On the heels of its recent debuts on the AM scene, Japanese electronics firm Seiko Epson Corporation (Epson) unveils plans to build a metal powder factory.
The project will be conducted by its subsidiary Epson Atmix Co (Atmix). Interestingly, the factory will recycle used metal from Atmix and the market, creating a closed-loop system for metal powder manufacturing. The recycled metal will be used as raw material for metal powder products. In the race to become carbon neutral, we are likely to see a growing number of companies build facilities that will produce recycled materials for AM. IperionX is another example of company that has taken the bull by the horns with its 100% Recycled Titanium Pilot Facility project.
As a producer of metal powders, Atmix uses a unique manufacturing technology to produce extremely fine metal powder products with grain sizes on the order of several micrometers. Magnetic powder products in particular are used in power supply circuits as coils for IT equipment such as smartphones and for hybrid cars and electric vehicles, and demand is expected to grow further in the future.
The Epson Group has set a goal of becoming underground resource free by 2050. At the same time, Atmix has needed to establish a closed-loop metal powder manufacturing system to meet growing demand because of potential future difficulty in obtaining metal due to the depletion of underground resources and soaring prices for metal materials.
Atmix plans to invest several billions of yen to build and equip the new factory for recycling used metals to obtain material used in producing metal powder products. The factory will have, for example, an induction furnace for melting metals, refining equipment for removing impurities from metal, and a pig casting machine for forming ingots. Operations are scheduled to begin in 2025. This factory will enable Atmix to recycle used metal that will be used as raw material in its own metal powder products.
The used metal will come from sources such as out-of-spec metal powder products in Atmix’s manufacturing process, metal waste from its factory, metal scraps and used molds and dies discharged by Epson and others. Within three years after the new factory begins operating, Atmix expects recycled metal materials to meet about 25% of its total raw metal material needs. This will help to reduce its consumption of virgin underground resources.
As stated in Environmental Vision 2050, Epson seeks to become carbon negative and underground resource free by 2050 to achieve sustainability and enrich communities. This new Atmix factory is positioned as the first step toward becoming underground resource free and is a crucial part of Atmix’s efforts to develop a sustainable metal powders business.
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