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Nikon Invests Majority Stake in Boeing-Backed Aerospace Startup


Nikon has bought a majority stake in the U.S. startup Morf3D, an aerospace supplier that has a list of high-profile customers internationally including Boeing. The Japanese camera company’s investment comes ahead of an expected boom in small satellite production.

Nikon has announced that it acquired a majority stake in the “metal additive manufacturing” company, which produces parts in the aerospace, space, and defense industries. While the total value of the investment was not revealed, Nikkei Asia is estimating the investment is to the tune of 10 billion yen ($91 million).

Additive manufacturing is also known casually as 3D printing or rapid prototyping, and is a process that Morph3D uses to solve what it calls
“complex design and manufacturing challenges.” As the name implies, the concept behind additive manufacturing is that materials are added together to create an object.

Nikon states that starting in July of 2019, it was working on what it calls the “Next Generation Project Division” which was a portion of the company dedicated to accelerating the launch of new growth business including materials processing technologies.

“Nikon intends to drive industrialization of digital manufacturing by leveraging synergies resulting from strategic investments and alliances with industry-leading companies worldwide,” the company said in a press release.

Morf3D is a California-based company founded in 2015 that makes mainly parts for satellites using 3D printing. It has previously received funding from Boeing’s venture capital arm and, according to Nikkei, also does business with other American and European aerospace companies.

The deal not only gives Nikon majority ownership and seats on the Morf3D board of directors, but Nikon will also be sending engineers to Morf3D to solidify their operational ties.

“Nikon’s investment and cutting-edge technology accelerates Morf3D’s position as an innovation leader in advanced manufacturing for the aerospace, space, and defense markets,” Morph3D’s CEO Ivan Madera said. “Our unique partnership is well-positioned to bring forth the highest level of quality, service, and technological advancements that will drive the industrialization of additive manufacturing.”

Nikon’s strength in optical processing — which is a kind of 3D printing method used to build up metal components from what amounts to basically dust — will be applied to Morf3D’s current aerospace component offerings and sales channels.

The investment is ahead of what is expected to be massive growth in MorphD’s business segment. The small satellite market is expected to grow from $2.8 billion last year to $7.1 billion by 2025.

Image credits: Header image licensed via Depositphotos.