Innovation through automation

In 1963, an era of high economic growth in Japan, the company changed its name again to its present name for the time being, RISO Kagaku Corporation (jap. ،ٌ学, “science”) 1. Until then, the templates were still created using typewriters, and Hayama’s next innovation was to automate and simplify this process. By irradiating the film with light, enough heat could be generated to expose the master foil, which led to the development of the RISO FAX JF-7 device. The newspapers in Japan massively reported on this technical achievement, since the production of such a master foil, which usually took at least ten minutes, was completed in just five seconds with the riso fax.2

A leading producer of office equipment in the US became aware of this process, because mimeographs played a huge role in the United States, after all. The producer offered to use the master foils produced by RISO in his devices. It became necessary to produce 10 million sheets per month, an unimaginable sum for him. Hayama built three new factories, but after a year he got a call telling him that the order would be cancelled, forcing him to lay off nearly half of his 300 employees. He took the reins himself, gave up his position as president of the company and became a sales manager, trying to sell the devices himself. At the same time, he met with the engineers and declared that they would be developing new products. After the thermal exposure of the master foils, the next innovation that would follow was the use of a stroboscopic camera flash for exposure.3

Due to the precarious working conditions, the engineers worked with a very small budget to complete the new product in just one year. In 1972, RISO developed a foil printer for overhead projectors, but this was not enough for Hayama. He wanted to continue working in the familiar field of stencil printing, so he and his employees examined the disadvantages of this process: hands would become dirty, ink would produce stains and the writing on letters would often be very fuzzy and less readable than typewritten ones. To achieve the perfect way of stencil printing, and not just creating the master foil, printing technology had to be redesigned from the ground: A fully automatic inking system that automatically injects ink; a print method that could be controlled by computer.

  1. Google Translate, Japanese to English, https://translate.google.de/#ja/en/%E7%A7%91%E5%AD%A6, last retrieved 25 September 2020.
    Corporate history of RISO; a 70-year Journey, video, http://youtu.be/l-2iBS8K2mk. 
  3. “Birth of a printing robot RISOGRAPH 007”, RISO KAGAKU CORPORATION, https://www.riso.com.hk/eng/about_riso/sidestory03.html, last retrieved 25 September 2020.