We are thinking about Ricoh’s growth strategy.
To-date, we have provided office printers and copiers. Now we are aiming to expand application areas of our print technology to provide new customer value.
At KINGSKYFRONT we are developing bio-printing technology. This is based on our long history of excellence in inkjet printing. The development of bio-printing technology is based on our inkjet technology.
We think that healthcare and biomedical are very important areas in society and there is great value for Ricoh to be involved in them. So this is a chance to enter a new field hence this research and development.
Aims and motivation
The development of bio-printing was triggered by establishment of iPS cells.
Many kinds of technology to create cells has resulted following the creation iPS cells. There are great expectations for applications in regenerative medicine and pharmaceuticals.
It has become possible to create many different kinds of cells but I think that there is still a hurdle in making things close to tissues. The aim of our research is to use bio-printing to produce many kinds of tissues.
Methods and progress
First, we plan to use inkjet for patterning by extruding cells.
Actually, we used conventional inkjet technology that we development for industrial applications for cell ejection but we found problems including cell death and jet nozzle blockage.
To resolve these problems, we developed new inkjet heads with very simple structures without liquid chambers, where cells were ejected by vibrating the nozzle plate. So the ability to stably eject the cell suspension is one of the major successes of our research to-date.
Another project is to produce three dimensional structures by combining cells in 3D. We are doing this by ejecting cells and fixing materials known as hydrogels from inkjet printer heads and producing 3D structures. We are also experiencing some difficulties with these hydrogels. It is ejected as an inkjet, and moreover is easy to shape and mold, and not toxic to cells known as alginate.
These are excellent properties, but on the other hand it has a problem of poor adhesion to cells. In order to solve this problem, we mixed gelatin fine particles into ink, and the cells showed adhesion by mixing the gelatin fine particles into the hydrogel. So we have developed technology to produce three-dimensional cell structures.
So by combining inkjet cell ejection with three-dimensional shaping technology, we are aiming to produce many kinds of cells for three-dimensional tissues for evaluating pharmaceuticals and regenerative medicine.
We developed bio-printing technology in 2014. In the early days, we collaborated with a university, but we started the development inside our research laboratory.
Of course it has now become necessary for Ricoh to acquire the latest information about medicine and biotechnology. But because it is difficult to attain such information within our research laboratory, we moved to this Life Innovation Center in 2016.
Our expectations for KINGSKYFRONT are first to attain information about cutting edge technology by being here. We want to collaborate with companies, research institutes, and universities that possess advanced technology on regenerative medicine and pharmaceuticals. This is one of our main goals.
Within this aim, we want to nurture young engineers by interacting with others at KINGSKYFRONT.
Also, KINGSKYFRONT is located adjacent Haneda Airport, so it is convenient for international collaboration.
We want to expand our research activities with overseas industrial laboratories. So we want to take full advantage of being located at KINGSKYFRONT.