Meet Japanese Companies with Quality
Shaping the Future with 3D Printing BONSAI LAB, Inc. IP
Website: BONSAI LAB, Inc.
BONSAI LAB already holds the top market share in Japan, and is now looking to bring FabPod, a lower-cost, education-oriented 3D printer, to overseas markets
Interest in the potential of 3D printing technology is growing, yet high cost and complexity mean use of 3D printers is still mostly limited to engineers and hobbyists. BONSAI LAB, Inc. hopes to bring low-cost, easy-to-use 3D printers to schools, giving children the tools to shape the future.
3D printers are making the news more and more recently, but actually the technology is far from new. When key patents of 3D printing technologies held by major players expired in 2009, a great deal of information became open source and the market for consumer-oriented 3D printers rapidly expanded.
Tokyo’s BONSAI LAB, Inc. is taking advantage of this open technology to bring 3D printing to ordinary users. After finding a lack of interest from Japan’s large consumer electronics companies in selling 3D printers, CEO Koichi Osako decided to create his own. Not long after the patents on 3D printing expired, he moved quickly to set up a company and following several years of planning, he established BONSAI LAB in 2013.
A Collaborative Approach to Design and Manufacturing
Osako’s strategy to produce a low-cost, high-quality, made-in-Japan 3D printer entailed a lean operation and careful parts procurement. With just total of just four employees, BONSAI LAB outsources their engineering design and manufacturing. The company states that strong partnerships with top tier machinery parts suppliers allowed them to produce their first 3D printer, the BS-01, for relatively low cost.
BONSAI LAB has registered trademarks for their products and brand names and now holds “approximately 70% market share in Japan when including OEMs,” including one with a major hobby magazine, according to Miki Shirasawa, Manager of Public Relations for BONSAI LAB. The company goes beyond simply selling printers, however, as it also collaborates with customers on Facebook. “Nearly 600 users are now part of this online community, sharing about printed creations and even providing feedback to us on how to make the printer better,” says Shirasawa.
Child-Safe 3D Printing at a School-Friendly Price
Shirasawa explains that the company’s main goal is not simply to sell printers but to give users the tools to innovate. BONSAI LAB wants to lower the costs of 3D printers and empower children to learn engineering design and concepts, allowing them to become innovators for the next generation. To that end, BONSAI LAB's newest and cheapest product, the FabPod, is created for use in education/school settings with child-safe designs that even feature “voice navigation,” a first for 3D printers.
BONSAI LAB views the FabPod as a perfect fit for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, a movement that is accelerating in the Americas, Europe, and emerging markets. Noriko Suzuki, head of Global Alliance for the company, says their exhibit at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2016 in Las Vegas generated significant interest, both among US distributors and those in Latin America as well. BONSAI LAB is looking to partner with STEM education organizations and distributors who are providing technology solutions to education communities in addition to distributors of office products/general electronics. Going forward, says Suzuki, “We hope 3D printing will become a tool that anyone can use.”
Based on interview in February 2016
Website: BONSAI LAB, Inc.