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 October 2006 Feature
Tomoki Honda joined Nippon Steel Corporation in 1981; he is now the group leader of the quality systems and planning section in Nippon’s main office. In his career, he has also been involved in the production and quality control of sheet and coil at Kimitsu and Yawata Works.

Nippon Steel Technology Strategy

Nippon Steel Corporation is at the forefront of developing technology advancements in its midterm management plan for 2006-2008, and is strengthening its new product, process development, and manufacturing capabilities and other areas of competitiveness, as well as its responsiveness toward environmental requirements. Products that are recognized by our customers for their value are important, and the technological capabilities supporting these products are the source of our competitiveness. To illustrate our technological strengths in the demand areas we serve and the development of new products that bring our technological capabilities to the fore, this article will take examples from automotive steel products that are typical for high-performance products.

Demand Areas Served by Nippon Steel

Nippon Steel’s domestic market is 70 percent of its business, while our export market is 30 percent. We shipped 20 million tons domestically in 2004, with the percentage of materials for automobiles, shipbuilding, industrial machinery, home electronics, containers and other high function products (middle- and high-grade steel) covering 70 percent of those shipments. We are covering roughly 50 percent of the domestic consumption in the corresponding fields. This reveals a strong ratio of high-performance products from Nippon Steel.

Eighty percent of Nippon’s steel export market is in Asia. The central market in China and the rest of Asia is for mid- to high-grade steel based on the increased demand from automobile, home electronics and other manufacturers.

Nippon Steel utilizes its product development and quality management solutions to meet customer demand for a wide-ranging menu of products critical for all end uses. This is where our technological strength lies — in our collective know-how shown in Nippon’s reliable manufacturing technology, and our strengthened responsiveness to customers through our domestic multi-mill system.

High Performance Automotive Steel Sheets

(See Table 1)

Improving Processability
(see Table 2)
Nippon Steel contributes to improving the competitiveness of Japanese automobile manufacturers through steel plate manufacturing processes and new product development that support greater demands by customers for press processing.

Rustproofing (see Table 3)
Along with meeting market demands for stronger rustproofing and progress by automobile manufacturers in manufacturing technology, Nippon Steel is playing a leading role in the development of rustproof steel sheets. In order to manufacture GA steel sheets for automobiles, advanced and consistent manufacturing technology and quality control are required from original sheet material design to the plating process line. With the future growth of the global manufacturing share by Japanese automobile manufacturers and the advancement of GA steel sheets, Nippon Steel is also working to expand GA performance, having upgraded two lines and added one more in 2006.

High Strength (see Table 4)
Nippon Steel continually leads the market in manufacturing lower weight steels that improve fuel economy, and in the development of high-tensile materials that improve safety. In particular, we are promoting the expanded applications of high-performance/high tensile materials that utilize nanotechnology and which realize both low weight and collision safety.

Solutions Technology
Together with its customers, Nippon Steel has developed utilization process technology for automobile steel sheets. Today, we provide total solutions for material development and utilization technology, using high-precision simulation technology to achieve higher-tension applications.

Functional Materials Supporting Automobiles
Nippon Steel maintains a top-level share both domestically and internationally in the specialty steel bar field for automobiles with such products as tire cords, valves and valve springs. We maintain a high level of quality through consistent manufacturing technology and consistent quality control systems; our quality assurance efforts are highly praised by our customers as well.

To expand the application of high-grade steel pipes for drive train and reinforcement parts, Nippon provides consistent solutions technology, proposing hydroform technology. In terms of environmental protection, Nippon Steel also develops and supplies high-grade electromagnetic steel sheets for hybrid vehicles.

Standardization

Nippon Steel works with the Standardization Center of the Japan Iron and Steel Federation to actively develop standards. We are promoting conformity with the JIS/International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards and the incorporation of JIS regulations into ISO standards. For automobile steel sheet standards (a Japan Iron and Steel Federation standard) we are moving step-by-step toward standardized, commercialized steel sheet as a high-performance product. Meanwhile, Nippon Steel is proposing the incorporation of JIS standards into ASTM International standards as well as the standardization of new products. We recently worked on the establishment of the following two ASTM International standards:

A 1043, Specification for Structural Steel with Low Yield to Tensile Ratio for Use in Buildings, and
A 1046, Specification for Steel Sheet, Zinc-Aluminum-Magnesium Alloy-Coated by the Hot-Dip Process.

Future Efforts

Nippon Steel will build upon its strengths as a reliable material manufacturer and actively work on the following issues:

• Providing products that meet society’s environmental demands (prevention of global warming and support of recycling);
• Bolstering the supply of middle- and high-grade products (improving product capability, sustainable development and key quality);
• Responding promptly and accurately to customer needs (proposal-driven technology business, including solutions technology, developing a globally deployed supply system);
• Ensuring the improvement of technological innovations (proactive management of resources invested in research and development). //

 
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