PLUTO 3D Printing Micro-factory
The future of metal component manufacturing
SUN METALON x IDEO
Awarded iF Design Award, 2023
SUN METALON has developed a ground-breaking new metal 3D printing technology which will alter the future of localized manufacturing. The technology brings radical improvements to quality, speed, economy and scalability over current methods of metal 3D printing.
Through collaboration between SUN METALON, D4V and IDEO Tokyo, we have integrated this technology into a bold new product platform with deep consideration of usability, durability and repairability. The result is a micro-factory that is a joy to use, all while greatly streamlining your design-to-manufacture workflow.
SUN METALON envisions a future where metal components can be sourced and manufactured within close proximity, reducing logistical and environmental costs.
SUN METALON’s technology differs significantly from conventional point or line heating metal 3D printers, heating in 3D, not 2D.
Metal 3D printing technology has been steadily improving over the last decade. We are now able to produce components of incredible complexity, decreased weight and increased strength in ways that were simply impossible only a few years ago. And the technology is still in its infancy: The speed is low and costs are high compared to traditional metal fabrication techniques. These limitations have slowed the adoption of metal 3D printing processes into low volume manufacture. Kawasaki-based startup SUN METALON, stands to change this. Their invention of a new method of powder-based metal 3D printing will enable companies to produce high quality parts several hundred times faster. Implementing this technology into a series of products could set a new benchmark for additive manufacturing solutions and contribute to our shift into the next age of industrialization.
IDEO designers teamed up with SUN METALON’s engineering team to co-design a 3D printer around this exciting new technology, helping marry engineering with design to envision a thoroughly considered product platform that is safe and easy to use and maintain. IDEO led the design process from the early stage, focusing first on defining the user journey and then formulating design principles — guardrails to ensure each element of the product is delightful to use. Next, the IDEO and SUN METALON teams worked to find the most appropriate product architecture and moved on to designing the user-interactions and the product features.
With machines so complex, it was essential to create a minimal and understandable set of interactions. The IDEO team worked to unify and arrange various features to reduce visual and functional complexity and aid intuitive usage. Features include graphical wayfinding, LED indicators and a large LED dot matrix display allowing users to check production progress from a distance across the shop floor. The main unit also makes use of an innovative frameless door which provides users with uninterrupted access into the work area inside.
“The interactive work between the designers and the engineers generated a lot of ideas that could not have been conceived by each of them separately and the process of drawing these ideas was a lot of fun for the team … I also value the experience of thinking about design from the user journey upstream perspective and felt that this should be a standard approach to design in this industry.”
Kazuhiko Nishioka, CEO at SUN METALON“Before the design-engineering collaboration, we mainly focused on the technical aspects of many technical issues. Shifting to thinking about the product as a whole, including UI/UX, resulted in plenty of insights generated on the technical side, and I feel that this was a big step forward in the development process.”
Ryunosuke Kino, engineer with SUN METALON