Site: Nippon Steel Corporation
Advanced Materials & Technology Research
Technical Development Bureau
1618 IDA, Nakaharu-ku, Kawasaki 211
Date Visited: December 6, 1992
Report Author: V. Karbhari
Dr. Kenji Kubomura
Nippon Steel is the world's largest producer of crude steel with production figures of 28.6 million tons in 1991. However, they have been aggressively pursuing the advanced composites market for a while with the long term goal of being the leaders in materials that would replace steel. Research is conducted through the Technical Development Bureau, which consists of six divisions, one of which, the Advanced Materials and Technology Research Laboratories, deals with composites. Corporate R&D controls funding of resources and personnel. However, only 40% of the budget is decided by this group, the remaining 60% being based on specific recommendations from business groups. This makes their research activities very applied in nature. There are 35-40 researchers working on PMCs under Kubomura and 25-30 more working in the area of polymer processing.
o Developmental project for inspection and quality control (QC)
Effect of holes and bolted joints in composites using pitch based
o Characterization and analysis
o This has been a major area of research in the recent past with special
emphasis placed on the comparison of behavior and design of bolted
joints in pitch carbon reinforced composites.
Use of Carbon fibers in construction
o Use of chopped fiber and continuous fiber for increased ductility and
o Small scale models tested in bending
o Use of filaments in precast blocks
o Applications in precast and modular structures, including for
o Reinforcement of caissons to be used for initiation of bores (C is
easier to cut through than steel). This is marketed as a novel
material shield-cuttable tunnel wall system (NOMST) and has
been used for tunnels in Japan.
o Developmental work on use of glass for the Japan-France monument
(This seems to be a major applications area)
o Use of oxidizing layers on fibers for interfacial strength augmentation
o Investigation of layered pitch/PAN based laminated structures
Nippon Steel uses filament winding, autoclave cure, stamping of thermoplastic sheets, and is developing a modification of RTM for high fiber volume structures. Their main target areas for the use of composites are in the automotive, construction and engineering machinery sectors. Although recycling is an issue, they do not believe that it will kill the thermoset market. Cost, quality control and speed of fabrication are still major issues.
They viewed MITI led projects to be useful as catalysts for the extended internal funding of projects.
Marketing, even of R&D activities, is done through the presentation of generic research to potential customers. The customers are then allowed to come up with applications for the materials systems and processing techniques. This then leads to the establishment of a joint research project or a developmental project at Nippon Steel.
Projects in construction applications and in the transportation sector are viewed as having potential for future growth.
The key to the initiation of projects was a full blown cost analysis, which presupposed success.