Site: ULVAC Japan, Ltd.
Vacuum Metallurgical Company (VMC)
516 Yokota, Sanbu-cho, Sanbu-gun
Chiba 289-12, Japan
Fax: (81) 467-87 3383

Date Visited: 23 July 1997

WTEC: D. Shaw (report author), C. Koch, R.W. Siegel, C. Uyehara

Hosts:

BACKGROUND

The Vacuum Metallurgical Company (VMC) is a subsidiary of ULVAC Japan, Ltd., which is a relatively large conglomerate of 30 companies employing over 3,500 people. The principal products of VMC include sputtering targets; complex shaped Ti-alloy cast parts; reactive and refractory metal sheet, wire, and shapes; and service coating for processing equipment for semiconductors, display panels, etc.

VMC's ultrafine-particle (UFP) business is based on early work by Dr. Hayashi and colleagues on gas-phase particle nucleation (evaporation and condensation) and deposition by using nanoparticles dispersed in tiny gas jets (in the 10 micron diameter range). VMC commercialized magnetic UFP in 1971, and Dr. Hayashi (at the time, president of ULVAC) served as the leader of a UFP project in Japan's Exploratory Research in Advanced Technology (ERATO) program from 1981-1986. ERATO has been supported by the now renamed government organization, Japan Science and Technology Corporation (JSTC). The UFP project investigated the physical, chemical, and biological properties of nanoparticles.

Over the years, VMC has improved the magnetic UFP technique and now offers a large quantity of metallic and organic particles; gas-evaporation and gas-deposition equipment for producing fine pattern of contacts and conductive lines for electronic devices; and UFP paste (dispersed liquid) with coating system.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT HIGHLIGHTS

Although the basic design of the induction-heating chamber for the ultrafine-particle generation was developed by Hayashi and Oda in the 1970s, the performance of the chamber has been steadily improved through a series of government-subsidized R&D programs at VMC. At present, an impressive list of UFPs are produced in large scales under reasonably controlled conditions. These include chain-aggregate ferromagnetic UFPs, metallic (e.g., Au, Ag, Cu, Pd, Ni, Al, Sn, etc.) isolated UFPs, and coated UFPs (e.g., ZnO-coated Cu and polymer-coated Fe). These particles are used for the formation of thick films for various applications, including electronics, optics, etc. Application fields presently being pursued by VMC are shown in Table D.1.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

VMC is in many ways similar to Nanophase Technologies Corporation in the United States. They both use the principle of gas-phase condensation for particle generation. Both are market-driven companies that try to break into various new markets. Thus, their targeted markets, as shown in Table D.1, are very similar. At the present time, the UFP revenue for VMC is about $4 million. Dr. Hayashi indicated that he hopes to increase the UFP business in VMC to about $10 million in two or three years.

Table D.1. UFP Applications and Processes at VMC

Applications

Coating Methods

Effects

ELECTRONICS

   

Metalizing of ceramic parts (Eliminating electric discharge)

Dipping or printing

Reduce processes and materials (replacing vacuum deposition)

Formation of electrodes of chip condensers

Dipping

 

Formation of test circuits

Drawing with a microdispenser

Decrease firing temperature

Repairing of electric circuit of LCDs or PDPs

Repainting with a microdispenser

 

Formation of electric circuits

Screen printing

 

OPTICS

   

Coating of infrared reflectors

Dipping

Reduce processes

Coating of laser reflectors

   

Repairing of reflectors

   

ARTS

   

Decoration of ceramics or glass utensils

Pad painting

Reduce processes, decrease firing temperature

Coating of accessories

Dipping

Replace electroplating

Replacing of gold leaf

Spraying

Reduce processes


Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian