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November 23, 1999

4 Min Read
Where the market for TXM is going -- and why

Even with all of the intriguing plastics injection molding technology exhibited by Japan Steel Works at the International Plastics Fair (IPF) in Japan this September, what drew the biggest crowds to JSW's booth had nothing to do with molding plastics. JSW's show stopper was its Model JLM220MG 220-ton press, which is designed for injection molding magnesium alloys and other TXM metals (Figure 1).

On a huge TV screen close to its TXM press, the crowds at JSW's booth could view a new, high-quality, 8 million Yen video on TXM that JSW produced. An English version reportedly is on the way. The IPF'99 crowds also were wowed by some of the hottest new commercial applications molded in magnesium, which JSW had on display.

Cellphones
One hit of the show was a very thin, lightweight cellphone from Ericsson (Figure 2). Only on the market for a month before the show, it features three TXM magnesium alloy parts -- a back, a battery case, and a belt clip. JSW's Kazuo Kitamura says the parts are molded in two- and four-cavity tooling on 450-ton machinery at its customer, Toyo Kako of the Toyama Prefecture in Japan.

According to NTT Mobile Communications Network, popularly known in Japan as DoCoMo, the mobile communications market is projected to grow to three times its current size by 2010.

The new Ericsson ER207 is compliant with established DoCoMo networking protocols. (For more information on DoCoMo, its website is www.nttdocomo.co.jp.) JSW is actively developing a turnkey TXM cellphone cell -- an all-in-one, drop-in, mini cellphone molding plant.

Kitamura says Panasonic also introduced a TXM cellphone to the Japanese market a few months earlier. Its parts are molded by Nifco (Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan), which has seven of JSW's TXM molding machines, from 75 to 220 tons. The cellphone parts are run on a 75 tonner. Nifco also molds TXM parts for a Sony digital camera.

Speaking of Sony, Kitamura tells us that company is aggressively increasing the number of TXM parts it uses in its products, many of which are being sourced through TXM molder Tenma Magtech (Chiba Prefecture, Japan).

Fan Blades
Tenma Magtech is the second largest TXM molder in the world, according to Kitamura. It operates 10 JSW TXM molding machines from 75 to 650 tons, but that's not all. Tenma Magtech is vertically integrated, offering molding, machining, surface treatment, and painting services supported by an effective, fully integrated quality control system. One of the largest plastic parts molders in Japan, Tenma Magtech just started TXM molding in April 1998. The company made a profit in its first year.

"Sony has very high standards and Tenma Magtech is capable of producing very high-quality products," explains Kitamura. "It uses no putty. Quality parts are produced right out of the mold, because of its total quality control system."

Still, prices are high. Sony is looking for another supplier to meet its increasing need for TXM parts, possibly Waffer in Taiwan. Waffer is the world's largest TXM molder (see separate article).

JSW exhibited other interesting new products, including a magnesium alloy TXM fan blade for Mitsubishi's new home fan. Produced by Toyo Kako, a Mitsubishi supplier, the sound dampening qualities of magnesium alloy helped TXM win the job away from molded plastics, says Kitamura.

"Magnesium is very quiet, so Mitsubishi can increase the fan motor's speed up to 3000 rpm. With the TXM fan blade, it runs at only 3 db, even at very high speeds. And the blade is 30 percent lighter in weight than the plastic fan blade. So running costs are lower even though it is running faster. This could be a very big market."

Automotive IPs, and More

Speaking of big, the biggest new TXM applications were not on show at IPF'99. In fact, they have yet to be molded. These are magnesium TXM automotive parts, and big ones. JSW now plans to build presses up to 3500 tons. Kitamura believes he may have an order for a machine that big before year's end, possibly for molding powertrain components and large interior and exterior automotive parts.

"Honda is going crazy over magnesium," Kitamura says. "It is worried about the SF6 gas emissions in the diecasting process not being good for the environment. It may be prohibited soon. And the diecasting sludge is tough to dispose. There is no sludge and there are no harmful gas emissions with TXM."

Beginning next year, the first automotive TXM parts molded in Japan will be in production. Araco, part of the Toyota Group of companies in Nagoya, Japan, will be molding magnesium alloy seat frames. Araco already runs 220- and 850-ton JSW presses, and has ordered another 850 tonner for automotive TXM.

Contact information
Japan Steel Works Ltd.
Tokyo, Japan
Kazuo Kitamura
Phone: +81 (3) 3501-6164
Fax: +81 (3) 3595-4615
Web: www.jsw.co.jp

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