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Michelin Japan opens Michelin AM Atelier in Gunma Prefecture

Using 3D metal printers and collaborating with local SMEs to spur innovation

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According to Kyodo News, a metal lamination factory that is operated by Nihon Michelin Tire Co. in Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, is boosting its product development in a new factory – called Michelin AM Atelier – using 3D metal printers and collaborating with local SMEs to spur innovation.

The French tire manufacturer’s Japanese unit aims to further manufacturing technology advances, fostering a network of new businesses in the area. The factory allows partner companies to explore new territories while mitigating risks, noted Nihon Michelin President Gen Sudo at a mid-May company briefing.

From the initial eight, the Michelin AM Atelier’s R&D programs now include 22 companies. Nihon Michelin plans to move its head office to Ota in August, to foster closer relationships with local firms. The company’s proprietary AM technology, used in automobile tire molds production, layers and solidifies metallic powders and resins via lasers. At Michelin AM Atelier, participating firms have access to 3D printers for new product development and engineers’ training.

Michelin Japan opens Michelin AM Atelier in Gunma Prefecture - using 3D metal printers and collaborating with local SMEs to spur innovation.
Photo taken in April 2022 shows 3D printers at Michelin AM Atelier in Ota, Gunma Prefecture. Photo credit: Kyodo.

Over 60 individuals from companies not only in Gunma, but also in other prefectures, have participated in the AM Atelier’s training and seminars. Hiroko Suzuki, President of Kyowa Industrial Co., a precision machinery manufacturer, stated that she was surprised to discover the widespread use of 3D printers overseas.

The rise in demand for electric vehicles prompts local auto parts factories, including Toa Industries Co. which supplies Subaru Corp., to adapt to market changes. At the AM Atelier, participants can use 3D printers to create complex molds that conventional cutting methods cannot achieve.

The Atelier also functions as a collaborative space where companies can pool their expertise and conduct joint research. Shinichi Iizuka, President of Toa, reportedly believes that as knowledge deepens, cooperation among local companies will increase, making the region a frontrunner in 3D printing technology.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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