NKK CORPORATION: Annual Report 2000
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Research and Development

      The Research and Development (R&D) Division's responsibilities were expanded to handle the R&D needs of the entire Group. The goal is to establish a Groupwide system for developing technologies that will reinforce overall profitability by increasing the competitiveness of core products, developing technologies that will prompt business expansion and growth.

      The R&D Division will promote the sharing of technological information and procurement of intellectual properties (IPs) with group companies.

Customer Relations Managers

      As a step toward focusing R&D on customer needs, the R&D Division has appointed customer relations managers to user industries, such as automobiles, electric appliances and electrical equipment. This approach will help bridge the gap between clients and NKK's R&D team. Customer relations managers will work to strengthen customer-oriented technological strategies, thereby taking a leading role in R&D and improving responsiveness to user needs.

Fiscal 2000 R&D Expenditures

R&D Expenditures      R&D outlays during the period under review declined to ¥20.0 billion. Spending focused primarily on efforts to boost competitiveness in the Steel and Engineering divisions. R&D spending in Other Fields accounted for one-third of NKK's total R&D expenditures and was applied to devising methods to reduce CO2 emissions, as well as for conserving the environment and energy.



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Fiscal 2000 R&D Expenditures by Division

Steel Division


      NKK spent ¥9.1 billion for R&D on steel technology and products during the period, accounting for 45.8% of all R&D expenditures. Super Online Accelerated Cooling for Shapes (Super-OLAC S) was developed and put into operation to streamline the steel production process and to improve short-term profit. The system utilizes its own unique structural design and special cooling method to achieve uniform cooling of complex sections without deformation, and can also be used for a variety of sizes and grades. The start-up of the Super-OLAC S system allows NKK to meet customer demands and improve supply of large steel shapes to several different industries, including construction, civil engineering, shipbuilding and machinery.

      During the period, the Super-Fine-Grain (SFG) HITEN series of high-strength steel sheets for automobiles was developed. Currently, high-strength steel sheets with good formability are utilized. However, there are several drawbacks, including insufficient toughness after deep drawing and inferior formability around welded zones, resulting in limited usage. To resolve these problems, NKK developed cold-rolled, galvannealed 440 N/mm2 grade (45kgf/mm2) interstitial free (IF) steel, SFG-HITEN. The development of SFG-HITEN has made it possible to create complicated shapes such as auto panels. This accomplishment will aid the manufacturing of lighter-weight automobiles.

 

photo
Super Online Accelerated Cooling for Shapes
(Super-OLAC S)

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Automobile front fender stamped by
NKK's 1,200-ton mechanical press

Microstructure of SFG-HITEN and conventional steel sheets
 Strength 
level
Conventional steel products CFG-HITEN
340
440

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Engineering Division


      The Company spent ¥4.4 billion for R&D on engineering, or 22.0% of the year's total R&D expenditures. R&D was directed primarily at exploring technologies that would strengthen competitiveness and curtail costs. Priorities included advanced technologies for pipeline construction, state-of-the-art technologies for waste incineration and water treatment plants, and technologies to streamline production of such products as bridges, machinery and ships.


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Other Fields


      This segment accounted for 32.2% of all R&D expenditures in fiscal 2000, or ¥6.5 billion. R&D in this area focused on technologies for synthesizing dimethyl ether (DME), a new clean energy source, which emits less CO2 than coal and does not emit sulfur oxide (SO2 ). During the period, NKK, Taiheiyo Coal Mining Co., Ltd., and Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd., jointly developed the world's first technology for synthesizing DME from coal-bed methane. Backed by a grant from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), the three companies have established a testing center and are cooperating in the commercial development of a low-cost mass production system. Progress is also being made for the practical use of DME as an alternative fuel source, owing to successful trial-runs of DME-fueled diesel trucks performed during the period.

      R&D efforts were also applied to discovering technologies for conserving energy at the Group's steel works and reducing CO2 emissions.



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