Roland DG Announces Transfer of Its Growing 3D Business Unit DGSHAPE to Focus on the Dental, Medical and 3D Digital Fabrication Businesses
Since introducing the world’s first desktop-sized 3D milling machine in 1986, Roland DG has developed a variety of innovative digital technologies with the mission of helping people “turn their imagination into reality.” Acclaimed worldwide for their compact size, ease-of-use and affordability, Roland DG 3D products are used for a wide range of applications from creating product prototypes and educating students in product design to crafting custom items and one-off gifts, right down to items and crafts made by individual hobbyists.
In 2010, Roland DG leveraged its 3D milling technology to introduce the DWX series dental milling machines used for fabricating dental prostheses such as crowns, copings and bridges. The DWX series soon gained recognition among dental labs worldwide for their precision, user-friendliness, robust reliability and open system. Today, the DWX series has become a major growth engine for Roland DG’s 3D business, accounting for 60% of sales in that segment.
Widely known for market leadership in wide-format inkjet printers and faced with significant changes throughout its 3D product portfolio, Roland DG determined that the best approach for increasing visibility for its growing 3D business would be to spin it off as an autonomous company. DGSHAPE will provide further value throughout the dental market by developing marketing channels with dedicated sales and marketing teams, bringing fresh technical innovation to digital fabrication tools, and developing solutions based on the open system concept*.
In addition to the dental industry, DGSHAPE will explore business opportunities in the medical field with a medical instrument traceability and maintenance support system. DGSHAPE intends to look for further possibilities in the healthcare field in the future by integrating the skills and know-how cultivated through its efforts in the dental and medical fields. DGSHAPE will also continue to provide innovative 3D products and solutions for the prototyping, education, personalization, fabrication and hobby fields, as well as evolve the existing business for 3D digital fabrication tools to be a strategic platform for generating new products and businesses. For now, sales, service and support for DGSHAPE will continue to be handled by Roland DG.
* Some manufacturers in the dental market provide closed systems that assist with the fabrication of dental prostheses, with packaged systems consisting of dental scanners, CAD/CAM software, milling machines and proprietary materials. Roland DG has adopted the “open system concept,” where users can combine Roland DG dental milling machines with popular scanners and CAD/CAM software, and choose the optimum dental prosthetic material for their patients rather than being locked in to one manufacturer.
Mission and Vision for DGSHAPE Corporation
According to Kohei Tanabe, Executive Officer and General Manager of DGSHAPE Market Development Department for Roland DG who will become Representative Director, President and CEO of DGSHAPE in March, 2017, the mission of DGSHAPE Corporation is to harness the 3D digital fabrication technologies and expertise that Roland DG has developed over more than three decades as well as its proprietary digital cell production system*1 and global customer service and support system*2 in order to provide advanced digital manufacturing/fabrication solutions. “DGSHAPE intends to deliver a greater level of added value that advances a new age of digital fabrication by not only developing innovative hardware and software,” Tanabe said, “but by providing more efficient production workflows, enhanced service and support including consulting, and an open innovation environment that can generate a thriving business through exploiting next-generation technologies such as Cloud, IoT, AI and robotics.”
*1 A proprietary cell-based production system developed at Roland DG that uses digital technology to complement human memory and focus to achieve the utmost in quality and productivity. Each worker refers to a 3D graphic manual displayed on a monitor, receives the necessary parts from an automatic rotating rack and assembles an entire product from start to finish using the indicated electronic tools. Electronic monitoring procedures ensure that the correct parts and tools are used each step of the way, and product quality checks are run at the completion of each task to guarantee quality of work. Log data from each cell is stored on a central server, allowing the floor manager to see work progress at a glance and analyze data to find ways to not only improve workflow in individual cells, but to optimize productivity for the entire factory. This well-established production system is expected to facilitate manufacturing/fabrication workflows across a broad range of industries.
*2 With sales offices located around the world, Roland DG has built a comprehensive customer service and support system consisting of Roland DG Creative Centers, Roland DG Academy, and Roland DG Care to contribute to the development of its customers’ businesses. Creative Centers offer a creative showcase of application samples to inspire customers’ imaginations and invite them to experience the full potential of Roland DG products. Customers are encouraged to share ideas and consult with company representatives to discover solutions that can transform their ideas into reality as well as grow their businesses. Academy offers seminars and workshops to customers worldwide, designed to help them utilize equipment and software to their maximum potential and acquire the skills needed for their businesses. Care provides a broad range of customer service and support including maintenance and troubleshooting to ensure that there are no obstacles preventing the work from getting done. New options for Roland DG’s level of service and support including consulting, are also being considered as another way of boosting strategic business value.
Businesses Fields for DGSHAPE Corporation
The following is an outline of each business.
By providing digital solutions for dental technicians, Roland DG assists dental laboratories in taking advantage of the benefits brought about by digitalization, including consistent, high-quality production on demand in reduced time. In the field of dental prosthetics, advances in technology and materials, including zirconia, composite resins and glass ceramics, are leading to more and more dental laboratories and clinics installing digital systems consisting of CAD/CAM software and milling machines to replace conventional casting methods. Believing that its experience in 3D milling could contribute to an improvement in the productivity and profitability of dental laboratories, Roland DG launched the DWX series dental milling machines. The DWX series quickly established Roland DG's presence in the market. In addition to their affordability, the devices were highly regarded for their desktop size, user-friendliness, and open system for use in combination with popular CAD/CAM software, scanners and materials.
DGSHAPE will continue to provide digital systems capable of producing an extensive range of dental prosthetics from a wide range of materials while improving the workflow efficiency of dental laboratory technicians. DGSHAPE also intends to expand its scope by developing and providing solutions optimized for dental clinics.
Roland DG has concentrated its efforts in the medical field to provide solutions that meet Unique Device Identification (UDI) regulations requiring marking identifiers on medical devices and instruments. In recent years, efforts to review medical instrument safety and management procedures have been increasing in order to reduce the risk of infection inside hospitals and ensure the safety of patients. Regulatory bodies worldwide are seeking a comprehensive management system for instruments and devices in use at medical facilities.
Roland DG recognized an opportunity to apply its dot impact printing technology, which had been cultivated since the early 2000s, to produce marking identifiers for medical devices and instruments. In anticipation of this requirement, the company released the MPX-90M medical instrument marking device in 2012 followed by the MPX-95 with Direct Part Marking (DPM) kit in 2016. The devices enable medical facilities as well as medical instrument manufacturers and suppliers worldwide to utilize a 2D symbol imprinted on each instrument as a permanent solution for tracking available stock, location, and usage history.
Roland DG also envisioned that medical facilities could incorporate proven digital support systems currently in place at Roland DG factories to raise the level of quality and efficiency involving pre- and post-operation maintenance tasks. The cleaning, disinfection and reassembly of medical instrument kits include complicated procedures across a wide variety of surgical tools that are highly dependent on employee experience. Today, Roland DG is working with Hamamatsu University School of Medicine to develop and provide a proof of concept for a computer-driven medical instrument traceability and maintenance support system. DGSHAPE hopes to begin offering a comprehensive solution to medium to large-scale clinics and hospitals in Japan and overseas within the year.
3D Digital Fabrication Business
Three decades following the release of Roland DG’s first personal 3D milling machine, the concept of desktop fabrication continues to generate growing interest. The growth of the internet and social media, the availability of smart devices and personal-use 3D printers, and the increase in the number of public workshops including Fab Labs and manufacturer studios has expanded the horizons of digital creation amongst a vast number of hobbyists, entrepreneurs and “Makers” globally. Now that fabrication is no longer confined to product research and design engineers and specialists in manufacturing companies, a cultural revolution is taking place that has the potential to create new, innovative applications from the collective knowledge and ideas of vast numbers of people around the world.
With such significant advances occurring globally throughout various digital fabrication fields, DGSHAPE will focus its research and development at providing even further innovation and value to customer fabrication efforts. While maintaining its position in its core markets, DGSHAPE will also focus on harnessing next-generation technologies like IoT, AI and robotics to develop solutions suited to a new era of creativity and fabrication. Just as Roland DG previously identified and generated new business growth from its 3D digital fabrication technologies, DGSHAPE will also strive to identify the seeds of new businesses opportunities for future growth.