In Japan’s fast-paced world of additive manufacturing (AM), NTT DATA XAM Technologies (XAM) emerges as a beacon of innovation and quality. With a history of over four decades and a relentless drive for technological advancement, NTT DATA XAM Technologies has been instrumental in shaping the future of 3D printing across multiple industries in Japan. This article delves into the company’s transformative journey, diverse product and service offerings, and ambitious vision for the future.
A Journey Through Time: The History of NTT DATA XAM Technologies
1) The Genesis: Hitachi Zosen Information Systems Co., Ltd. (HZS)
The roots of NTT DATA XAM Technologies can be traced back to 1977 when Hitachi Zosen Information Systems Co., Ltd. (HZS) was established. HZS was a visionary enterprise that initiated the first CAD/CAM systems sales in Japan, recognizing the transformative power of digital design and manufacturing.
2) The EOS Era: A Pioneering Step
In 1993, HZS entered into an exclusive agreement with EOS GmbH, a global leader in industrial AM. This partnership was solidified with the opening of the Tokyo Technical Center in 1997, which became a nexus for customer support and technical advancements, featuring state-of-the-art EOSINT machines like the M250, S700, and P350.
3) Transition to NTT Data Engineering Systems Corporation (NDES)
In 2006, NTT Data Corporation acquired the management rights of HZS, and the name was changed to NTT Data Engineering Systems Corporation (NDES). This acquisition marked a new chapter in the company’s journey.
4) The Birth of AMbition: A Service Revolution
In 2009, NDES opened the RP Technical Center in Osaka to deepen its understanding of metal AM. To address the challenges of adopting new technologies in the Japanese market, the company launched “AMbition,” a service focused on developing processes, materials, and transferring know-how.
5) The Evolution: From Tokyo to Osaka
In 2011, the Tokyo Technical Center was integrated into the RP Technical Center in Osaka. Two years later, the company opened the AM Design Lab in Mino City, Osaka, to expand its R&D capabilities.
6) Innovations and Partnerships
From 2017 to 2021, NTT DATA XAM Technologies made substantial technological advancements and formed meaningful partnerships. They successfully developed a process for building copper alloys and established valuable strategic alliances with GPAINNOVA, nTop, Alloyed, and CADS Additive. These partnerships allowed them to offer a complete range of services, from design to post-production.
7) The Launch of NTT DATA XAM Technologies
In 2020, NDES’s AM business was spun off to form NTT DATA XAM Technologies Corporation. The new entity focused on integrating AI/IT into all processes of AM technology. In 2022, the company expanded its R&D by opening a Digital Manufacturing Center in Osaka.
Overview of XAM Technologies’ AM Portfolio
1) AMbition: The Comprehensive “Design to Production” Solution
At the heart of XAM’s offerings is AMbition, a service that covers everything from design to production. With an in-house team specialized in AM, AMbition offers various services, including Co-Design, Material and Process Design, Prototyping and validation, and Serial Production. The service is backed by nearly 20 EOS metal 3D printers, 31 specialized inspection equipment, and over 30,000 inspection data, ensuring quality and reliability.
2) EOS Machine Sales and Maintenance
As a critical distributor of EOS in Japan, XAM offers sales and maintenance services for EOS AM machines. This partnership has been a cornerstone in the company’s AM portfolio, providing a reliable and advanced machinery solution.
3) nTop: Real-Time Design Iteration
nTop is another critical offering of XAM that adds a layer of agility and innovation to the AM design process. It is a next-generation engineering design software that enables engineers to design transformative products and iterate in real-time. It uses a unique implicit modeling engine that allows engineers to create unbreakable geometries. This means that every solid body is described as a single mathematical equation, allowing for instant adjustments and iterations on designs.
4) DLyte: Revolutionizing Metal Polishing
DLyte, developed by GPAINNOVA, is a revolutionary product in metal polishing. It uses a patented technology for grinding and polishing metals by ion transport using free solid bodies. This dry electropolishing system can handle complex geometries and sets a new industry standard. XAM holds a distributor agreement with GPAINNOVA in Japan, adding this revolutionary technology to their portfolio.
5) CADS Additive: Pioneering Software Solutions
One of the most notable offerings is with CADS Additive, known for its AM-Studio software solutions. AM-Studio is an intuitively operable high-end AM solution that guides the user step-by-step through the entire AM process chain – including post-processing. Highly developed algorithms and automatisms support the analysis of components and the creation of support geometries during slicing and hatching.
6) Alloyed: A Leap in Material Science
Material limitations have always been a bottleneck in the AM industry. XAM’s partnership with Alloyed aims to overcome this through Alloyed’s unique ABD® alloy design and development platform, which allows physics-based simulation of millions of available alloys. This collaboration can be a game-changer, unlocking the potential AM applications by tackling material requirements challenges.
Digital Manufacturing Center of XAM Technologies
Located in Osaka, the Digital Manufacturing Center (DMC) is the nerve center of NTT Data XAM Technologies’ operations. The Digital Manufacturing Center is not merely equipped with an array of industrial 3D printers; it serves as a hub that amalgamates diverse digital technologies. This center offers clients an end-to-end AM engineering chain, providing design, research, manufacturing, and quality assurance support.
