INVESTMENT CASTING SALES AND MARKETS

Japan had no investment casting industry until after World War II. The industry grew slowly, partially because Japan had no defense industry that could sustain investment casting markets or technological development. Much Japanese investment casting knowledge was acquired as a result of joint ventures or licensing agreements with Western investment foundries. The Japanese investment casting market grew through the 1970s and 1980s, but in the 1990s suffered a downturn, which was only reversed in 1995. Sales figures from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) are shown in Fig. 7.1.


Fig. 7.1. Sales of investment castings, in million yen/month, by year. 1995 figures are estimates (Ozawa 1996). (Figures supplied by Daido Precision Parts Ltd. from a Japanese government report.)

Stainless steel dominates the metals poured in the Japanese investment casting market as shown in Fig. 7.2, which includes data only through 1994. However, in 1995, titanium golf club heads were introduced and accounted for 15% of the market. Sales by market are shown in Fig. 7.3.


Fig. 7.2. Sales (million yen/month) by metal cast. (Figures supplied by Daido Precision Parts Ltd. from a Japanese government report.)


Fig. 7.3. Sales (million yen/month) by end market. (Figures supplied by Daido Precision Parts Ltd. from a Japanese government report.)

In Japan the defense and aerospace market is only a fraction of that of the American investment casting market. Many of the Japanese foundries that supply the aerospace industry have now diversified into other markets. The electronics industry has been a good customer with parts being supplied to makers of printers and other computer peripherals. Japanese automotive companies use more investment castings than American auto companies, and one of the growth areas in Japanese investment foundries is seen to be in products such as rocker arms and chassis components. Another growth area is in building and construction hardware.

Fig. 7.4 shows employment in the industry, which has remained in proportion to the sales figures. Wages in Japan are generally higher for foundry workers than in other countries (approximately $36,000 annually) although they are low compared with other Japanese metalworking trades. This has given Japanese investment casters a problem: it is difficult to attract skilled workers, yet the foundries must maintain costs that are in line with overseas investment foundries with which they compete.


Fig. 7.4. Employment in the Japanese investment casting industry. (Figures supplied by Daido Precision Parts Ltd. from a Japanese government report.)
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Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian