Nikon turns to space, investing $91,000,000 in aerospace 3D printing manufacturer Morf3D

Tips & Techniques

I was wondering what Nikon was going to do to keep itself alive with an ever-shrinking camera market that seems to be slowly but surely turning its back on the 103-year-old company in favour of Sony and Canon. Well, it turns out they’re investing in space. To be more specific, they’ve invested as the major shareholder in US startup Morf3D.

Morf3D is an additive manufacturing company supplying the aerospace industry, supplying companies like Boeing, and according to Nikkei Asia, the deal sees Nikon investing 10 billion yen (~$91 million) in the company, becoming a majority stakeholder. This puts Nikon in the supply change for small satellites, a growing market in the aerospace industry.

Based in El Segundo, California, Morf3D was founded in 2015. They primarily make parts for satellites using 3D printing technology. Of course, this isn’t the typical FDM filament or resin type manufacturing found on our desktops at home. Here it’s SLS type techniques, where powdered metal is sintered together using optical technology with which Nikon has experience.

Regardless of how Nikon is performing in the camera market right now, they produce some of the most precise optical equipment out there, used in all kinds of devices from advanced semiconductor manufacturing to microscopes and other medical devices. So, investing in a 3D printing company using this type of technology isn’t much of a stretch.

Morf3D has proven leadership in metal additive technology, a strong innovation pipeline and highly specialised aerospace manufacturing qualifications. It also brings a team of experts accustomed to partnering with customers to achieve their unique requirements. This combination is well-aligned with Nikon’s vision for accelerating industrialisation of AM through innovation, and we look forward to working together to deliver exciting next-generation AM solutions to customers globally.

– Yuichi Shibazaki, Corporate VP & General Manager, Next Gen Project Division, Nikon

CEO of Morf3D, Ivan Madera says that Nikon’s investment and its cutting-edge tech “accelerates Morf3D’s position as an innovation leader in advanced manufacturing for the aerospace, space and defense markets”. If the partnership succeeds, it should bode well for Nikon, with the small-satellite market expected to grow from $2.8 billion today to $7.1 billion by 2025.

Even if cameras and photography lenses don’t remain Nikon’s primary market, hopefully, this will be enough to justify the cost of keeping their name in the photography arena.

[via Nikkei Asia]

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