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Several big names in the 3D printing industry, such as HP, LPW Technology, EnvisionTEC, and Roboze, have been making it a priority to expand their businesses and technologies into the Asia-Pacific region. Of those four companies, half chose to expand into Japan, which is the top country in technological advancement and research when it comes to Asia, especially in terms of the manufacturing and healthcare industries. Last year, the International Data Corporation (IDC) Japan reported that the country’s demand for 3D printing technology was growing, revealing that total 2015 sales in its domestic 3D printing market reached US$310 million – an annual growth of 104.4%.

But while not every major 3D printing company is yet expanding to the beautiful and technologically-advanced country, at least we can count on companies already housed in Japan to introduce necessary innovation.

The Sojitz Corporation, a global trading company, is based in Tokyo, and consists of approximately 400 subsidiaries and affiliates located all around the world. It works with a wide range of businesses in sectors ranging from automotive and agriculture to energy, chemicals, and consumer goods – all fields that have utilized 3D printing technology for various purposes. Recently, Sojitz partnered with Koiwai Co., Ltd., which manufactures and sells 3D printed metal powder parts and does casting for mass production and prototypes, on a new 3D printer manufacturing business.

The two worked together to set up the JAMPT Corporation, the country’s first one-stop service provider for the mass production and sale of parts 3D printed using metal powder. China and Europe are currently the leaders when it comes to metal 3D printing, but three years ago, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry set up the Technology Research Association for Future Additive Manufacturing, or TRAFAM, for the purpose of expanding and developing the country’s metal AM technologies. As Koiwai is an association member of TRAFAM, and Sojitz is a supporting member, these two companies seem well equipped for the task.

Sojitz will use its business knowledge, and capitalize on its networks, to support the corporation’s expansion, while also promoting sales of its metal products and powder. A metal AM frontrunner, Koiwai was the first Japanese company to receive a metal 3D printing order back in 2012, and will bring its background in laminated sand casting, and experience with 3D printed prototype parts, to the new corporation. It’s a good thing, too, as the integrated JAMPT service will be providing everything from parts data generation, metal powder production, and 3D printed product development to commercialization and support for companies looking to certify their products.

Akihiko Chiba, a professor at the Institute for Materials Research (IMR) at Tohoku University and a TRAFAM project leader of electron beam systems, has been welcomed to JAMPT as its technical advisor. Sojitz will be working with the IMR and JAMPT to develop and expand the AM technology at its own production plant, and a venture fund with the university is thinking about investing in the new metal AM corporation; this will certainly help the company’s goal of reaching sales of JPY 100 billion by 2025.

JAMPT is currently building a production plant in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, which make a needed social contribution to the area by supporting reconstruction; commercial operations are expected to begin at the plant in July of 2018.

The market demand for high-precision, 3D printed utility products, like medical implants and aerospace engine parts, is growing fast, and because product data is able to be shared with others online, companies around the world can work to decrease their logistics costs and inventories if they have access to metal powder and the proper 3D printer. As we know, 3D printing technology makes manufacturing metal parts with complex geometries much easier, along with new products that are unable to be manufactured with conventional fabrication technologies; this will result in a wider range of materials and product designs, which will keep JAMPT, Sojitz, and Koiwai busy far into the future.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 

[Source: Sojitz Corporation]

 

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