NEDOの技術戦略センター（TSC）のナノテクノロジー/材料部門の井関 隆之氏は、 日本のジャーナリストとの会談で、
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.