Japan-US Business Report LogoJapan-U.S. Business Report

No. 347, August 1998

Issue Index

American Companies in Japan


FOSTER WHEELER CORP.'s subsidiary has won a contract from SUMITOMO HEAVY INDUSTRIES, LTD. to design and supply a 149-megawatt circulating fluidized-bed steam generator. The Clinton, New Jersey company is the world leader in this technology. The steam generator will be installed at a power-generating plant that SHI is building for NIHON CEMENT CO., LTD. in Niigata prefecture. The clean-burning CFB, which will be the largest in Japan, will burn a variety of solid fuels, including bituminous coal, anthracite coal and petroleum coke. Expected to start commercial operations in mid-2001, the power plant will supply electricity to TOHOKU ELECTRIC POWER CO., INC. Working with electric utilities, independent power producers and industrial users, Foster Wheeler's subsidiary has supplied 45 percent of Japan's CFB generating capacity.

Just weeks after TOSHIBA CORP. agreed to be a risk- and revenue-sharing partner on GENERAL ELECTRIC CO.'s new combined-cycle H System power plant (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 346, July 1998, p. 6), the longtime collaborators set up a joint venture to make steam turbine airfoils in Yokohama and a separate company to produce the same product in Monterrey, Mexico. Toshiba owns 51 percent of TOSHIBA GE TURBINE COMPONENTS CO., LTD., while GE has a 66 percent interest in the Mexican operation. Production at both plants is scheduled to begin next spring. TGTC will specialize in long-length airfoils, while its counterpart will turn out medium and short versions. Airfoils are critical to the performance and the reliability of steam turbines.

Tightening regulations around the world governing environmentally harmful emissions from construction equipment have set the near-term agenda for the company that CUMMINS ENGINE CO., INC. and KOMATSU LTD. formed late last year to develop engines for the international construction equipment market (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 340, January 1998, p. 15). The equally owned venture in Oyama, Tochigi prefecture reportedly hopes to design an engine that cuts in half emissions of carbon dioxide and other sources of greenhouse gases and that also is quieter than today's engines. They expect to spend $14.2 million on this project. Production of the engine is scheduled to start in 2000 at KOMATSU CUMMINS ENGINE CORP., another partnership located in Oyama that now makes diesel engines for both companies.

OTIS ELEVATOR CO.'s subsidiary is taking orders for an unmanned people- mover system powered by linear motors. The Linear Otis Shuttle System, developed in-house, consists of cars suspended on an air cushion. The system has a range of six miles and a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour. Designed for airports, hospitals and similarly spread-out facilities, the shuttle will be built at the company's Shibayama, Chiba prefecture factory. Otis is part of UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP.

Now that a regulatory change allows contractors in Japan to use American-specification nails, at least two U.S. manufacturers of cordless framing nailers have found a new market for their products. SENCO PRODUCTS, INC. is particularly excited by the change. Its subsidiary in Osaka has struggled since being formed in 1993 because of Japan's nonconforming nail standards. The Cincinnati, Ohio company is marketing the FramePro SN650 power nailer. Its exclusive distributor is well- connected RYOBI LTD. The maker of power tools and Senco's subsidiary have formed a project team to sell the $1,200 nailer to major home builders. They are projecting sales of 2,000 units in the first year. ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS, INC. is even more optimistic about sales prospects, forecasting revenues of $31.9 million for its Impulse IM350-CTQ power nailer over four years. The $1,100 product is sold by JAPAN POWER FASTENING CO., LTD., an Osaka prefecture maker of screws that has long- standing ties to ITW.

The TapTone division of Falmouth, Massachusetts-based BENTHOS, INC. has introduced the RAY-TRAK on-line inspection system for checking fill levels in bottles, cans and jars through ACURAKS, INC., its Tokyo distributor for 10 years. The $26,200 system, which inspects up to 2,000 containers per minute, uses X-ray technology to determine precise fill height by measuring the absorption of radiation passing through the container contents. Underfill rejection is standard; an overfill detector is optional.

The explosive growth in Japan forecast for micromachines or microelectromechanical systems — devices or systems combining electrical and mechanical components and measuring from micrometers to millimeters — should be aided by the availability of low-cost prototyping services at MCNC's MEMS Technology Applications Center. For about $4,300, the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina company, a world- recognized leader in transitioning MEMS technology to commercial utilization, will make a 1-centimeter x 1-cm prototype in about two months. It also can help companies with process and device development and manufacturing. MCNC has enlisted MARUBENI SOLUTIONS CORP. to act as its agent. That Tokyo company expects to win orders for 200 prototypes in the first year of the tie-up.

The world leader in equipment for rapid product development, 3D SYSTEMS CORP., wants to double its Japan sales to $21.3 million by 2000. To facilitate achievement of this goal, the Valencia, California company will put on the market this fall customized resin materials for its prototyping machines. This equipment, distributed by INCS INC. of Kanagawa prefecture and HITACHI ZOSEN INFORMATION SYSTEMS CORP., converts computer-aided design files into solid, 3D models.

L&R MANUFACTURING CO., a maker of industrial ultrasonic cleaning systems, is selling its tabletop QS-200 system through ALT CORP. This product incorporates the Kearney, New Jersey company's SweepZone Technology, which ensures consistent, uniform cleaning. The Tokyo distributor has priced the ultrasonic cleaner at $1,000-plus. It expects to sell 300 units in the initial year of marketing.

An exchange rate of ¥141=$1.00 was used in this report.

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