Interview: The Vision of Ricoh North America for 3D Printing – On-Site Production of 510(k) Cleared Medical Devices and Anatomical Models


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Gary Turner, Managing Director of Additive Manufacturing at Ricoh North America, clarified the company’s strategy in the 3D printing industry. Rather than marketing 3D printers, Ricoh USA focuses on providing clients with services that encourage the utilization of 3D printing.

Turner expressed his concerns about the sluggish acceptance of additive manufacturing in certain industries. Turner referred to the unfulfilled potential of additive manufacturing, citing issues like intricate workflows, unwieldy software tools, and a lack of specialized workers in the industry.

Ricoh North America considers the healthcare sector as a viable opportunity for additive manufacturing. This is driven by Ricoh’s fundamental ethos of concentrating on societal problems. By addressing these issues, Ricoh is able to establish new businesses. Turner underlined the keen interest of Japanese firms in the healthcare industry, in part due to Japan’s ageing demographic.

Research conducted by Ricoh indicated that despite the evident advantages of integrating 3D printing into healthcare, the uptake remains relatively low. Turner revealed that only between 5 to 10 percent of US surgeons can access patient-specific 3D printing solutions in their hospital system. This insight prompted Ricoh to design a comprehensive workflow that could be seamlessly and cost-efficiently integrated into hospital systems.

Ricoh’s ultimate aim stretches beyond simply producing 3D printed anatomical models for surgeons. Turner firmly emphasizes the company’s effort to establish programs enabling surgeons to leverage such technologies. He ardently supports equal access to 3D printing in healthcare, expressing concerns that currently only patients who can pay for top-tier medical services can avail of it. Turner advocates for universal access to the technology and its affordability.

Further information can be found at Ricoh metal binder jetting 3D printer.

The partnership of Ricoh and Stratasys on 3D Printed Medical Devices

AM’s Managing Director showcased the company’s deep-rooted relationship with Stratasys, the 3D printing giant. Turner recollected that “Ricoh has a long history with Stratasys,” as Ricoh printheads were used in the earlier Objet technologies. He further shared that Ricoh closely collaborated with Objet during the development of those devices years ago. Over the years, this collaboration has transformed into a partnership focusing on polymer technology for creating anatomical models.

Turner outlined the initial collaboration as the foundation or “minimally viable product” and the recent entry to a bigger and bolder project. “The next phase,” he elaborated, “is point of care manufacturing,” indicating a move towards distributed manufacturing. An interesting fact was brought to light when Turner mentioned that “Ricoh is one of the largest managed services providers in North America.” With over 6,000 employees attending customer sites daily, Ricoh sees a clear path to creating an extensive manufacturing network, ensuring quality and consistency. 

Ricoh’s ambitious plan involves offering hospitals an onsite point-of-care center. This facility, managed and staffed by Ricoh, would operate under the company’s quality management system. Its main function? “To produce 510 (k) cleared medical device 3D printed anatomic models on-site”, Turner affirmed. He envisaged these facilities equipped with Stratasys technology and 3D printing technicians working directly on hospital premises.

Ricoh Envisions On-Site 3D Printed Medical Device Hubs in Hospitals

Turner stated that the combination of biomedical engineering and clinical staff is crucial for smooth operation. He mentions that while engineers might not be experts in all aspects of anatomy, the benefit of having a network of specialists on location cannot be overstated. This arrangement enables quick response times and vital cooperation with physicians.

Recognizing the limited time available to doctors, Turner underscored the necessity of simplifying access. He remarked that physicians simply do not have enough time. So, what is the ultimate objective? “It needs to be accessible and hassle-free.” By having these anatomical labs and modeling labs within the hospital, spontaneous conversations between surgeons are made possible, boosting the likelihood of embracing the technology.

Ricoh’s proposed point-of-care centers for hospitals offer a key selling point: their turnkey nature. Turner elaborates by saying that hospitals will not need to hire experts or implement a quality management system. They can instead rely on Ricoh, who will take care of FDA registration, compliance with quality systems such as ISO 13485, and production of approved devices on the spot.

