Site:               Hitachi Metals R&D Lab
                    11, Kinugaoka, Mohka
                    Tochigi-ken 321-43, Japan

Date Visited:       January 9, 1996

WTEC Attendees:     P.H. Mikkola & M.C. Flemings (report authors), C. Uyehara

Hosts: Masami Hatta, Senior Executive Managing Director, General Manager, Corporation Production Engineering Center Yasuoki Ishihara, General Manager, Casting Technology Research Lab Senri Okada, Director, Senior Consultant, Hitachi Metals Technox Ltd. Norio Takahashi, Deputy General Manager, Casting Technology Research Lab Ryoichi Shibata, Chief Researcher, Casting Technology Research Lab Kojo Katsuhiko, Chief Researcher, Casting Technology Research Lab Kouki Otsuka, Senior Researcher, Casting Technology Research Lab Kimio Kubo, Senior Researcher, Casting Technology Research Lab

BACKGROUND

Founded in 1910, Hitachi Metals Ltd. has been active in manufacturing products for the materials industry. Sales were approximately $4.8 billion in 1995; about 21% ($1 billion) was in sales of cast products to the automotive industry and another 13% for piping components, including castings sales of $600 million. Cast iron and steel rolls were about 8% of sales, or $400 million, resulting in a total cast and cast component business of $2 billion in 1995. Other operations include the production of specialty steels, machine and building frames, and plants and equipment.

The goal at Hitachi Metals is to have a market presence in the areas where it manufactures at least 30% of the volume. The five areas of the Hitachi Metal business, each with its domestic market share, are high-grade tool steels, 44%; magnets, 18%; pipe fittings, 45%; cast iron rolls, 34%; and ductile iron castings, 34%. Hitachi Metals sells the major percentage of its casting to the automotive industry, with piping components being the second highest.

Hitachi Metals has operations many other countries, the largest of which is in the United States. A new ductile iron foundry is being planned for the eastern United States.

The Casting Technology Research Laboratory was established in September 1988. The lab does work in materials development, process technology, casting performance evaluation, and application of computer aided engineering by means of simulation. This laboratory is widely known for its major contributions in the past and its excellent present quality. Hitachi Metals spends approximately 3% of its sales on R&D.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

The Casting Technology Research Laboratory supports the integration of technology into Hitachi Metals' casting operations. It is one of five research labs in the company. The others are Special Steel, Magnetic and Electronic Materials, Production Systems, Die Materials, and Pipe Components. There are 61 people working on casting R&D, about half of whom are professionals. The tour showed a well-equipped lab that ranged from metallurgical analysis to mechanical test equipment. About half the space was for product development and testing, and the rest was for material property behavior and testing. There is strong interest in product direction and materials used for the automotive industry. The focus is automotive; trends in the fabrication of intake manifolds, exhaust manifolds, engine blocks, and chassis components are of strong interest.

Some of the achievements of the research lab during the last seven years are: (1) the practical application of super heat-resistant steel "NSHR-F" for high power engine exhaust components, (2) establishment of flash-free casting technology, (3) development of "HIPAC-11" for premium quality aluminum alloy castings, (4) development of computer-aided solidification simulation system "S-CAST," (5) development and practical use of "new cast steel" exhaust parts for clean automobile engines, and (6) development and practical use of new pressure-reduced atmosphere casting "HMRAC" using sand molds.

MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES

The casting operations are part of the automotive components division, with casting plants at Kyushu, Mohka, and Kumagaya. Ductile and gray iron castings are produced at the Kyushu and Mohka works. The aluminum castings are made at the Kumagaya, Mohka, and Kyushu works. Production of aluminum wheels was started in the United States at AAP St. Marys Corp. in 1987. The company operates die cast and permanent molds for aluminum. Hitachi Metals has a long history of malleable iron production and remains Japan's largest producer of pipe fittings. Ductile iron castings are produced for differential cases, steering housings, exhaust manifolds, lower control arms, crankshafts, and calipers.

Hitachi's Wakamatsu works produces cast iron and cast steel rolls for steel mills and rolls for non-ferrous metals. This plant produces the "H-Alloy" bimetallic cylinders for the metal process industry. Hitachi Metals also has manufacturing in other material technologies such as powder metals, extrusion molding, and various sputtering target products.

ANSWERS TO WTEC QUESTIONNAIRE

Our Hitachi hosts answered our specific questions in detail. Some of their answers are summarized as follows:

Important aluminum casting processes for the future will be die casting processes including vacuum assist processes, core applications, and semisolid forming. Metal matrix composites will have application in the fields of heat resistance, wear resistance, low thermal expansion, and high thermal conductivity. Casting buyers expect drastic cost reductions (in the range of 30-50%) and often show a lack of adequate knowledge about castings. CAD/CAM and other computer applications will be of increasing importance in the foundry industry. It is difficult to attract talented people to the metal casting industry. This will pose a major problem for the industry in the future.

Other major barriers to be overcome include the shrinking market and cost reduction issues. Most R&D is done in industry. Recycling is of increasing importance both to protect the environment and for economic reasons.

SUMMARY

With the automotive business moving from Japan to offshore locations, Hitachi Metals has continued to develop new products. Some of these new products are HIBASE and HISPLIT joints for steel frame buildings, magnetic attachments for dentures, high performance composite sliders for use as magnetic heads, mass flow controllers, advanced polyethylene pipe, bolted bonnet-type bellow pipe valves, and a new hot water heating system for bath water. Harmony with the environment continues to be a great focus, as does relations with employees.

REFERENCES

Annual Report 1995. Hitachi Metals Ltd. Brochure.

A Guide to Hitachi Metals. Brochure.

The Highest Production Technology of Malleable Cast Iron at Kuwabe Works, Hitachi Metals Ltd. Brochure reprinted from Inagaki, M. & Senri Okada. September 1990. The Japan Foundrymen's Society Transactions. Vol. 9.

Latest Topics on the Foundry Production Systems in Japan. Brochure reprinted from Okada, S. June 1994. International GIFA Congress on Metal Casting 1994 at the New Production System Workshop. Germany.

Sales brochures: pictures of production and process flow in two different product areas, both in Japanese.


Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian