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Olympos Airbrush Factory

Discussion in 'Airbrushes' started by Hector Lagos, Jul 8, 2020.


  1. Hector Lagos

    Hector Lagos Young Tutorling

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    Hello all and greetings from Santiago, Chile.

    For those of you that might be interested, I was able to locate the Olympos Airbrush Factory building on the map. The address listed for their factory on Olympos' manuals and packaging is:

    1545 DAIKOKUYA TAKINOHARA NABARI CITY MIE-KEN 518-0411 JAPAN

    However, if you search for this address on google maps, it only takes you to the Takinohara district (don't really know if "district" is the proper word here), it cannot locate the address.

    So, after some combing, I was able to locate the building. Even if production ceased long time ago, by the time the Street View images where taken (2012), the building still was in Olympos' livery.

    I had already posted this, but buried in the original thread. Apologies for the repetition.

    This is the location: https://www.google.com/maps/@34.6313083,136.1642188,96m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Go for a Street View to look around.

    Olympos Factory.png
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  2. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    From what little I have seen, that facility is no longer in the picture. Looks like the owner may be trying to restart production of some sort, but his listed address is different than that of the building shown. Keep in mind too, that he had no connection to the company as it originally existed, simply purchased the name and inventory.
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  3. Hector Lagos

    Hector Lagos Young Tutorling

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    Thanks for joining the thread, Dave!

    I'm aware of what you said. I posted the location and photo hoping to help answer the question of whether or not Olympos did manufacture their own airbrushes, or rather did as every one now and outsourced manufacture to B. B. Rich Co. or maybe a mix of the two.

    In contrast to Iwata, GSI Creos, RichPen, Tamiya, etc., Olympos was the only brand that explicitly stated (in some of their packaging and manuals) that they where an airbrush manufacturer. Now we can see the building with a faded Olympos logo at the address mentioned as their factory.

    Another aspect that Olympos shares with the other Japanese airbrush brand that we know for sure is also a manufacturer (B. B. Rich) is that Olympos designed airbrush model lines, not just small tweaks to existing models. Lots of them actually, the most prominent perhaps the HP-100 and MP-200 ("Micron") series, whose descendants enjoy a healthy market share.
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  4. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    Olympos never manufactured their own brushes... I do not know about other, larger or industrial spray equipment. Like Iwata, is is possible that they did do some manufacturing - which would have ended in the late 1990's. I also do not think it was the company known as BB Rich that did the manufacturing, nor Richpen, but another company many know as Fuso Seiki (the name is different now, but I can't recall). There does seem to be some relationship between Rich and Fuso Seiki, but exactly what is unclear - cousin, nephew, something like that, at the ownership level.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020
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  5. Hector Lagos

    Hector Lagos Young Tutorling

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    Dave, would you be kind enough to share what makes you believe that Olympos never manufactured their own brushes?

    The company that currently makes Iwata, Tamiya, etc is B. B. Rich Co., a.k.a. "Hokushin Seiki" (see attached photo). That was established when Bobyrockett traced Iwata Airbrushed shipments in the thread "Fuso Seiki Factory" maybe that is the cause of the confusion.


    B. B. Rich.png
  6. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    The airbrush manufacturing/machining facility starts with "Kat... seiki", I do not care to go back and look it up.

    I will ask what makes you think/believe that Olympos did make their own brushes?

    japanese family1.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
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  7. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    I just remembered that in one of my conversations about acquiring parts for a Richpen .2 Phoenix, with a manager at Richpen (with a @fusoseiki e-mail address), he mentioned that he would have to wait until he got over to the factory (different facility than the offices) to see if he could find a compatible nozzle for the now discontinued brush. He did, and they sent me everything I needed.
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  8. Hector Lagos

    Hector Lagos Young Tutorling

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    Dave, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, let me start by saying that I follow your Airbrush Exploration page on Facebook, and you posts here, I'm aware that you have a large airbrush collection, that you manufacture airbrush parts and really appreciate that you generously share your findings. That said, with all due respect, I think you got the factory thing wrong (It won't hurt that you go back to the thread with an open mind and carefully read it). One airbrush seller, Tamiya (which, as GSI Creos, sell airbrushes aimed at the model builders market) states explicitly in their packages that their airbrushes are manufactured by B. B. Rich. Bobbyrocket traced Iwata airbrush shipments to B. B. Rich. So, at least Tamiya and Iwata are currently made by B. B. Rich.
    Katsuaki Kitajima ("Kat... seiki") is listed as President of B. B. Rich Co., and you can see his name on B. B. Rich Airbrush patents, one example being the self-centering nozzle sported by Iwata Eclipse series airbrushes.

    I already said that on my first post, but, again, basically because they (Olympos) said so (See attached images).

    You probably have more that one of these. If you flip the case...
    Olympos MP-200B Case (Front).jpg

    ... You'll find the following phrase:

    Olympos MP-200B Case (Back).jpg

    They also assert they manufacture their airbrushes in their manuals:

    Olympos MP-200B Manual (Back).jpg

    Olympos HP-110D Manual (Front).jpg

    You can find references to the address listed as their factory in the needle cases too:

    Olympos SP-B Spare Needles Case (Front).jpg
    You have to flip 'em back (as with the airbrush case):

    Olympos SP-B Spare Needles Case (Back).jpg

    Sorry for the blurry picture, but most probably you have more than one of those cases, and can see for yourself.

    Now, since you didn't answer my question on your reply, I'm afraid I'll have to ask again: What makes you believe that Olympos "Never manufactured their airbrushes"?
  9. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    You're not going to hurt my feelings. You will believe what you want to believe, as will I. I think you are just failing to grasp that manufacturing in Japan is very different than it is here, or apparently, where you are located - as well. I can only equate the way I see it like this - Both Ford and Chevy, maybe even BMW all want to make cars. So, they go to GE and place orders for cars branded for each of them. Some may be similar, some not so much - but, they are all physically made by GE.

    I have never been able to find a single record that Olympos ever actually manufactured anything. After speaking with representatives at Richpen, it is really not surprising that there is not much actual history to be found. If it existed before "windows 95" there is no record of it ;). I have straight up asked the present owner of the Olympos inventory, but he will not give a straight answer. I have not been able to persuade a representative from Richpen to answer the question, either. Close as I have gotten was to have someone that lives in Japan drive by the facility and send photographs, telling me this is where they are, and always have been made. There were quite a few brand names I was not familiar with, either.

    So, forgetting what is stamped on plastic, or printed on a paper label (Hansa has been labeling Taiwanese brushes as made in Germany for a couple of decades - the AeroPro line. Grex calls theirs American, even though made in the same facility...). That leaves examining actual samples. After looking through hundreds, if not more, examples of airbrushes made in Japan, I can not point to one single thing that would make me think that any of them were made in a different facility - or on a different set of machines. I am talking about the brushes most often associated with Fuso Seiki - Iwata, Olympos Rich, Richpen, Nikki, Petal, Holbein (not Y series - they are obviously a different make), Creos, Wave, etc. Nothing. Not a single tool mark, press line, jig mark, minimum/maximum tolerances, nothing. With one exception - finishes. This I take into account as one was made and finished decades ago, while the rest have proceeded with modern manufacturing advances.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2020
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  10. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    Here is a perfect example - I think we can all agree that Iwata does not actually manufacture their own airbrushes, right? They are made for them, and branded as Iwata.

    Here is an Iwata HP-B and an Olympos HP-100B. There is one cosmetic difference between them, in that the front body of the Olympos is contoured smoothly as it slopes down to the nozzle cap, while the Iwata has a step in the contour. Each also has a proprietary nozzle, nozzle cap orifice, and needle contour - this is standard among all the brushes produced by Rich - no two brands share the same final spec on these parts. There is one more difference, in that at some point prior to the 2000's, Iwata made a small change to the air valve, and is witnessed by a machined line at the mid section of the scallop of the air valve assembly. The line appears only on Iwata branded brushes. The valve pin, spring, and seals are still identical between the two. Not similar, but identical.

    Olympos_Iwata_hp-b.jpg

    Every spec on the two brushes is identical. The triggers share the same top contour, as well as the same amount of serrations on the top surface. The cut knurling around both the nozzle cap, and needle cap are the same - containing the exact same number of serrations. The spring retainers are identical, as are the auxiliary levers (down to the crease at the base of the top flange where they were formed). Springs are the same part, etc... I can take them apart, and photograph every single part if you need me to (including macro), or you can take my word they are the same. Under magnification, even the swirl marks on the outer surface of the nozzles are the same.

    The one thing I would guess that Olympos did make themselves, would be some of their needles. The material they used, as well as the contour on them is unique - not necessarily a good thing, as they tend to be butter soft in comparison to the other brands. I wish the MP series needles were as tough as the old Holbein Y series, which had a taper about twice as long.
  11. Hector Lagos

    Hector Lagos Young Tutorling

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    Thanks for sharing your rationale Dave. Now I understand we're both basically doing the same: speculating based on whatever information we have at hand. So you actually believe that Olympos never made their own brushes (The phrase "Olympos never made their own brushes" sounded like you knew for sure), based on facts like Iwata HP series, Rich AB series, RichPen Apollo series are essentially the same thing as the Olympos HP series, down to the machining marks.

