Mitsui & Co., Ltd. ("Mitsui," Head Office: Tokyo, President: Tatsuo Yasunaga) entered into a cooperation agreement and an equipment lease agreement with the Innovative Composite Materials Research and Development Center ("ICC") of the Kanazawa Institute of Technology ("KIT") on April 21, 2015, to carry out experimental research concerning new production methods for the fabrication of automotive parts and other industrial products using carbon fiber composite materials.
The prevention of global warming has become an urgent international issue, and the development of lighter components is seen as one approach to the reduction of energy consumption by transportation equipment. The market for lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber composites, is expected to expand rapidly. However, these materials are currently used only for a limited range of applications because of high manufacturing costs of such components. Improvements in manufacturing methods and know-how will be needed before these materials can be used more widely.
Mitsui has discussed various collaborative schemes with the ICC and relevant end users under the coordination of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Through this initiative, Mitsui will purchase experimental equipment, which will be made available to a business consortium—including end user companies—led by the ICC. The aim of this collaborative initiative is to jointly develop and implement new manufacturing methods for a wide range of components and products, including automotive parts, using carbon fiber composites. In Europe, motor vehicle manufacturers play a leading role in the establishment of structures encompassing all stages from the supply of materials to processing, and in some cases carbon fiber composite materials are already being used in key structural members for motor vehicles. There is an urgent need for the establishment of mass-production systems for carbon fiber composite materials for use in automotive parts and other products in Japan. Mitsui and the ICC will continue to work under the coordination of METI to build a robust supply chain in Japan through industry-government-academia collaboration.
The ICC is one of Japan's biggest research centers in the field of composite materials. It was established by KIT in July 2013 to explore the potential for carbon fiber composite materials through the convergence of technologies from different industrial sectors and fields. It aims to bring together industry, government, and academic researchers from throughout Japan to develop innovative technologies that will enhance Japan's international competitiveness in the area of intermediate processing.
Mitsui is demonstrating its integrated strengths to drive business development centering on seven Key Strategic Domains identified in its Medium-term Management Plan. Activities relating to composite materials, including this initiative, are relevant to two of those Key Strategic Domains: Mineral Resources and Materials, and Mobility. Mitsui will establish manufacturing methods and know-how that will bring dramatic reductions in processing costs, and build a supply chain for supplying automotive parts for use in mass-produced vehicles. Mitsui will also explore manufacturing automotive parts from lightweight materials.
This is the fifth "business innovation project" to be undertaken within Mitsui's new framework established in October 2012 to pursue business innovation. Under the framework, innovative projects are defined as business endeavors with the goal of creating next generation business with high profit generating potential from a long-term business perspective. The new framework enables business units to pursue relevant, long-term business opportunities.
Profile of ICC
|Name of Institute
||Innovative Composite Materials Research and Development Center (ICC)
||Yatsukaho Research Campus, Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Hakusan City, Ishikawa Prefecture
||Kiyoshi Uzawa, Director (Professor of Graduate School of Engineering, Kanazawa Institute of Technology, graduate program in synthesized engineering)
||Research & development of manufacturing technology of advanced materials (including carbon fiber composite materials)
Mitsui-ICC Collaboration Scheme
[Examples of commercialization] Automotive carbon fiber composite parts
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