Site: Olympus Optical Company, Ltd.
Technology Research Institute
2951 Ishikawa-cho, Hachioji-shi
Tokyo 192, Japan

Date Visited: 13 December 1995

JTEC/WTEC Attendees: R. Brown (report author), J. Beaman


Kenji Matsuoka


The Olympus Technology Research Institute has two facilities within a few kilometers of each other. The Ishikawa site supports the camera, microscope, endoscope, information systems, and laboratory analysis instrument product lines. It has one D-MEC SCS-1000HD stereolithography unit (see D-MEC site report), which is the only unit in the company. The Rapid Prototyping Stereolithography Service Center operates with a staff of four. The Center prepares 2D and 3D surface model databases, builds and finishes stereolithography models, and maintains the equipment (no service contract). They make extensive use of stereolithography to support new product development.

Olympus Optics purchased a D-MEC unit with a HeCd laser in about 1993. The first year the unit operated for approximately 500 hours, but in 1994 and 1995, it operated at 2,500 hours per year, which is essentially full utilization for the unit. The company has no immediate plans to purchase additional units, but is likely to do so in the future.


The stereolithography service center was justified on the basis it would

Many of the products the center produces are for use as functional models in camera and instrument cases. Nearly 80% of such applications are produced by stereolithography because of time and cost advantages. There has been no problem in having designers and engineers use stereolithography models because of these advantages over traditional machined models.


Most Olympus products require ±0.03 mm tolerances for fully functional products. The stereolithography equipment can meet ±0.1 mm accuracy in 10 x 10 cm applications, but the designers would like improved accuracy. The fine-mode operating system that is a feature of the D-MEC SCS-1000HD is not used, as they do not believe there is significant accuracy improvement using this mode. These are the four features Olympus engineers would like to see improved:

However, Olympus customers consider increased strength of the resin the primary feature they would like to see improved.

Distortion over time of stereolithography parts is not a major issue, as camera cases can often be corrected for distortion by tightening mounting screws. In addition, most stereolithography models are not used longer than a month.



The center uses D-MEC's SCR-510, a polyurethane acrylate resin. Skin complaints in the group are a problem as a result of prolonged use of this material.


Olympus managers have thought about using metals, as it could be an advantage, but they do not appear to have an active program to evaluate methods for making metal components using rapid prototyping techniques.


There have been no requests for ceramic parts, but there is an electronics division of Olympus that uses ceramics.


Olympus Optics representatives showed the JTEC/WTEC team several examples of stereolithography camera cases and optical bar code readers with detailed features. These were used in functional prototypes. In addition, a number of other functional parts within the camera were made by this technique. Nearly 80% of such prototypes are now made using stereolithography due to cost and time advantages. Table Olympus.1 compares resources used to make a camera case by conventional and RP techniques.

Table Olympus.1
Comparison of Conventional and RP Techniques of Making a Camera Case

In addition, fewer skilled people are required for the stereolithography process.


The team's hosts at Olympus showed us pictures of zinc alloy parts they had made using a silicone resin mold from a stereolithography master. This is apparently not a process commonly used at Olympus.


In discussing metal RP applications, Olympus representatives felt it would be an advantage and something they could use, but they had no experience with direct or indirect metal processes, other than as described above.


Olympus has experienced an increase in requests for endoscope parts but has no requests for other parts directly connected to medical use.

The first year Olympus implemented stereolithography techniques, these models cost nearly twice as much as conventionally-made models. With improved practice during the past two years the company estimates the cost of stereolithography models is now half that of conventionally-made models. At the time of the JTEC/WTEC visit, approximately 30% of the products the center was making were for cameras, 25% for information systems products, 15% for endoscopes, and the remainder for use in clinical analyzer and microscope applications.


See the D-MEC site report.


Staff have evaluated Pro-Engineer and Unigraphics in their service center, but they use Intergraph 3D surface modeling, even though a major portion of their time is devoted to preparing CAD databases for making stereolithography models. They see no immediate need to change, although they indicated that 3D solid modeling databases are much faster to prepare. They indicated that there were a few 3D solid modeling systems within the company.

Published: September 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian