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Developing lightweight fittings using CFRP [Marutaka Industrial]

Secret to Robustness
  • New technology initiatives such as manufacturing CFRP lathe fittings.
  • Creates value-added work to distinguish itself from overseas rivals.
  • Encourages employees to take on challenges, such as developing new technologies.

Marutaka Industries boasts an 80-year history in the design and manufacture of fittings used for metal processing. It also uses its own fittings to do metal processing for a wide range of products manufactured in small numbers. Since 2009, Marutaka has started to develop components using carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). The company aims to survive by giving rise to value-added work.

Reducing workloads on the factory floor

Says Tomohiro Miyata, Director: "We have to create work with entirely new forms of added value." To achieve lighter fittings and establish a molding method for CFRP components in-house, first of all, Marutaka made fittings using CFRP. What attracted the company to CFRP was the material's strength and vibration damping performance. The fittings are used to hold lathe work-pieces in place. With lathe fittings, vibration can be suppressed through the fitting material's characteristics, eliminating unwanted movement due to centrifugal force. This makes it possible to do fine machining through high-speed revolution.

Now, Marutaka has made a fitting 250 mm in diameter and 35 mm thick. By using CFRP, a light weight of just 4.8 kg has been achieved, one-fourth that of conventional alloy fittings. Because the fitting doesn't vibrate easily, the lathe speed can be increased from the conventional 550 rpm to 850 rpm. Increasing the speed reduces the time required for processing. Marutaka has already made the baseplate for a fitting 600 mm in diameter and 35 mm thick, and is working to develop its next fitting.

Reducing the weight of fittings also reduces workloads on the factory floor substantially. As work-pieces have become larger, so have the fittings needed to hold them, placing a big burden on workers. Miyata emphasizes: "Because we manufacture a variety of small-lot products, it's important for us to minimize set-up time. By using the new fittings, set-up that previously took 30 minutes can now be done in about five minutes." He considers that the time required for the series of tasks involved in processing and set-up can be approximately halved. Another big feature of CFRP fittings is that they don't rust or corrode, making them maintenance-free.

Combating Asian players through technology

CFRP weighs four times less than iron, and provides four times the strength of iron for the same weight. Marutaka is considering various applications for CFRP materials. One is industrial robots. Utilizing CFRP's light weight and high strength can both improve robots' speed by making them lighter, and enable heavy objects to be carried safely. Marutaka is already talking with major manufacturers about using CFRP materials in industrial robots. It is also considering the use of CFRP in medical instruments.

One factor behind such initiatives is the rise of emerging economies. Miyata emphasizes that, through observations overseas, he's noticed: "Technology levels are high in countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. If we keep doing the same things as before, we'll be overtaken. Our only options are to move in a completely different direction, or reduce the cost through advanced machining technology."

"We will do value-added work where emerging economies can't catch up, like the aerospace industry in Europe and America. For that, connections between companies in Ota-Ward are also important." (Miyata) In fact, Marutaka asked Nippon Heater, a company in Ota-Ward, to manufacture a kiln for making CFRP lathe fittings.

To create value-added work in this way, it's also essential to raise awareness among employees. Miyata's goal is to "nurture people who can think and act by themselves." Ultimately, he wants to nurture employees who can make optimal suggestions to customers. He works to broaden employees' horizons by sending foremen to customers' plants, and plant managers to trade shows overseas. He is optimistic: "Recently, our employees have started to think and act by themselves. We'll train our young people so they can compete worldwide."

CFRP lathe fittings

LCFRP lathe fittings

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Employees think and act by themselves

It's unusual for CFRP material to be used for fittings. The motivation for this development was to alleviate the burden on workers who handle machine tools. As the fittings were made autonomously by Marutaka employees, Miyata says: "This is a good example of employees thinking and acting by themselves." Perhaps because Marutaka trains employees to act autonomously, and is engaged in work with high added value, its business has remained stable for the last decade, apart from the financial crisis in 2008. The company continues to tackle new projects: "What supports businesses is people. I want to make us able to double our employees' compensation." (Miyata)

Company Data

President: <br>Yoshinori Miyata

Yoshinori Miyata

Company name Marutaka Industrial Co.,Ltd.
President Yoshinori Miyata
Industry Type Design and manufacture of machine tool fittings, machining using fittings, etc.
Address 3-24-16 Shimomaruko, Oota-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Phone 03-3750-4321

Printing day:April 7, 2014

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