The materials sector is wide and diverse, as it encompasses countless other areas such as the steel industry, nanotechnology, chemistry and optical networks. Cooperation among different actors and fields in order to obtain new products and to develop the market is common. The material section will focus on raw materials, ceramic & glass and polymers. You will find information about business opportunities in the glass & ceramics industry, especially in the energy and environment sectors as well as the challenges to the development of this industry such as raw materials availability. The polymers section will cover two types of materials relevant to Japan; rubber and carbon fibre. The rubber and carbon fibre industries are both important in Japan as on the one hand the country is the world’s largest consumer of rubber and on the other, it is a pioneer in the carbon fibre industry.
Ceramic & Glass
Japan’s traditional craft industries, ceramic and glass-making, have recently found new applications in the automotive and aerospace sectors as well as in the production of technological devices.
In Japan there is a strict relationship between private firms and institutions such as research centres or universities (e.g. AIST, NIMS, Japan fine ceramics centre, Japan glass industry centre, etc.). They often work together on several projects regarding ceramics and glass as R&D activities are essential to develop all the possible appliances of those materials.
Although the glass & ceramic sector is facing several challenges, such as the progressive recovery after the earthquake and the need for strategic raw materials, Japan remains a leading country in the ceramics and glass fields.
Amongst the different kinds of polymers are rubber and carbon fibre. These two types, particularly relevant in Japan, will be the focus of this section. Rubber is an important material for Japan’s automotive industry, a pillar of the country’s economy. Not only is Japan one of the world’s largest consumer of rubber but most of its rubber is used for its tyre production, one of the main products exported.
Carbon fibre composite materials are widely used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, building and civil engineering, electronics, industrial, medical and sports. Large-scale production of carbon fibre started in the 1970s in Japan. Since then, Japan has kept its place as a world leader in the industry and Japanese carbon fibre manufacturers are ranked number one in terms of quality and quantity produced. Toray for example, a Japanese company based in Tokyo, is the world’s largest producer of carbon fibre. It intends to expand into markets such as windmill blades and the automotive sector.
Reference: EU BUSINESS IN JAPAN