    I understand and accept the fact that company claims they manufacture something does not necessarily mean their assertion is true. But then Olympos are special. Among the brand samples that I have, they are the only ones that did so.

    That two different brand airbrushes are mostly identical, down to the machining marks, can also be caused by sharing the same, slightly tweaked CNC code and even the same maker and model of machinery. I don't know when Olympos started selling airbrushes, but their European distributor claims they started selling Olympos airbrushes in Italy in 1970. That was 50 years ago, and a lot has happened in Japan and the world in those 50 years. Among other things, variations in the airbrush market (due to things like the emergence of the computer as a mean for producing graphics), and a severe economic crisis in Japan at the end of the 80's. Those are the kind of events that make companies go bankrupt, or outsource/consolidate manufacturing processes or license their designs (which may include the CNC code).

    The fact that, in all probability, nowadays all Japanese high end airbrushes are made by the same company (and sorry, but, again, that company is B. B. Rich, not Fuso Seiki) does not necessarily mean that this has always been so.

    So, I' guess we'll have to continue looking for information, but so far it looks like we are the only ones interested in this topic, so it will be a lonely endeavor :laugh:
  12. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    I really am not sure what you are looking for, or what it will mean when you find it...
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  13. Hector Lagos

    Hector Lagos Young Tutorling

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    I have an interest in Japanese airbrushes and, out of curiosity, would like to know things like who designed and who manufactured what and when. Again, thank you for sharing the rationale and facts behind your beliefs.
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  14. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    Olympos began in the later half of the 1950's, as far as I have been able to find. Like Iwata, their primary market was most probably not airbrushes, but spray guns, and equipment. They ceased "production" of airbrushes in the later half of the 1980's with reportedly in excess of 100,000 brushes in inventory. At least that is what I have read... The current owner of the name, and inventory has been quoted as saying that there has always only been two manufacturers in Japan - Olympos and Iwata, and then came the "other". Well, we suspect Iwata never made their own ;), and the other has always been referred to as Fuso Seiki.

    One other rumor I have heard over the years, was that when the original owner of Olympos wanted to retire - he found no one he wanted to pass the company to, and they wound down production. One of his sons went on to start Rich... I have no idea if there is any truth to this story, however. Best I can tell is that by the mid 1980's, all these brands shared retail store shelves. I am pretty sure that Robby even traced Mr. Hobby brushes back to the late 1980's.

    I do know that my first Iwata Micron purchased in mid 1986(?) was an Olympos MP200B. The only thing Iwata about it was the literature that came with it. I have a new/old stock MP200B in case, and the only thing that varies from the one I purchased in 1986 is that the case had not only the spare head, but also a slot for a spare needle. By this time I also already had several Iwata HP series brushes (and still have them).

    I have recently acquired several new/old stock Rich, and Richpen branded brushes. Speaking with a factory representative, I have been able to obtain approximate manufacturing dates - one is from the mid, to late 1980's, one the first half 1990's, and the others were purchased and imported by the retailer in the 2000's (who knows when they were actually manufactured?). I have some that came with documentation that I suspect to be older, but can not accurately date them. Virtually all of the documentation carries a "Fuso Seiki" branding or logo. When I contact Richpen through their website to inquire about parts and such, it is always replied to by someone at a fusoseiki.com e-mail address.

    What does it all mean? Who knows ;)
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2020
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  15. Hector Lagos

    Hector Lagos Young Tutorling

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    Thanks for your continued interest on this. According to them (https://www.anest-iwata.co.jp/english/company/j6gmbu0000001utk-att/6-8_en.pdf), Iwata started as a Spray Gun and Compressor manufacturer. I think is possible that at some point, even while it is not currently the case, they actually manufactured airbrushes. Companies sometimes get into new busineses and, after some time, decide things like "focusing on their core" (e.g., that there may be more lucrative uses for their machinery), and subsequently do things like outsourcing manufacturing or spin-off business units. Unfortunately, the linked document does not cover the years relevant to our subject of interest.

    The (original) Olympos owner son you mention is Shinji Takeuchi, and the company he started is Airtex. As I understand, Airtex sells airbrushes manufactured by Sparmax in Taiwan.

    That's interesting. I think I've seen the Iwata packaging (with the spare head in typical Olympos encasing) in one of your facebook posts, but not the Olympos case with a spare needle slot. Is it like the MP-200B box from one on my previous posts?

