September 29, 2022
Ted Watanabe is Director of Innovation Business Division, operating the businesses of Additive Manufacturing, Advanced Electronics and Biotechnology at Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation (a part of Nippon Sanso Holdings, Global Industrial Gas Supplier). Dr. Watanabe held various positions of innovations and business development within a group and led over ten venture investments. Previously, he was Vice President of Corporate Business Development at Matheson Trigas, USA subsidiary of Nippon Sanso Holdings. He also served as board of director at various technology ventures including Jilin OLED (Chinese OLED material supplier), Pioneer Materials Inc (Supplier of advanced memory material) and RASIRC Corporation (Electronics Chemical Supplier). Dr.Watanabe received his Ph.D in Material Engineering from Yamanashi University and MBA from University of Colorado. Dr. Watanabe also serves on the Board of Directors of the AMGTA where Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation is a Founding Member.
Tadaharu (Ted) Watanabe
Taiyo Nippon Sanso is a Founding Member of AMGTA. What impact do you see from having major, multi-national companies like TNSC demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and advancing AM technologies by joining AMGTA, commissioning research, and sharing better practices?
Ted: For Taiyo Nippon Sanso (TNSC), a part of Nippon Sanso Holdings Corporation, sustainability of the global environment is an extremely important commitment. For the hundreds of thousands of our global customers, we use natural resource of air to supply industrial gases. Improving energy efficiency and securing carbon-neutral sources are critical to our business productivity and growth, so we are investing in application R&D and expanding the use of renewable energy.
To supplement AMGTA’s goal of promoting sustainable manufacturing through Additive Manufacturing (AM), TNSC is conducting research focusing on innovative solutions for the current AM challenges of part-to-part consistency and part quality to reduce part rework and powder waste. We propose to share gas and powder handling best practices as well as AM process knowhow with our customers and with AMGTA. TNSC, including its parent company NSHD, has a large B2B customer base in a wide range of industries globally. We can share the best practice across the industries in many continents.
From your perspective at Taiyo Nippon Sanso, a major industrial gas provider, what do you see as the most pressing sustainability challenges facing the AM industry? How should these be addressed and how is Taiyo Nippon Sanso doing so?
Ted: From Taiyo Nippon Sanso’s perspective, we first need to reduce the consumption of Argon and Nitrogen per part, both from sustainability and economic points of view. Argon and Nitrogen use a significant amount of electricity in production. Reducing the gas use reduces the carbon footprint of the process significantly.
Secondly, by lowering oxygen contamination in circulated Argon significantly reduces the oxidative defects of build parts, and also greatly reduces oxidation of metal powders, thus improving its reuse. TNSC has conducted comprehensive research in this field, published papers on this subject, and has shared the research work with AMGTA. In fact, TNSC now offers a system (3DPro PrintPure) to precisely control gas purity in the AM build chamber.
Thirdly, the atomization process for metal powder production uses a large volume of Argon and Nitrogen. By reducing metal powder oxidation and enhancing powder reuse, gas and energy used in metal powder production is reduced.
Extensive R&D by TNSC demonstrates that build chamber oxygen and moisture impurities during the laser melting process greatly influence the part quality as well powder degradation for their reuse. So, it is critical to keep oxygen and moisture to less than 100ppm to keep good part quality.
With a global footprint, how have you seen the expectations of your customers, and their customers, for more sustainable manufacturing practices change in recent years?
Ted: As a large global industrial gas company, we service hundreds of thousands of customers worldwide. We have certainly noticed increased awareness and expectations of sustainability from the wide spectrum of our customers. Not only are they practicing sustainable manufacturing practices themselves, but they are also inquiring about, and sometimes requiring us to list, our sustainable practices. Sustainable manufacturing practices are best incorporated when driven by economic benefit. Industrial gas companies’ gas application technologies have been helping customers with lower energy usage, less waste, less manufacturing time in very wide range of manufacturing sectors from automotive, semiconductors, medical/healthcare, steel mills, food processing and so on. We are now adding additive manufacturing to it. This technology can serve almost all of those sectors with its energy saving, less waste and lower emissions.
Industrial gas companies including TNSC have been providing sustainable manufacturing practices along with economic benefits for many years. For example, we provide oxygen combustion burner technology for steel mills which provide much better energy efficiency comparing to air combustion.
There appears to be a great appetite within the AM ecosystem for transparent, credible research to identify both opportunities and realities. From your vantage point, in what areas do you see the need for more research to enlighten the AM ecosystem toward more sustainable practices?
Ted: A great opportunity is in the field of metal casting. Metal castings are used in a wide range of industries so that the impacts can be very high when widespread adoption of AM makes more progress. There are a lot of predictions and calculations as to how much sustainability benefit AM could provide as we change from casting to AM. Many industries such as aerospace are moving rapidly forward in select segments, however, there is more work to be done in terms of lower cost and higher quality to convince corporate executives to drive AM adoption more widely.
Do you see sustainability “quick wins” for your customers in the AM ecosystem?
Ted: The metal castings segment presents the quick win opportunity. AM can significantly reduce the amount of metal waste in this segment. With DfAM, energy consumption is reduced not only in its production, but also in transportation fuel due to its reduced weight.
Anything else you would like to share with the other AMGTA members?
Ted: The importance of employing sustainable gas strategies in AM process is very important to TNSC, which we have implemented in the production of metal powder, storage of metal powder and printing of final components, further reducing the environmental footprint of the additive manufacturing process. These strategies have allowed for an improved industrial ecology of the AM process and can be leveraged and improved upon as the industry continues to grow.