The Study Group on New Monodzukuri Compiled a Report on the Ideal Approaches to Future Monodzukuri Derived from 3D Printers
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) established a Study Group on New Monodzukuri in October 2013, chaired by Dr. Junjiro Shintaku, professor, Graduate School of Economics, Faculty of Economics, the University of Tokyo. Since then the study group has held several meetings to study the added value derived from 3D printers and the future directions of Monodzukuri, and has finally compiled the results of the meetings into a report.
Recently, 3D printers have been dramatically drawing public attention. The reason for this trend lies not in the uniqueness of such printers themselves but in such printers’ contribution to boosting the acceleration of developing digital manufacturing technology by creating a variety of objects directly from digital data. Meanwhile, it is pointed out that Japan lags behind Europe and the U.S. in terms of measures for addressing this new trend of Monodzukuri, including efforts through government-industry-academia collaboration in this area. To address this problem, the study group has held four meetings since October 2013 to discuss the following issues and has compiled the final report:
- Usability of the "additive manufacturing technology" in terms of Monodzukuri and the innovative points thereof;
- Possible changes in industry and society caused by new technologies in an era when manufacturing processes extensively continue to be digitalized. Potential strategy for enhancing Japanese enterprises’ earning capability and global competitiveness by taking advantage of such changes for business innovation; and
- Necessary policies that Japan should formulate in order to seize such changes and take advantage of Japanese enterprises’ strengths while overcoming their weaknesses
The 3D printer is an innovative product in terms of two aspects: [i] bringing an innovative approach to manufacturing steps in terms of not only the process but also the product as a precision manufacturing machine or additive manufacturing apparatus, including enhanced productivity, models of internal organs and artificial bones, and [ii] enabling a wide variety of entities to enter the markets of Monodzukuri utilizing 3D printers as tools to materialize their ideas into objects in a simple manner. There are still many challenges facing such additive manufacturing technology, but the economic ripple effect from it is expected to be about 21.8 trillion yen as of 2020. To take advantage of this technology, it is necessary for Japan to overcome the current situation of lagging behind Europe and the U.S., and to embark on strategic initiatives which will contribute to strengthening Japan’s global competitiveness.
The additive manufacturing technology will show two directions for Japan’s manufacturing sector: [i] further intensifying the significance of its capacity to integrate data (capacity to upgrade design information by accumulating various data and empirical values) in the manufacturing of precision devices, such as vehicles, aircraft, and medical equipment, which requires close collaboration between people in design departments and manufacturing sites as an important element to succeed in creating new products; and [ii] broadening the basis of the manufacturing industry and enabling small-independent manufacturers, or new entities that do not have large-scale investment or facilities, to significantly enter the information home appliance market and other markets and to embody their various ideas into material objects, leading to the development of a appropriately-sized consumption market, which places emphasis on advancing Monodzukuri via a network open to the public developed by promoting business collaboration among individuals, ventures, professionals, and other entities.
From now on, it will be important for Japan to tackle these issues, focusing on four steps: first, developing technology in which devices, materials and software are all integrated; next, developing environments in order to expedite Monodzukuri using an open network; thirdly, fostering human resources who are familiar with processing three-dimensional data; and finally, seeking ideal approaches to creating enterprises that are able to flexibly address changes in sources of added value.
For details of the Study Group including the full texts of the report, see the Japanese language press release.
February 21, 2014
Division in Charge
Machine Parts and Tooling Industries Office & Office for Manufacturing Industries Policy, Manufacturing Industries Bureau