December 31, 2013 2:00 am JST

Mitsubishi to sell 3-D printers in North America

TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Corp. will introduce a metal-forming 3-D printer to North America starting in January.

     The Japanese trading house will sell a high-performance 3-D printer developed by compatriot Matsuura Machinery, seeking to cultivate demand from manufacturers of aircraft, medical equipment, cell phones and other products. The goal is to deliver it to more than 10 firms in North America in the first year.

     The printer sinters powdered metal in layers to form metal parts and dies with complex surface shapes.

     Compared with mainstay 3-D printers that form plastic objects, metal-forming printers require more advanced technologies.

     Matsuura Machinery's printer can make dies with dimensions as large as 25-by-25-by-18cm. It will be priced at about 90 million yen ($845,946). It has an advantage over similar products from rival European manufacturers in such areas as accuracy.

     To market the 3-D printer, Mitsubishi will tap a group sales unit in the U.S. that currently markets laser machines and electric discharging machines for die manufacturing.        The global market for 3-D printers, including both plastic- and metal-object printers, is seen growing about fivefold from 2012 to $10.8 billion in 2021, according to a U.S. research firm.

     Japanese firms have lagged behind U.S. rivals in plastic-forming 3-D printers. But with demand for metal-forming varieties yet to get into high gear, the companies will work to carve out a place for themselves in the field.