Turner’s vision for the future is indeed ambitious: “I envision having hundreds of these sites in hospitals throughout the country, serving as a network of distributed manufacturing facilities right at the point of care.” He believes this methodology will transform how surgeons interact with and use additive manufacturing technology.

Ricoh’s New Approach to Medical Imaging: A Growing Resource for Surgeons

Turner conveyed the evolution of the PACS Print Gateway developed by Ricoh. This technology interacts with the PACS system, which provides a simple method for surgeons to send MRI or CT scans to Ricoh.

Offered by Merge by Merative, the PACS Print Gateway can be assimilated into numerous enterprise-wide viewer systems in hospitals. Turner emphasized its wide usage: “Surgeons simply click the link in the PAC system, and it triggers a request with Ricoh for a patient-dedicated anatomic representation.”

In a new development, the company declared a collaboration with Materialise. This will supply software in support of Ricoh’s HIPAA-accredited, ISO 13485 accredited 3D medical manufacturing center for the creation, design, and production of 3D-printed anatomic models.

Ricoh’s 3D Anatomic Models Growing Popular Among Surgeons

The process of converting DICOM data to a 3D printed model, which is known to be time-consuming and labor-intensive, has evolved significantly. This shift has drastically brought down the cost involved in the procedure. This was acknowledged by Turner.

The potential market range points to enormous prospects within the surgical sphere. Turner hinted at the larger community and network showing a notable interest in the medical applications of 3D printing, citing the Radiological Society of North America and its special interest group.

Turner noted that “The Radiological Society of North America has evaluated the use of anatomic models and compiled a list of procedures that would largely benefit from 3D printing.” Such a catalog indicates extensive potential for integrating 3D printing into a wide array of surgical procedures. The numbers could reach to “hundreds of thousands across the nation,” showing the immense scope of this technology.

Turner further emphasized an urgent problem in the industry: “Adoption is hindered significantly by issues with reimbursement.” As a response to this, Ricoh is launching a randomized control trial to further prove the solid advantages of 3D replicas in surgical procedures. As Turner elaborated, “We’re currently in collaboration with three separate hospital systems to carry out this research, which we estimate to last around nine months.”

Apart from the healthcare field, Turner also revealed that Ricoh is branching out into “quick prototyping” and regulated 3D Print Services in the engineering industry. Looking forward, Turner suggests the North American division of Ricoh will persist in utilizing its “administered services infrastructure to facilitate the acceptance and application of 3D printing, targeted at rapid prototyping as well as end-use parts.”

He emphasized that the goal is to “alleviate the end user of the burden” and authorize them to focus more on their elementary business affairs, suggesting a future services-focused approach. This discussion accentuated the dedication and inventive progress made by Ricoh in the application of 3D printing within both the healthcare and technical sectors.

Ricoh North America Amplifies Its 3D Printing Strategy With a Focus on the Medical Sector

Ricoh North America is about to venture into the 3D printing sector within healthcare facilities, with their ‘Centre of Excellence’ initiative shining prominently. “We have a pre-existing network that we can leverage,” Turner stated.

Speaking about the ‘Centre of Excellence’, Turner explained that it is being established at a hospital. This will be Ricoh’s inaugural patient care centre, financially backed by the company itself and set to be up and running by the year’s close. Turner also mentioned that there will soon be an official announcement concerning the exact location. “This will be our initial on-site deployment, designed to physically represent the proficiency programme and our best practices,” he elaborated.

Ricoh’s foray into the 3D printing industry can be compared to a formidable force steadily gaining momentum. Turner has been a part of Ricoh for 27 years and recognized the highs and lows of initiating a startup-like project within such a large corporation. “There are certainly advantages, but it also brings its own set of challenges of belonging to a large firm,” he said. Nevertheless, he projected positivity regarding the path Ricoh is taking, reinforced by substantial encouragement from the US leadership team and the head office in Japan.

Curious about what thefuture of 3D printing holds in the upcoming decade?

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“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”


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