Ricoh has embarked on a journey to adapt its pocket-sized Theta 360-degree camera for 24/7 monitoring of factory production lines. Faced with the challenge of operating in environments as hot as 32 degrees Celsius, the design team has leveraged nTop’s implicit modeling software to optimize the camera’s casing.
Traditionally, the Theta camera’s main circuit board triggered an automatic shutdown to prevent overheating, jeopardizing continuous operation. To overcome this hurdle, the engineers at Ricoh strategically redesigned the casing, focusing on optimizing heat exchangers and dissipating excess heat effectively.
Opting to keep the project in-house, Ricoh utilized its aluminum binder jetting capabilities. Despite the notorious difficulty of using aluminum with binder jetting due to oxidation, Ricoh’s technology, featuring a specialized binder and a unique sintering process, successfully delivered reliable parts.
The design team adopted a gyroid structure for the casing, selected for its ability to enhance heat dissipation and maximize the advantages of 3D printing. Through nTop’s implicit modeling software, the gyroid structure was fine-tuned to achieve optimal heat transfer performance. This lightweight, self-supporting structure, with a high surface area to volume ratio, addressed the thermal management goals effectively.
Tsuji Masato, a mechanical designer at Ricoh, praised nTop for its ability to solve thermal issues efficiently. The software enabled the team to create and test complex shapes like gyroids rapidly—an accomplishment practically impossible with conventional CAD software.
The incorporation of the gyroid structure resulted in a redesigned heat transfer path, achieving a remarkable 24% reduction in internal electronics temperature compared to the previous design. With these enhancements, the Theta camera now boasts the capability to run continuously for over 24 hours without the threat of overheating, unlocking new possibilities for its application in factory settings.
“NTop is great for solving thermal issues, because it allows us to model and test the geometry needed for heat dissipation easily and quickly,” says Tsuji Masato, mechanical designer in the development for mechatronic and software section at Ricoh.
“With conventional CAD software, it is practically impossible to evaluate multiple complex shapes such as gyroids. With nTop, creating and testing these shapes was easy.”
Thanks to nTop and Ricoh’s own additive manufacturing expertise, the collaboration has transformed the Theta camera, ensuring uninterrupted factory monitoring with advanced thermal management. This breakthrough sets a promising precedent for the integration of 3D printing and innovative design in the manufacturing industry.
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