Seiko Epson Corporation (TSE: 6724, “Epson”) manufactures everything from watch movements to desktop printers. Given its precision and expertise in printing, it was long assumed that the company would enter the 3D printing market. She did it last month, with an industrial extrusion system. Now that he’s done that, he’s moving further into space. Epson’s subsidiary Atmix, which makes artificial quartz and metal injection molded (MIM) parts, will produce powder for MIM and 3D printing.
Atmix is building a factory to make its own powder, recycling Epson metals and offcuts from its partners. The logic behind this is not only commercial but based on the Epson Group’s desire to be “without underground resources by 2050”. Epson suggests not extracting non-renewable virgin materials until then. This is seen as an environmentally beneficial decision that also reduces the group’s risk at higher prices in the future.
The factory will accept off-specification powder metal products, as well as scrap from its factory, moulds, dies and scrap metal from Epson and its partners. Within three years of plant operation, the company expects recycled metal to represent 25% of Atmix’s total raw metal requirements.
To produce the powders, the company uses water atomization and a unique Spin Water Atomization (SWAP) process that can manufacture amorphous metals and amorphous magnetic powders. With SWAP, molten metal is shattered with high pressure gas and then rapidly cooled.
On the polymer side, Epson is creating new intellectual property by fundamentally improving extrusion processes. By coordinating the speed of extrusion through a valve and depositing the material at a controlled temperature and in a very precise manner, the company aims for better adhesion of the layers and better resistance of the parts. By opening it up to a wide portfolio of materials, this technology could be useful in many fields while maintaining a low cost.
It looks like Epson is slowly moving into the 3D printer market. It’s not just about releasing a machine, but also a powder that could see wider adoption. The company deploys 3D printing in a cost-conscious way. Epson’s 3D printer launch wasn’t flashy and wasn’t backed by a lot of guarantees or marketing. The company has not made huge investments in additives. It also creates a relatively simple 3D printer.
On the powder side, the company is looking at its metal footprint and the materials to guide it. Above all, he seeks to replace his own virgin materials. Now, given the size of Epson as a company and all of its watches and cartridges, the company still has a long way to go. After all, it has over $9 billion in revenue and 67,000 employees.
However, by only covering its own needs, it can become a player in our relatively small market. The 3D printer appears to be able to process pellets of many sizes and qualities, so as to accommodate a wide selection of known plastic waste. Metal scraps could be atomized, which would consume a lot of energy but allow them to be transformed into precise MIM parts or 3D printed parts. This is a very logical approach for the business.
It would also make sense for the company to launch a binder jetting machine for lower production runs than can be achieved with the MIM. Taken together, this could be a fairly well-defined and executed recycling strategy for a large company’s metals into new products. I don’t know how many other companies will seek to develop new technologies in tandem with additives to move towards more efficient use and reuse of their materials. Hopefully there will be many more.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Stay up to date on all the latest 3D printing industry news and receive information and offers from third-party vendors.