NKK CORPORATION: Annual Report 2001
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RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

The Research and Development Division functions as the R&D hub for the NKK Group and tackles projects that maximize the effectiveness and competitiveness of the entire network. In prioritizing solutions to pressing environment-related problems, the division also aggressively pursues such R&D areas as resource recycling and alternative energy innovations that reinforce the foundation of a recycling-oriented society. 

      To gain a better perspective on clients' needs and facilitate research projects corresponding to these needs across our three research centers, NKK has appointed customer relations managers to user industries.




R&D Structure

The Research and Development Division has three research centers: the Applied Technology Research Center, which focuses on technology topics common throughout the Corporation; and the Materials & Processing Research Center, together with the Engineering Research Center, which cover themes related to steelmaking and engineering operations.




Expenditures in Fiscal 2001

 

Consolidated R&D expenditures in fiscal 2001 reached ¥19.7 billion, down 1.6% over the previous fiscal year. A breakdown by division reveals that R&D spending in the Steel Division dropped 3.6%, to ¥8.8 billion. In the Engineering Division, R&D spending grew 12.8%, to ¥5.0 billion, mirroring efforts to reinforce the environmental industries engineering segment and expand product lines with distinctive technologies. R&D spending in Other Fields fell 8.7%, to ¥5.9 billion, owing to downsizing in some areas of this division.




R&D Activities by Division

Steel Division

To enhance cost-competitiveness in the Steel Division, we rationalized steelmaking processes in the pursuit of higher productivity. We also devoted attention to raising the quality of steel products to new levels. Our efforts toward a dramatic improvement in blast furnace operations led to lower consumption of raw materials, while the development of a zero-slag steelmaking process that eradicates silicon from hot metal during pre-treatment and oxygen furnace-based refining stages advanced rationalization of the steelmaking process. 

      In addition, to elicit high levels of client satisfaction, we moved the relative weight of R&D efforts in the Steel Division away from steelmaking processes and toward timely product development geared to the needs of end users. This redirection resulted in the world's first successful application of nanometer-size precipitate control technology to steel sheets used in automobiles.

      Another recent achievement is "Geo Frontier Coat," an environment-friendly, chromium-free coated steel sheet that offers the same anticorrosion property of chromate-treated steel sheets as well as improved weldability and conductivity compared with conventional surface-treated steel sheets. A major domestic office equipment maker has adopted this sheet for use in all its photocopiers manufactured from fiscal 2001. Because of its superior qualities, Geo Frontier Coat's scope of application will undoubtedly extend to electric appliances, office automation equipment and electronic automotive components. Its eco-friendly characteristics will ensure its future demand as a standard surface-treated steel product amid heightened global environmental awareness.

 
 

NANO HITEN Steel Sheet

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NKK developed "NANO HITEN," the world's first 780Mpa hot-rolled steel sheet, using new technology that allows the composition of precipitates to be changed and made ultrafine, to the order of nanometers, by applying a special combination of alloy elements and optimizing hot-rolling conditions. This advanced technology has distinctly enhanced the strength and formability of hot-rolled steel sheets.


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Engineering Division

We enhanced the features of existing products offered by the seven business segments of the Engineering Division through new technologies and techniques targeting energy-saving results. We also explored cost-cutting methods and quickly implemented distinctive processes that sharpened the competitive edge of our products.

      A fine example is NKK's high-temperature gasifying and direct melting furnace, a proprietary product in our environmental industries engineering segment. This furnace was successfully developed by combination of fluidized bed technology, a proven waste-processing procedure, and blast furnace technologies.

      NKK's gasifying and direct melting furnace can effectively handle a wide variety of waste, from ordinary combustible household garbage to waste plastics typically unsuitable for burning, as well as incinerator ashes, which lack combustible components. With this furnace, it is possible to convert waste into molten slag free of heavy metals and reduce the volume of waste to 1/200 of the initial volume.

      High-temperature combustion reduces harmful emissions, such as dioxins, to a minimum. In addition, the furnace allows recovery of easy-to-handle combustible gas, which promotes complete burning in the low air ratio environment and enables operators to generate electricity in an extremely efficient manner.

      In November 2000, NKK received a technology award from the Combustion Society of Japan for the technological innovation and superlative performance of its high-temperature gasifying and direct melting furnace.

Other Fields

In addition to conducting R&D on basic technologies common to all divisions, we have explored promising processes and products in such growth fields as the environment, recycling and energy. We have also launched studies that will verify the feasibility of new ideas in the early stage of development, promote R&D efficiency and accelerate realization of practical results in other fields.

      We are currently engaged in a pilot project to synthesize DME, a new energy source with considerable potential. Our goal is to develop technology to mass-produce DME.                          

      In addition, to stengthen the profitability of companies in the NKK Group, as the hub of R&D within the Group the Research and Development Division collaborates with Group companies on the development of technologies that serve to cut costs and enrich the Group's product lines.


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