One of the standout features of the DMC is its stringent quality assurance process. Given the quality-sensitive nature of the Japanese AM market, XAM takes no shortcuts in ensuring part quality and stability. By integrating various digital technologies into their manufacturing process, they offer a sense of safety and reliability that is often sought after in the Japanese market. This center has implemented a proprietary manufacturing execution system (MES) that ensures traceability and quality control throughout each stage of the manufacturing process. This system aligns with aerospace industry standards, making it a reliable choice for high-stakes projects.
To further ensure the quality of the products, the DMC employs rigorous in-process monitoring techniques. Strategically positioned sensors and cameras monitor the printing process in real-time, enabling immediate adjustments to ensure the final product meets the specifications.
The DMC is an innovation hub where research and development are actively encouraged. The Digital Manufacturing Center has participated in significant projects, such as developing components for Japan’s H3 rocket. This makes it not just a manufacturing center but a place where the future of AM is being shaped.
Industry Impact: How XAM is Transforming Various Sectors
XAM is driving innovations in various industries in Japan, from aerospace to automotive, and beyond. The company’s comprehensive solutions have made it a go-to partner for organizations looking to leverage AM in their operations.
One of the most compelling examples of XAM’s impact on various industries comes from its collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). JAXA, a pivotal institution for aerospace research and development in Japan, has been working on the H3 rocket, a next-generation core rocket. The rocket aims to address various challenges, including the declining competitiveness of Japan’s existing rockets in the global market and the aging of facilities.
One of the most innovative aspects of the H3 rocket is its extensive use of 3D printing technology, developed in collaboration with XAM. The new LE-9 engine, simpler but more powerful than its predecessor LE-7A engine, employs 3D-printed components. It uses a high-performance turbo pump to supply 700 liters of liquid hydrogen fuel per second. AM technology plays a significant role in the engine components, offering both flexibility and economic advantages. It facilitates rapid prototyping and substantial cost reductions by enabling the printing of complex components in a single operation.
XAM has been a significant contributor to the automotive industry, particularly in Japan. They have partnerships with several leading automotive manufacturers, including Toyota, Honda, and Shibata Automobile, among others. Manufacturers like Toyota, Honda, and Shibata Automobile have employed the 3D printing solutions from XAM for diverse applications, ranging from prototyping and tooling to small-scale production.
Shibata Automobile serves as a compelling example of how XAM’s AM technology is not just a tool for prototyping but a transformative force in specialized automotive sectors like drift racing. The Shibata Drift Racing Team, under Shibata Automobile, has leveraged AM technology to create custom parts that have revolutionized their performance. They’ve increased the horsepower of their cars to an astonishing 1200 and designed parts that allow for extreme steering angles, essential for drift racing. This rapid innovation has enabled them to remain competitive in the high-stakes world of D1 Grand Prix, Japan’s top drift racing competition.
Die-casting represents another burgeoning application for AM adoption in Japan. Toyota Industries Corporation has integrated a conformal cooling channel into their molds, achieving not only a reduction in cycle time but also an extension in mold lifespan, exceeding 90,000 shots. The company plans to extend the application of AM technology to about 20% of die-cast parts produced in their Obu plant. They also aim to expand this technology to overseas bases if the development of new powder materials for die-cast molds is successful.
In the healthcare sector, XAM has made significant strides in the development of medical implants and prosthetics. In collaboration with Kurashige Dental Technology Co., Ltd., XAM has transformed Japan’s dental prosthetics market. The traditional method of casting and polishing dentures was labor-intensive and lacked repeatability, leading to potential errors and the need for remanufacturing. Nonetheless, the introduction of mechanization and digitalization through the EOS M100 and GPAINNOVA’s DLyte dry electrolytic polishing machines has enhanced this process by ensuring repeatability and minimizing defects. In terms of environmental impact, the traditional method of denture manufacturing generated 500g of gypsum waste per denture. The EOS M100 has the capability to produce six dentures simultaneously, thereby reducing gypsum waste by three kilograms per batch. Additionally, the new process reduces silicon waste and eliminates exhaust gas during casting. Kurashige Dental Technology introduced GPAINNOVA’s DLyte dry electrolytic polishing machines in 2019 and an EOS M100 in 2022. The company plans to add another EOS M100 to its operations by the end of 2023.
Conclusion and Future Prospects: Where XAM is Headed
As the field of 3D printing aspires to transition into mainstream acceptance, the insights gained and technologies pioneered by XAM could serve as a valuable blueprint for the industry at large. Their commitment to quality and process efficiency has the potential to redefine global standards. In expanding the use of AM within the broader context of digital manufacturing, XAM not only showcases the extensive capabilities of this technology but also lays the groundwork for its future applications.
Their strategic alliance with Alloyed is noteworthy. This collaboration aims to push the boundaries of material limitations and accelerate development cycles, raising intriguing questions about the future possibilities of AM applications.
While NTT DATA XAM Technologies is already a key player in the Japanese market, there is potential for global expansion. Their partnerships with international companies indicate a willingness to collaborate and expand their reach. This could mean that we might see XAM Technologies making more significant moves in the international AM market in the coming years.
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