Xact Metal, the metal additive manufacturing (AM) original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specializing in affordable powder bed fusion (PBF) platforms, has entered an exclusive partnership with System Create Co. to sell Xact Metal printers in Japan. Via the deal, System Create Co. will also provide technical support and maintenance services to Xact Metal’s customers in Japan.
Xact Metal, established in 2017 by Penn State University (PSU) engineer Matt Woods in PSU’s hometown of State College, PA, focuses on affordability and accessibility specifically to make metal AM adoption easier for its target market of small and medium enterprise (SME) manufacturers. While this has become a key priority for nations all over the world as they begin to pay more attention to their respective AM ecosystems, it is perhaps especially urgent at the present moment in Japan, where the nation’s domestic SMEs have been lagging behind other similar economies like the US and Germany.
As the US makes an accelerated push towards deploying metal 3D printing for distributed manufacturing, it will be increasingly vital to the success of that endeavor to ensure that the US and its leading trade partners are at parity with one another in terms of their progress in advanced manufacturing technologies, and especially metal AM. Currently, Japan is one of the most critical partners in this context, not only for the reason mentioned above concerning Japan’s need to increase adoption of metal AM by its SMEs, but equally, insofar as Japanese manufacturing is poised to take on a more primary role in the domestic US economy than it has in the past.
This means that anything that Japanese companies like Nikon are doing in the US will also need to be proportionally achievable on the ground in Japan’s domestic economy. Any scenario that doesn’t fit that description won’t facilitate truly distributed supply chains. The ability to scale up those capabilities quickly will depend precisely on factors such as affordability, which does much to explain why Xact Metal is such a logical fit for the Japanese market.
In turn, down the road, it will be interesting to see the reciprocal effects that entry into new overseas markets has on the domestic US business for companies like Xact Metal. For one thing, the increased scaling potential opened up by access to a whole new customer base should presumably continue to bring down the cost of Xact Metal’s platforms. That could easily lead to the company’s gaining more traction in the US, as lowering the cost of the machines below some certain threshold will certainly bring new potential buyers into the metal AM market, especially from American SME manufacturers.
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