Electroninks, the Austin-based manufacturer of metal complex inks for electronics applications, has partnered with SAKATA INX, a Japanese company that manufactures a variety of inks, including materials for the electronics industry. Through the partnership, Electroninks will expand globally and enhance its R&D capabilities, while also helping SAKATA branch out into new product lines for electronics manufacturing.

This is at least the second partnership between Electroninks and a Japanese materials supplier, with the Texas company having struck a partnership in the fall of 2022 with FUJIFILM Imaging Colorants Inc. Via that deal, the division of the Japanese optics conglomerate began contract manufacture of silver inks from Electroninks’ portfolio at Imaging Colorant Inc.’s facility in New Castle, Delaware. Thus, the partnership with SAKATA INX means Electroninks now has a bilateral relationship with the Japanese market.

Electroninks’ material portfolio currently includes conductive inks made from silver, platinum, nickel, copper, and gold. The company also makes the Circuit Jet inkjet printer, designed for printed circuit board (PCB) prototyping.

In a press release about Electroninks’ new partnership with SAKATA INX, Yoshiaki Ueno, SAKATA INX’s president and CEO, said, “In the electronics field, demand for high-value-added materials is expected to grow significantly in the future due to heightened expectations for the enhancement of product functionality. Against this backdrop, we will work with Electroninks as a global technology partner to develop new products and create new businesses.”

Electroninks has a number of connections to US government agencies, including backing from the intelligence community venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office, and funding from the Department of Energy (DOE). The company has also been funded by the venture capital arms of global giants like semiconductor manufacturer Applied Materials, and pharmaceutical company Merck.

Always a crucial factor in the dynamics of the global economy, the trade relationship between the US and Japan has taken on a resurgent significance in the last year, especially, as major US investors have poured capital into the island nation. The desire of both nations to counter Chinese dominance in the South China Sea is one obvious explanation for the latest acceleration in US-Japanese strategic alignment.

Beyond that, though, there is the simple fact that the ties between the two nations are already so extensive that making major changes to one of the economies would be virtually impossible without making the same changes, in parallel, to the other economy. This means that any connections between the US and Japan are particularly relevant to the task of analyzing and anticipating the growth trajectory of advanced manufacturing.

If the US and Japan are forging increasing ties related to conductive inks, then, as appears to be the case, this on its own suggests the growing importance of conductive inks to the emerging global advanced manufacturing ecosystem. Electroninks’ global expansion is far from the only piece of evidence reinforcing this line of argument, but it seems to be a good bet that 3D printed electronics components will be a feature, and not a bug, of the next era of industrialization.

Images courtesy of Electroninks

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