Site:               Kyocera Corporation
                    Kokubu Plant
                    1-1, Yamashita Cho, Kokubu
                    Kagoshima 899-43, Japan

Date Visited:       January 11, 1996

WTEC Attendees:     D. Apelian (report author), D. Bertram, G. Holdridge

Hosts:              Mataro Miyazaki, Marketing Promotion, International 
                      Sales Division, Fine Ceramics Corp.
                    Yuzo Iwami, Section Manager, Structural Ceramics 
                      Engineering Dept.
                    Yuji Ogawa, Structural Ceramics Division
                    Tsugio Kagohara, Manager, Structural Ceramics Division
                    Michiaki Nishimura, Manager, 
                      Department of Analysis Technology

BACKGROUND

Kyocera is a well-established powerhouse in the field of ceramics. It has 150 marketing bases/offices worldwide. Kyocera ceramics are used in a variety of applications such as the chemical industry, semiconductor industry, in wire drawing equipment, automation components, communications, and engine components among others. Specifically, Kyocera supplies and makes products for the following specific applications:

Kyocera has a corporate philosophy with a focus on the environment. It operates under the motto "Living Together With Society -- Earth -- Nature." In terms of future trends, the company is concentrating on signal processing technologies for data compression. Kyocera's total sales are around $6 billion (for year ending March 1995); 1996 sales were expected to reach nearly $9 billion. The Fine Ceramics Division experienced a 20% growth in 1995 and now accounts for approximately 9% of total corporate sales. Industrial ceramics constitute 5% of the sales of the Fine Ceramics Division. The biggest user is the communications industry; the second largest segment of the business is packaging for the electronics industry.

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

The team visited Kyocera's R&D building within the Kagoshima Kokubu plant. This facility has a vast array of equipment including all-computerized X-ray diffraction units, several scanning electron microscopes, transmission microscopes, and auger microscopes, which together constitute a complete department of chemical analysis. There is also a very good staff.

In addition to the analytical facilities, the R&D department has a staff of six dedicated to simulation and modeling under the direction of Dr. Nishimura. Kyocera has on site the equivalent of a Cray II supercomputer, the Hitachi "Hitac 53600" vector processor. Kyocera researchers use commercially available software as well as write their own. Their preference is to write their own because they have greater control of the outcome. Over 80% of software for FEA fluid flow and beat flow analysis has been written in house. The WTEC team saw examples of potential applications being analyzed for engine valves, turbocharger impellers, and jet engine blocks. Current focus of this group is improved cooling for high powered integrated circuits.

The WTEC team also toured the fabrication facilities of the Fine Ceramics Division and observed a first-rate operation with cold isostatic pressing for making the silicon nitride components, slip casting, and state-of-the-art grinding and machining operations. Kyocera has special polishing capabilities down to 2 Å accuracy. It can make special needs parts and has in place ISO 9000. The fine ceramics are manufactured in three distinct plants, one in Kagoshima/Sendai, the Kokubu plant we visited in Kagoshima, and another plant outside Kyoto. The Kokubu plant is responsible for $1.2-$1.5 billion/year in sales, which is 25% of total corporate sales. There are about 4,000 people working at the Kokubu site, both in the plant and at the R&D building.

The Fine Ceramics Division produces a wide variety of materials: high purity alumina, high reliability silicon nitride (Si3N4), high wear silicon carbide (used in applications such as mechanical seals), zirconia (used for scissors, knives, and watchbands), aluminum nitride for high thermal conductivity applications, cordierite, titania, and cermets. The Si3N4 produced by Kyocera is based on its own proprietary technology, whereas Si3N4 produced by its competitors likely is based on the SIALON patent of Lucas Corp. of England. Kyocera supplies the metal casting industry with enabling technologies for die casting and other solidification processes. The Si3N4 stalk tubes developed for the low pressure permanent mold sector have demonstrated a two year life under proper conditions.

Kyocera has excellent technology and know-how which, coupled with appropriate dialog with the metal casting industry, can yield enabling technologies for the industry. This is a potential win-win situation for both Kyocera and the casting industry.

The products available from Kyocera at present for metal casting applications are ladles, die-cast sleeves, stalks, thermocouple protection tubes, submersible heater protection tubes, heater tubes, degassing pipes and rotors, fixtures for wetting processes, and pumps.

Kyocera produces two types of Si3N4 for molten aluminum, "SN-220" and "SN-235P." Table 3.3 (p. 25) gives the appropriate data for these two silicon nitride materials. Kyocera "SN-220" is similar to "SIALON," whereas the "SN-235P" meets or beats "SIALON" in all respects, in addition to being more stable. The performance of "SN-220" versus other products is also given in the table and one can see its superior properties. Our hosts pointed out that Kyocera ceramic components are in production for automotive engine parts and are used in applications such as degassers, rotors, and molten metal feedparts.

Seven years ago, Kyocera worked with Toshiba to develop a die casting hot chamber machine and manufactured the ceramic components used in the machine. This prototype machine has produced up to 200,000 shots with Kyocera's ceramic components. A commercial machine has not yet been built because of problems in the "shot sleeve" area of the machine and because of current low demand for new high pressure die cast capacity in Japan. Table Kyocera.1 and figure Kyocera.1 provide further information on the hot chamber test results. The data given is several years old, and the machine was not commercialized due to slow demand for advanced equipment in the Japanese auto industry. Moreover, certain problems such as leakage at the die end of the machine are not yet solved. Kyocera is now working with an unnamed die caster to resolve these issues. Kyocera views the U.S. as the market where there is enough potential for growth to support development of this concept.

Kyocera engineers are very interested in developing a dialog with metal casters so that they can produce components needed for the industry.

Table Kyocera.1
Results Of Hot Chamber Test

* ¥ = Japanese Yen


Fig. Kyocera.1. Hot Chamber Test.
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Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian