3D Printer News from Japan: A 2 trillion Yen market for metal 3D printed parts by 2030

Metal 3D printer related market forecast by NEDO

In February 2019, Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) announced research results on metal additive manufacturing (AM) processes and functional chemical manufacturing processes, as part of its “TSC Foresight” with regard to various technological fields.

Summarizing the current situation in the Japanese market and analyzing future technological challenges; Takayuki Iseki, of the nanotechnology/materials unit of NEDO’s Technology Strategy Center (TSC), has been explaining, current challenges with regard to metal AM processes in a meeting with Japanese journalists. The published article below, focuses upon metal AM processes, sharing an outline of the report by NEDO.

The article was written by Saito Yuki and published in the Japanese online magazine MONOist.


The 2 Trillion Yen Market for Metal 3D Printed Parts – What Japan must do to show its strengths

Published 14:00, February 13th 2019

[By Saito Yuki, MONOist]

Market size will reach 2 trillion yen in 2030

Metal 3D printers enable shapes and builds that were difficult to achieve using traditional processing methods. Implementation has currently begun with aircrafts. Application is also progressing for a number of dies and molds. In the future, it is expected that implementation will increase in the manufacturing sites of various fields, and the markets for metal 3D printers, metal powder materials, and 3D-printed products are predicted to expand.

By the year 2030, the 3D printer market size is expected to reach 650 billion yen (5.3 times that of 2017), market size for metal powder materials is expected to reach 500~650 billion yen (45~59 times that of 2016), and the market size for 3D printed items is expected to reach 2 trillion Yen. Taking a look at 3D printed products by industry yields the following market-size predictions: dies/molds and tools - 800 billion Yen, medicine - 560 billion Yen, electronics - 400 billion Yen, aerospace - 110 billion Yen, and robotics - 100 billion Yen.

On the other hand, for automobile parts such as radiators and turbochargers, and repair parts for aircrafts, automobiles, and building materials, the use of metal 3D printers is not expected to grow as much as in the aforementioned markets. Regarding metal automobile parts, the market size for metal 3D printed parts is predicted to remain at around 60 billion Yen, compared to the total market size of 3.4 trillion Yen. Regarding repair parts, the market size for 3D printed parts is expected reach 21 billion Yen, compared to the total market size of 4 trillion Yen.

Market predictions relating to metal 3D printing. Source: NEDO

Challenges in terms of quality and cost

There are several challenges regarding the use of metal 3D printers in Japanese manufacturing. First is the cost of metal 3D printers and metal powder. Currently, a metal 3D printer costs upwards of 100 million yen, and metal powder costs several tens of thousands of yen per 1 kg. On this issue, Iseki comments: ‘Cost-reduction should be investigated from a broad viewpoint. Instead of targeting only 3D printers and materials for cost-reduction, the benefits they bring to the entire manufacturing process, and benefits relating to the finished product, such as fuel efficiency of an aircraft, etc., must also be considered."

Another challenge is to ensure uniform quality of the build. 3D-printed products can, in some cases, have internal defects that are generated in the build process. Also, in additive manufacturing, the surface finish is inferior compared to conventional metalwork technology.

“Regarding the ideal form of metal additive manufacturing Japan should strive toward”, Iseki says, "this would be to realize surface finish quality that is competitive with traditional metalwork technology, while also eliminating internal defects." Regarding the realization of surface finish quality competitive with traditional technology, machine tool manufacturers have already proposed a multifunctional machine where metal 3D-printing functions are added to cutting machines. The challenge of internal defects will be addressed in NEDO's new 2019 project. NEDO plans to observe, and collect measurements on, metal-vapor, metal-splash (spatter), temperature distribution, how to lay powder material, etc., to clarify what types of conditions have an influence on internal defects. Further, NEDO plans to develop advanced monitoring for the build, as well as element technology for controlling the build according to feedback received from this monitoring process.

Currently, German companies lead the market in 3D printing machines. China is the leader for patents, while the U.S. and China lead in terms of research papers. NEDO has stated its hopes that Japan, by exercising its own unique strengths, will be able to increase its future share in this market.

Challenges and direction with regard to using AM in Japanese manufacturing Source: Created by NEDO’s Technology Strategy Center (2018)