    I understand (and, can be wrong of course), that Fuso Seiki is a company that manufactures and sells Industrial Spray guns (branded "Lumina"), and sells "related items" such as airbrushes. The brand name of their airbrushes is "RichPen". Of course, it is entirely possible that they actually manufacture their airbrushes, but if that is the case, they don't care to mention it in their company profile.

    Another thing I've noticed is that retailers that offer "RichPen" airbrushes for sale usually lists a pair of trigger type "Rich" (B. B. Rich's airbrush brand) airbrushes along. One can see this even on richpen.com, the spray guns have the "Rich" logo, not "RichPen". This may indicate that "RichPen" = "Rich", therefore "Fuso Seiki" = "B. B. Rich". Another interpretation would be that "B. B. Rich" manufactures airbrushes sold by "Fuso Seiki", and "Fuso Seiki" wanted to include some trigger types and spray guns to their offerings, but "B. B. Rich" had a few thousands of these already manufactured and engraved with their own brand's logo, and wanted to get rid of them somehow. That may also explain the brand name similarity.

    I tend to favor an explanation of the second type. Otherwise, why would an airbrush factory have two different airbrush brands, with overlapping model lines? And with similar brand names?

    To me, it's "food for curiosity" ;)
  16. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    Yes, I just finished a long conversation with someone that is friends with Shinji Takeuchi. I can assure you, Olympos never produced their own airbrushes. Designs and blue prints were produced by Olympos. It seems that it is possible Olympos has not resumed production because of agreements the actual maker has in place with Iwata, and may have looked to source production outside of mainland Japan?

    Yes, the MP200B case I purchased my first Micron in was exactly like the one you pictured. The only difference was near the front of the case, there was a channel that a needle tube fit in, with a spare needle to go with the head. This case is like the one you showed -

    olympos mb200b 1.jpg

    Also, yes, I have a V1 Iwata Micron with spare head in the same tube Olympos used to use. The specs on the parts also are way closer to Olympos then newer Iwata, and certainly much different than V2.

    On the Rich, Rich SB, Richpen (there are a couple more) branding, based on samples, would equate the naming protocols determining the quality of the line, and the market they were meant to occupy. They start out as relatively simple brushes, like the Iwata HP series, and wind up in Micron territory with Richpen.

    Edit: For practical purposes, if I say "Fuso Seiki", it is possible that it is one or more of a group of facilities that are all inter-related.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2020
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  17. Hector Lagos

    Hector Lagos Young Tutorling

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    Wow. That's really surprising, thanks for sharing it!

    I'm aware that all this things we have been discussing are not really useful or important. After all, who cares what factory makes the airbrushes or how many factories make them, when the airbrushes are essentially the same, down to the machining marks? Things that are useful to all are advise like "if you want to use a nozzle from brand A in an airbrush from brand B, be sure to also use the nozzle cap and needle from brand B" or "if you're considering purchasing a micron airbrush from brand X, be aware that you can purchase essentially the same thing from brand Y at 1/3 of the price".

    But, as I told you before, I'm moved by curiosity, and now I'm left wondering what Olympos where really doing at their factory building! lol

    Among the things that I would like to know, even if they aren't useful for any practical purpose, are who designed the Micron airbrush and when.

    So, if this kind of topics pop up in your conversations with people with direct access to the sources, please share!

    You mean why Shinji started Airtex instead of continuing with Olympos? That may be related to the "succession" story that I also read somewhere. Or maybe that Shinji, having studied in the US, had a different vision about the airbrush business. Apparently, he envisioned a more massive use of the airbrush, for things like applying make-up. That requires making the airbrush more affordable, which in turn, requires cheaper manufacturing. You can read about that here (the page is in Japanese, I used a translator to read it).

    The MP-200B in your picture has a serial number in the early 1000's. I acquired mine in 2019, and it has a serial number in the mid 4000's. It really surprises me how few of these things where made (or rather, sold).

    The "Rich" brand in particular had a lot of models. There is a 100% overlap between the Rich "AB" series and the RichPen "Apollo" series (equivalent to Iwata HP series). Their "RB" series overlaps with Iwata "Revolution" series, and also with RichPen "Spectra" Series. They even made airbrushes with 45 degree tilted paint cups, the same thing as Olympos "CR" and "CL" series, and with an angled trigger/airvalve, à la PS-270 (you can take a look here, if you haven't already done so. It's another Toshiya e-shop, page in Japanese). I wonder why this brand virtually disappeared from the market. Maybe, as you mentioned, that was part of the Iwata production agreement.

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