Things are Hot in Japan

Your intrepid reporter just returned from a 2-week romp around Japan, meeting with some of that country’s premier metalworking companies.


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Your intrepid reporter just returned from a 2-week romp around Japan, meeting with some of that country’s premier metalworking companies. This blog is a quick summary of Week 1 with Week 2’s summary coming. Additionally, more detailed information on what we saw and heard will follow in upcoming issues of PM magazine.  

It must be said, however, and take this as a warning, July is not the month to visit Japan. It was 100° and 80-plus percent humidity--sauna-like is an understatement. Our mission was to look, learn and report back on the manufacturers we were able to visit.

Day 1 was a train trip to visit Tsudakoma, maker of indexing and rotary tables for applying 4- and 5-axis capabilities to machining centers. In business since 1909, this company is known in the U.S. as Koma Precision. The company is involved in textile machinery manufacturing as well and (here’s a scoop) are developing a composite tape laying machine. Seems logical.

A visit to Kitamura Machinery was our afternoon stop with a visit to the always affable Dr. Akihiro (Aki) Kitamura. In business for 80 years, this company has never taken its eyes off its core business, making high quality machining centers. Two foundational (literally) principles of these machines is the use of boxway systems versus linear guide ways and the use of hand scraping to achieve True Geometry Accuracy between mating surfaces. 

The next morning, we visited Sumitomo Electric Hardmetal Group. Definitely the oldest company we visited, Sumitomo traces its origins to copper smelting in the 17th century and is still a world leader in drawn copper products among others.

However, the group we visited makes carbide, diamond and CBN cutting tools for metalworking. I am very much looking forward to following up on some of the products and process that were presented. Two that especially intrigue me are called Sumida and Sumiboron. These are binderless polycrystalline diamond and CBN tools, and I really want to know more about them. Binderless? Really?

Friday of Week 1 brings us to the park-like island of Awaji and our visit to Big Daishowa Seiki, makers of Big-Plus toolholders and spindles, marketed in the U.S. by Big Kaiser. The sprawling campus of the company comprises five factories and a technical center.

Big Plus pioneered the concept of a dual contact toolholder, which secures the cutting tool in a machine spindle using taper and face contact. Machining these holders is an exercise in precision itself. The company makes other toolholder types: V-taper and Capto for example, but Big-Plus is its core product. 

That was Week 1. Stay tuned to this blog for Week 2 and more.