Japanese EDM Maker Sodick Invests in Italy’s Prima Additive for Metal 3D Printing

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Japanese machine tool leader Sodick, a company with $400 million in revenue and 3,500 employees, has upped the ante into the additive manufacturing (AM) sector by investing in Prima Additive, an Italian company known for its range of powder bed fusion (PBF) and directed energy deposition (DED) machines. Sodick has acquired a 9.5% minority stake through a reserved capital increase. Moreover, the two companies will enter into a partnership to jointly develop machines. They will also sell each other’s systems in their respective home markets.

“We warmly welcome Sodick into our corporate structure: an investment by another important industrial partner that gives confidence in the company’s growth path. This is a project in which possible and future synergies will be explored, at the center of which there will be the valorization of the complementarity of the products, but also of cultural differences. It is a project that brings together two companies that approach the world of metal additive manufacturing starting from the search for profitable and scalable applications thanks to an innovative mindset and a strong industrial tradition,” said Prima Additive CEO Paolo Calefati.

Sodick is a significant producer of electrical discharge machining (EDM) machines. The firm ventured into the 3D printing market years ago with a hybrid milling and metal 3D printing machine. Given its experience with EDM, which is often used as a finishing technology for powder bed fusion (PBF) parts, further involvement in additive manufacturing (AM) has long been expected. Sodick manufactures wire and wire EDM products, milling machines, and has considerable overlap with 3D printing technology.

Prima Additive boasts a comprehensive lineup of machines, including a DED head that can be fitted to machine tools, two DED systems, and a robot arm-based robot cell solution. Additionally, Prima offers a green laser copper PBF machine, a printer with up to four lasers and a 300mm build volume, and a large system with a build volume of 430 x 430 x 600mm, which can be expanded to manufacture parts up to one meter in size.

The partnership between Sodick and Prima Additive appears to be complementary, with Sodick having a strong presence in Asia, while Prima is more established in Europe. Prima Additive is a former subsidiary of Prima Industrie, a company with $400 million in revenue, specializing in sheet metalworking and automation. Although the press release wording regarding the deal is somewhat vague, it suggests that Prima Industrie will continue to be the controlling shareholder in Prima Additive.

Although Prima has always had an impressive range of machines, it has struggled with marketing and distribution, limiting its market penetration. The partnership with Sodick could enhance Prima’s distribution, increase sales, and strengthen its presence in the industry. For Sodick, this investment broadens its product lineup significantly. The DED machines, in particular, may greatly benefit from Sodick’s expertise in wire and EDM technologies. Prima also offers a high-end lineup of powder bed fusion systems, with copper being a particularly exciting material at the moment. Importantly, companies that use EDM machines are potential clients for both powder bed fusion and additive manufacturing in general, opening up significant opportunities for collaboration and growth.

While it is a major player in the market, Sodick is a gnat when compared to machine tool giants such as DMG Mori. It is also less diversified than competitors like FANUC, which specializes in robot arms, and Makino. It also faces competition from Mitsubishi and similarly sized specialized firms such as GF Machining Solutions, part of the larger Georg Fischer group. While Sodick is well-respected, it is a minnow in a competitive market. Furthermore, EDM machines have a long lifespan, and the demand for them is limited. Both GF and Sodick have turned to AM for growth, with Sodick introducing its hybrid machine and GF partnering with 3D Systems.

You don’t purchase an EDM machine just to look at it; if you’re in the market for one, you’re likely engaged in very specific and/or precise work. Until now, Sodick has primarily targeted mold makers with its hybrid technology, but through its partnership with Prima Additive, it can now cater to a much broader range of customers. This collaboration seems beneficial for both parties. The current shake-up in the market means that people will likely seek out established partners committed to long-term engagement. This partnership appears to be a sound strategy, and if the two companies collaborate effectively, they will be stronger together.

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