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Development and establishment of production technology for high precision aluminum alloy die-casting cast products

Kotobuki Kinzoku Kogyo Co., Ltd.

Produces die-casting cast products, which are vital to automotive parts

Kotobuki Kinzoku Kogyo produces aluminum alloy die-casting cast products mainly for automotive parts and industrial equipment. Die-casting is a casting method for mass production in which molten metal is pressed into a die. Developing since 1953, the die-casting technology at Kotobuki Kinzoku Kogyo is highly recognized in the industry, and the company was certified as an Aichi Quality Company in 2007 and won the Minister of Economy Trade and Industry Prize in the Sokeizai Industrial Contribution Awards in 2009.
The company answers the challenge of shedding the light of science on casting technology, in order to improve Japan's competitiveness.

In the automobile industry, there is a strong need for next-generation eco-friendly cars in developed countries, and for low cost cars in the emerging countries, and both of these are demanding body weight and cost reductions. Die-casting technology counts a great deal on workers' experience and intuition. The company has also produced a variety of quality items by developing excellent engineers. However, it started the SIP project because "scientific analysis of cause is important to improving Japan's competitiveness."
Integration of R&D team and work sites, through information sharing

"However, distortion caused by degradation and burr generation remained difficult to predict, and it seemed impossible to eliminate the process of removing distortions and burrs. Nevertheless, with the idea that ""the R&D team and manufacturing sites must be integrated in order to make progress in the project,"" they set up a new working structure. A support system was established which involved regularly holding report meetings to share the latest information on development etc., so all employees could understand the overall project. The research was also conducted in constant collaboration with outside affiliates.
Finally, the company succeeded in developing a production technology which requires no machining, by improving deformation prediction accuracy through CAE, etc. Since this technology made it possible to carry trial production in virtual space, the production process became faster, more accurate, and more cost-efficient."

Young researchers grew through responsibility in the project

When asked what was the key to success in the project, Mr. Masaji Tanikawa, project leader and chief of the Development Technology Room, answered, "Selecting which tasks to address without trying to do everything. I think that having a good project system allowed us to overcome problems without losing sight of our goal. " Mr. Masayuki Harada, a senior researcher in the Development Technology Room emphasizes trusting relationships with affiliates: "The key was cooperation with external organizations. Even if something looked difficult to do in-house, with knowledge gathered from both inside and outside the company, it became possible." He goes on to say, "After the Supporting Industry Program (SIP), I could see the obvious signs of change in young researchers' faces. Through working together with people from other organizations, their daily working attitude changed." He gave a happy smile over the significant growth of the company's young elites.
For the future of the die-casting industry, and of industry in Japan

After the SIP project, many requests to attend academic conferences and give lectures came Mr. Tanikawa's way. "The presentation at the academic conference was well-received, and there was an active discussion in the Q&A session. I felt that there had been a great need for this research, which had found answers the die-casting industry had been desperately seeking." For the future, this technology is expected to be applied to box-type die-casting cast products. Big R&D, its eyes set on the future of the die-casting industry, and through that the future of all Japanese industry, is moving forward, slowly but surely.

Key points of successful commercialization and matching

"Clarified the target and refined the issues
While anticipating problems in the whole industry, the project was started by addressing problems that could be solved with revision of in-house technology."
"Firm corporation structure
Through a longstanding relationship with other companies and university institutions, the company already had the trust of external organizations."
"Momentum was retained through R&D that demanded results
Since the schedule and the goal were strictly determined, the project was implemented fast, with high motivation."
"Investment in state-of-the-art devices became possible
Despite the need, it was difficult for small and medium sized enterprises to introduce state-of-the-art measuring equipment. However, the project made such an investment possible."

Advice for making the most of the SIP

Mr. Tadatsugu Kubo, President and Representative Director
To make progress in R&D, how issues are selected is also important. Simply put, "Do not start with difficult issues." Technology development is like climbing many small mountains. If you try to achieve the hard tasks first, you will eventually get stuck, so start with something easy, using the technologies and systems you have now.
External connections are also very important. We have been working on developing corporative relationships through research for many decades. Research never succeeds without relationships like these, where everyone can discuss everything frankly with everyone else. Therefore, making a daily effort to communicate with people on the outside is critical.
Practical applications are a future issue, but I'm already getting a sense of high evaluation from customers. Staying still has an adverse effect. We are earnestly pursuing commercialization, with a strong sense of commitment.

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