EPSON and Development Bank of Japan Invest in 3DEO’s Metal 3D Printing Technology


Japanese investment into the additive manufacturing (AM) sector is increasing and it’s bringing new, powerful players to the table. Los Angeles-based 3DEO announced a substantial investment from the Development Bank of Japan Inc. (DBJ) and Seiko Epson Corporation. Whereas Epson has slowly been increasing its presence in the 3D printing industry, this is a first move for DBJ in the space.

3DEO’s Saffron 3D printer utilizes the company’s Intelligent Layering process, which begins by distributing a fine layer of metal powder across the bed before a binder is evenly applied across the entire build area using a specialized spray mechanism. Subsequently, a CNC mill precisely carves the part’s external contours and any intricate internal details. Once the printing phase is complete, the object, still in its green state, undergoes a sintering process in a furnace, where it achieves its full density. The company has carved a niche for itself with its specialization in complex metal 3D printed components and assemblies.

Although specifics have not been revealed, Nikkeireports that the investment by the two Japanese companies amounts to approximately 1 billion yen ($6.8 million), which equates to an estimated 5% ownership stake. In conjunction with their American investment firm partners, their collective shareholding is around 40%. This strategic investment will drive 3DEO’s growth, especially in North America and Japan. The company’s expansion plan is particularly significant in critical sectors such as semiconductors, aerospace, medical devices, and industrial equipment.

“The collaboration with DBJ and EPSON is a powerful endorsement of our mission to empower product and engineering teams across the globe,” said Matthew Petros, CEO and Co-founder of 3DEO. “This investment is not just capital; it’s a commitment to a shared vision of challenging what’s possible through the combination of additive design principles and differentiated capabilities.”

In Japan, where there’s a strong inclination towards conventional metalworking, this collaboration aims to break barriers in the adoption of AM technologies and Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM). It presents an opportunity to blend 3DEO’s AM capabilities with Japan’s meticulous engineering tradition, opening new frontiers in productivity and manufacturing possibilities.

In March 2022, Epson introduced its first 3D printer, marking a significant shift in the imaging industry as companies transition from traditional 2D printing to 3D technologies. While the new Epson 3D printer remains unnamed, its unique technology is derived from the company’s experience in injection molding, utilizing a flat screw mechanism to extrude third-party resin and metal pellets. Epson’s printer is designed for final part production and mass customization in small batch production, boasting precise control of material injection and temperature for producing strong and accurate industrial parts.

Epson’s subsidiary Atmix, which is renowned for creating artificial quartz and metal injection molding (MIM) parts, has recently declared its plans to manufacture metal powders for MIM and 3D printing. These powders will be produced by recycling metal scrap from Epson and its partners. This aligns with Epson’s goal of becoming “underground resource free by 2050,” aiming to diminish mining for virgin nonrenewable materials. The upcoming factory, which is designed to process out-of-spec metal powders, waste from factories, and used molds and dies, is anticipated to satisfy 25% of Atmix’s overall raw metal requirements with recycled metal within three years of opening.

This decision comprises of Epson’s wider strategy to plunge into high-throughput production machines that minimize environmental impacts. Such an approach reflects an escalating trend among imaging companies like HP, Canon, and Konica Minolta who are also welcoming 3D printing technologies for different applications, including those in the industrial and healthcare sectors. This represents Epson’s progress over a seven-year period in the development of a mass production 3D printing technology since its announcement in 2015.

Japenese multinationals, additionally to the imaging sector, have shown increased investment in AM in the U.S and across the globe. Notably, Nikon, a Mitsubishi Group company, has originated an advanced manufacturing division in the U.S. This includes its SLM Solutions and Morf3D 3D printing subsidiaries. Nikon has invested in various other AM firms beyond acquisitions. Mitsubishi is involved in a range of 3D printing operations, from metals to polymers, machines to gasses, services to materials, and even bioprinted meat to bioprinted organ tissues. At this point, the conglomerate’s AM products and projects are too numerous to quantify. NAGASE, another Japanese materials firm, is enhancing its investments in U.S. 3D printing operations. DMG Mori, a company of both Japanese and German origin, is also transferring its 3D printer production to the U.S.

It comes as no surprise that the Japanese government itself is investing in a U.S. startup like 3DEO. DBJ, solely owned by the Government of Japan through the Minister of Finance, has invested in 3DEO through the DBJ Startups and Innovation Fund. This, along with a contribution from EPSON, was “secured after careful review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).” However, this allows Japanese national and corporate entities a partner in the ever-growing U.S’s AM scene while facilitating 3DEO to expand both domestically and internationally.

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