. In September 2018, our setup became the first employing stereo cameras to pass a performance confirmation of Japan’s Public Works Research Center. We commercialized the Ricoh Road Surface Monitoring Service in August 2019. Because it can be mounted on ordinary automobiles, it can be used on residential roads on which it would be hard to measure changes with large specialist vehicles.
We developed the world’s first super telephoto stereo camera that can measure objects up to 1,000 meters away in real time and perform real-time stereo ranging processing in 4K resolution.
We ensured accurate distance measurement by optimizing our proprietary optical design and calibration technology. We optimized our image processing technology to swiftly deliver 4K stereo image processing output in real time and at high speed.
Potential applications include allowing fast-traveling aircraft to estimate their own positions and detect obstacles or monitoring distant objects of unknown sizes in real time.
The human body’s magnetic field from spinal cord activity is only around one billionth that of Earth’s, while neural conduction is around 60 meters per second. High-performance magnetic shields, highly sensitive sensors and advanced signal processing technology are needed to measure nerve activity. The Kanazawa Institute of Technology developed a SQUID (for superconducting quantum interference device) that can measure weak signals in several dozen microseconds. The Ricoh Group created a system to process the detected signals and display the spinal activity information over morphological images. Tokyo Medical and Dental University undertook research to establish diagnostic techniques.
We developed hardware, software, and diagnostic techniques to successfully measure magnetic fields of the lumber spinal nerves in addition to the cervical spinal cords. We were also able to measure neuromagnetic fields in peripheral nerves, notably for the palm and brachial plexus. Clinical applications are expanding, and we are progressing well toward commercialization.