NKK CORPORATION: Annual Report 1998
Home Up Back Next

      NKK's Research and Development Division contributes to the competitiveness of the company's two core operations, steelmaking and engineering, by identifying and commercializing creative, new products and technologies. Below are some of the major R&D results during fiscal 1998.

PZA-N Galvannealed Steel Sheet with High Formability

      PZA galvannealed steel sheets are used as body panels by the automotive industry, where they are valued for their cost-effectiveness, resistance to corrosion after coating, and excellent press formability. PZA has become the corrosion-resistant material of choice in the automotive industry.

      However, the emergence of more integrated, compound automobile parts has raised the need for even greater levels of formability in corrosion-resistant panels. Unfortunately, PZA's surface friction makes it unsuitable for use in fenders and other parts subject to harsh press-forming. PZB, a double layered galvannealed steel sheet, was developed to improve the surface friction of PZA by adding an electroplated layer (3-5 g/m2 ), but the double plating process also makes it expensive to produce. NKK has surmounted both the surface friction and the cost problems with PZA-N, a new corrosion-resistant steel sheet for the automotive industry that is formed by adding a nickel-based inorganic lubri-cant film to the surface of PZA. The nickel-based film prevents most die galling while offering high spot weldability. Tests indicate that PZA-N has the same lubricity as PZB with only 1/20 the plating.

      NKK began commercial production of PZA-N in the fall of 1997. It has been well-received by customers, and during 1999 NKK targets monthly production of about 3,000 tons.


photo PZA-N has the same lubricity as PZB with only 1/20 the plating.


Fully Automated Crane Control System

      NKK already had a precision anti-sway crane control system in operation at the Keihin Works, and this year followed up at the Fukuyama Works with a new low-cost automated system that adds anti-skew controls and can be installed in existing coil-handling overhead cranes. The new technology will enable manpower reductions equivalent to forty crane operators.

      In the past, the automation of existing cranes was a very costly and time-consuming process, requiring system modifications, site adjustments, and accurate crane positioning. There was also no technology available to regulate the twisting motion of suspended loads during rotation, so automation was limited to only specific types of cranes.

      This is an area in which NKK has a long R&D history because of the potential manpower savings and improved labor productivity that crane automation provides. The main features of the new system are:
(1) Precision anti-sway controls
(2) Crane position measuring system
(3) Yard management system
(4) Standardized automation software


Fully automated crane control system


Dimethyl Ether, New Source of Clean Energy

      NKK has successfully completed road tests of a diesel truck fueled by dimethyl ether (DME), a new source of clean energy. The DME was produced with proprietary direct synthesis technology at the company's small bench plant.

      DME is mainly used as an aerosol propellant in Japan, but it has a far wider range of potential applications. It can be liquefied and stored just like LPG, and provides a clean burning gas with a greater calorific value than methane, while being just as safe to use. It also features better compression ignition quality than diesel oil. DME therefore has enormous possibilities as a household gas and as a transportation and generator fuel if a technology can be developed to produce it inexpensively in large quantities.

      During 100 hours of testing at the Tsurumi Works, the truck emitted no black diesel exhaust and had lower nitrogen oxide emissions than diesel, but it still maintained the same fuel economy (measured as calories) and drivability. The truck also had lower engine noise. These results demonstrate the potential that DME holds as a clean fuel for the low-pollution vehicles of the future.


photo DME-fueled diesel engine truck


New Concept for Warehousing Systems

     Logistics, particularly physical distribution and warehousing, the most basic steps of moving raw materials to production and products to market, is an endeavor common to virtually every company and industry. As social structures change, companies are coming to see physical distribution as a management challenge and are rebuilding their logistical systems to better respond to an increasingly diverse range of needs. These are trends that NKK thinks will grow even more pronounced in the future.

      Among NKK's most promising new products in this field are NKK-PALS, a pallet sorter that is able to respond flexibly to changes in shipping items and volumes in the sorting, collecting, and shipping process; the NK-RISA high-speed case-based automated warehousing system; and the NK-CATS multi-layer sorting and collection unit. These products were selected as the key systems for the distribution center of a major beverage company, where the goals were to create an optimized palletizing system that would be able to respond flexibly to small-lot shipments.


photo New distribution systems (PALS, RISA, CATS)

  Copyright (C)2000 NKK Corporation. All Rights Reserved.  Terms and Conditions