Ricoh and OKI Jointly Develop Printer Engine for A3 Monochrome Printers

This could be a first for the industry…so what does it mean?



Rachel Dean


To remain competitive, companies are increasingly under pressure to bring their products to market quicker. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some big supply chain and resource challenges. Improving development efficiencies in these resource-strapped times is quite the mountain to climb.


In a bold move, OKI and Ricoh have jointly developed a printer engine for A3 monochrome printers. In the spring of this year, both companies will launch new products for the Japanese domestic market—each equipped with its own print controller (control mechanism) on this engine. This joint development has brought together the strengths of the two companies to collaborate on the development of the printer engine from the planning stage, incorporating their respective customer opinions to determine product specification—shortening the development period by about 30% compared to the conventional method and improving development efficiency.


The jointly developed printer engine uses OKI’s LED printhead, which delivers high definition and high reliability as well as contributes to the downsizing of the device. Ricoh’s paper transport mechanism, which delivers the wide range of paper handling capabilities and high reliability that are important for business applications. In addition, the front-access structure allows maintenance work to be performed from the front, making the product easy to use.


As background for this joint venture, Ricoh’s 20th Mid-Term Management Plan—which covers the two years starting in fiscal year 2021—calls for “shifting away from being an OA manufacturer” and "transforming our business structure into a digital service company.” In addition, the Ricoh Digital Products Business Unit is openly pursing collaborative efforts to help increase business growth and in hopes of finding a more competitive edge compared to the company’s competitors.


Likewise, OKI’s Medium-Term Management Plan 2022—which concludes in fiscal 2022—is based on the key message: “We will make society safe,” and “to solve social issues through the manufacturing that we have cultivated over the years.” In the component business field, one of the company’s key strategies is to provide partners with a range of products and modules based on OKI’s technologies and strengths—including collaboration with other companies.


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

In a potential first for the industry (outside of a merger), two vendors have combined resources to jointly develop and market product. In the face of an already declining A3 monochrome market pre-pandemic, and the development struggles due to COVID-19, Ricoh and OKI will realize 30% time-efficiency improvements.


As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. Combining resources for streamlined development efficiencies will see some gains for time to market for these vendors, as well as some potential cost savings from efficient investment in development.


On a more molecular level, was the LED printhead the true winner over Ricoh’s laser technology with its fixed resolution and its (much improved, but still arguably) lower print quality? It will be interesting to see what other product specification gains will be seen. Another question we can’t help but wonder is, as Ricoh moves from being an OA manufacturer and towards a digital service company, could a merger be on the horizon? We shall have to wait and see…


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