Focusing on the carbon composite material at the turning point of the industrial structure
Our core technology is the fluid technology of precision pumps, but we started to address the development of “new materials” in 1981, which served as a springboard to enter into the aerospace field.
Undergoing two oil crises, the Japanese industry at that time was trying to shift the business structure from the “mass production type” to a “small-batch production type”, and further to a “high-value added type”.
After the rapid growth in the medical appliance field, including dialysis machines, was settled, we searched for innovation in biotechnology, electronics, and new materials, and found that advanced materials such as “light and strong carbon fiber” have a lot of future potential. Since we succeeded in the development of “carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP)” , we started full-scale business development in the aerospace field.
Industrialization of “carbon fiber” opens new horizons in the airline industry
In 1981, we received a request from U.S. company Boeing (the world's biggest aerospace hardware manufacturer) to manufacture “graphite whiskers (fine carbon fibers)”, which was the first opportunity for us to advance into the aerospace market. The industry placed a great deal of expectations on carbon fiber as a light and strong material to replace the conventional metal materials, but neither formation technology nor industrialization was established at that time.
We tried various methods in the process of production, but it was the world-first “fluidized vapor phase method” manufacturing method that we hold patents on and that finally brought the experiment to a successful conclusion. This method allowed us to increase the productivity of carbon fiber by 200 fold, and this feat attracted such broad attention that it was reported on the front page of The Nihon Keizai Shinbun (Japan Economics Newspaper). In addition to materials development, we also opened a broad vista of “material industrialization”.
Manufactured the first CFRP Cascade in the world
Although carbon fiber has superiority in lightness and strength, it also has a drawback that processing is very difficult. However, the opportunity arose suddenly for Nikkiso to open the way for the carbon fiber composite material business. U.S. company Rohr, Inc. (a major manufacturer of nacelles, which is the housing of aircraft engines) sounded out the business to “manufacture light and highly-durable Cascade (thrust reverser parts) with carbon fibers”.
This new challenge is literally a start from scratch. Beginning with the establishment of the manufacturing process, we repeated the process of trial and error. In 1983, we developed the world's first CFRP Cascade. In the following year, we obtained certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to start supplying CFRP Cascades to aircraft manufacturers. Since then, our Cascade has been accepted as the aircraft standard specification and is employed in a wide variety of models, from major models of two major aircraft manufacturers - Boeing and Airbus - to regional jets of other countries, and it has over a 90% share of the world's market.