AM Investment Strategies
AMS Spring 2023

Mitsubishi Spinout and Roland DG Launch Binder Jet 3D Printing Joint Venture in China


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The binder jetting space is starting to pick up steam, thanks to attention from HP and Desktop Metal. At the same time, Japanese firms are becoming increasingly active in a space that the nation once nearly abandoned additive manufacturing (AM) after early involvement. Demonstrating this development is news from Mitsubishi spinout AGC Ceramics Co., Ltd. and Roland DG Corporation, which have established a joint venture company (JVC) dedicated to ceramic binder jet 3D printing in China.

The new business, dubbed Cerawei Technology Co., Ltd, has been created in Jingdezhen with the help of Chinese tech firm AMSKY and Jingdezhen Changnan New Area Zhongxi Investment Partnership. The JVC manufactures ceramic binder jet 3D printers, ceramic products, and supplies, while also operating education and experience centers. Via AMSKY and AGCC, Cerawei will target the Chinese market.

A 3D printed ceramic part after glazing and firing.

The partners point out that the Jingdezhen has over 1,000 years of history in ceramic and pottery production, with traditional craftsman having created intricate pieces using techniques that limit the possibilities of mass production. Via Cerawei, they believe that hollowed-out objects that can’t be produced with milling machines can be 3D printed. Glaze can then be applied to the surface to introduce colors to the printed and fired pieces. Additional applications include molds and models for architecture, design, and art.

Binder Jet 3D Printing Partners

As Executive Editor Joris Peels notes in the video below, Roland DG is a manufacturer of wide-format inkjet printers, dental milling machines, medical devices, 3D scanners, engravers, and more. It is already involved in 3D printing with a focus on the dental space. This expands its activities further into AM, though it is only taking a five percent share of the new company.

While Jingdezhen Changnan New Area Zhongxi Investment Partnership represents the municipal government with a 24 percent share, AMSKY is a Chinese firm that develops laser, piezoelectric ink-jet printing, and precision motion control technologies. This led to the release of the Sandstorm S800 sand 3D printer in 2018 and the creation of a 3D printing center in 2019. Since then, the company has continued to expand its range to include a larger format sand 3D printing system. AMSKY will maintain controlling ownership of Cerawei with 51 percent of the shares.

Mitsubishi’s Foray into Ceramic 3D Printing

In April 2022, AGC Ceramics Co. was established as a spin-off of AGC Inc., formerly Asahi Glass, is the largest glass company in the world and a core Mitsubishi business. As such, it potentially represents Mitsubishi’s foray into binder jet 3D printing, with this initial partnership beginning with ceramics. AGC Ceramics has begun producing a ceramic material, called Brightorb, for 3D printing molds for casting. However, because AGC Ceramics develops furnaces for cement and aluminum, there’s plenty of potential for other 3D printing opportunities.

While Mitsubishi companies are formally separate, many Japanese conglomerates are said to be informally linked. If so, this would mean that Mitsubishi is quietly tackling nearly every AM technology segment, including services, metal powder bed fusion, directed energy deposition, hybrid 3D printing, gasses, metal powders, electronics, bioprinting, and polymers. Now, AGC Ceramics will have 20 percent control over Cerawei.

The Ceramics 3D Printing Market

Altogether, the partners have invested USD$2.85 million into the operation and have generated approximately USD$4.42 in revenue so far. According to the  Ceramics Additive Manufacturing Part Production: 2019-2030 report from SmarTech Analysis, the market for 3D printed ceramics, in terms of both technical and traditional materials, will reach an estimated $4.8 billion in revenue by 2030. Cerawei, then, is coming in at the right time.

Images courtesy of Roland DG.

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