We’re having a week-long stay here in Japan to join the Micro Piezo Press Tour of Epson. Along with other media people from South-East Asia, Taiwan and China, we’ve been doing the rounds of Tokyo and Nagano visting Epson headquarters and manufacturing plants.
Even in the first couple of days I’ve already learned a lot about the company and the many devices it manufactures. First of all, I didn’t know it was actually the Seiko Epson Corporation. How the watch maker became the printer-maker piqued my curiosity.
We asked the question why Epson was the brand name used when it all started with Seiko in the 40′s. Apparently, the founders thought the Seiko brand was very popular in the early years as a watchmaker catering to the high-end market that using it as a brand for electronics might not make sense. In fact, one of the first Seiko watches were selling for almost half a million yen (roughly Php250k).
As such, they created a new brand Epson to represent the emerging printer business. The first electornic printer was named EP-101 in 1968 and all succeeding printers became Epson or “son of EP” (Electronic Printer). Thus the brand name Epson was born in 1975.
Epson is composed of dozens of subsidiaries worldwide with over 77,000 employees combined. Some of their businesses include cameras, PC/laptops, robotics or factory automation, POS, LCD, optics, crystal devices/sensors. The ones we visited are dedicated to their largest segment of the company — the micropiezo printing technology which they invented back in the early 90s.
The PC division comprises about 3% of the business (Epson Direct). It used to be a global business until they scaled it down and now services the Japanese market only. Was able to see their Epson PC and Epson Endeavor netbook (blogged about it 2 years ago here).
Epson’s Monosukuri Museum in their Suwa Headquarters showcases the entire history of the Seiko Epson Corporation and all the inventions and firsts for the company — including the actual world’s first color printer (Epson Stylus 800) to be used in space (still has the lead space wrapping in it), a very tiny mobile robot and the world’s first hand-held computer (Epson HX-20 manufactured in 1982).
Some of the other interesting finds include an Epson Rangefinder (RD1 camera), a state-of-the-art wristwatch TV released in 1982 and awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest TV of the time, and the miniature robots (called Monseur).
There were so many other things in there. Was also surprised why the Nokia 5110 and 6110 was on display there and it turns out Epson did the LCD for them. There were also GPS devices from the late 90s, 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppy disk drives and other odd things I could not even recognize (the labels were mostly in Japanese).
The tour doesn’t end there. We’ll be going out the whole day tomorrow to visit more factories and see some more demos. Will be posting more about our trip here by week’s end when we’ve completed everything.