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No. 354, March 1999

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American Companies in Japan


One of the world's leading makers of machines and tooling for the production of gears now has a wholly owned sales and service organization in Japan. GLEASON CORP. acquired for cash the 80 percent of OGA CORP. that it did not own already from bankrupt OKURA & CO., LTD. and other shareholders. The Rochester, New York manufacturer bought its initial 20 percent interest in 1994. OGA has four marketing bases around the country.

DISCFLO CORP., which makes an innovative line of disc pumps for what it calls the hard-to-pump market, has named fellow pump maker NIKUNI CORP. of Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture to market its products as the DF Series. Disc pumps use the principles of boundary layer and viscous drag. Together, they create a powerful force that "pulls" a fluid or other product through the pump without it touching any moving part. The types of fluids that disc pumps can handle include highly viscous fluids, slurries with a high solid content, abrasive fluids and large and/or stringy solids. El Cajon, California-based Discflo makes its disc pumps in a range of configurations, such as in-line, close-coupled, frame-mounted, sump and submersible.

Hoping to capitalize on its position as a Tier-1 supplier of ergonomically designed materials-handling systems to the North American assembly operations of three of Japan's automotive makers, KNIGHT INDUSTRIES has moved into the Japanese market. The Auburn Hills, Michigan manufacturer already has an $8.6 million contract to supply pneumatic balancers and overhead enclosed track rail systems to TOYOTA MOTOR CORP. Its exclusive distributor, automation systems maker THING TECH CO., LTD. of Aichi prefecture, is in the process of delivering and installing this equipment. Thing Tech also is developing distribution channels to boost sales. Knight's other Japanese automotive customers are HONDA MOTOR CO., LTD. and NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD.

The subsidiary of Clinton, North Carolina-based SCHINDLER ELEVATOR CORP. has introduced its cutting-edge SchindlerMobile elevator to the local market. Among the unique features of this product is that the car is a self-propelled vehicle, which eliminates the need for ropes and pulleys. Moreover, in a space- and cost-saving move, all the equipment that typically is found in an elevator machine room is integrated into the car. In another difference, the SchindlerMobile is an integrated system, with its car inside self-supporting shaft columns that are said to virtually eliminate structural forces to the building.

With the aging of Japan's population expected to expand the demand for home elevators, OTIS ELEVATOR CO. and MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. have codeveloped a space-saving, energy-efficient model to cater to this market. The shaft area required is about 20 percent less than existing home elevators, while the unit's permanent magnet motor reportedly can cut electricity costs roughly in half. The subsidiary of the world's largest maker of elevators plans to produce 2,000 of the $20,100 elevator a year; MEI will handle sales.

A compact model has been added to the new line of hydraulic excavators marketed by SHIN CATERPILLAR MITSUBISHI LTD. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 353, February 1999, p. 19). With its reduced tail-swing radius, the 8-ton-class CAT 308B CR REGA is designed for such space-constrained applications as pipe laying. Uses like that also are dictated by the 0.37- cubic-yard capacity of its bucket. The CAT 308B, which has a low- polluting, 55-horsepower engine, costs $113,500. Shin Caterpillar has forecast sales of 300 units a year.

In a worldwide introduction, 3D SYSTEMS CORP. announced the SLA 7000 Production SolidImager, the fifth generation of the Valencia, California manufacturer's equipment for concept modeling and rapid prototyping and tooling. The new system is four times faster than the current SLA 5000. Moreover, it is said to be capable of developing near production-quality parts with a superior surface finish, thanks to technical improvements that enable layers to be just 0.001 inch thick. The maximum build area of the SLA 7000 also is a larger 20 x 20 x 23.62 inches. The system incorporates 3D Systems' new and highly integrated 3D Lightyear parts preparation software, which is designed for a Windows NT operating environment, and uses a recently developed, high-speed stereolithography resin. Significantly, 3D Systems decided to discount the SLA 7000's U.S. list price of $800,000 in an attempt to boost sales to Japanese makers of vehicles, consumer electronics and other products.

The Kobe subsidiary of FOSTER WHEELER CORP., the world leader in circulating fluidized-bed steam generators, has put two new electricity- generating products on the market. The Supercritical CFB system combines the fuel flexibility and the low emissions of CFB technology with the high efficiency of supercritical steam conditions and the high responsiveness of a once-through circulation system design. The other product features the latest in Foster Wheeler innovation. The Compact CFB retains the basic characteristics of the Clinton, New Jersey company's traditional CFB but replaces the cyclone separator with a rectangular separator connected directly to the furnace. This separator design, says the supplier, minimizes capital costs and simplifies fabrication and construction.

Three ELLIOTT MAGNETEK POWER SYSTEMS, INC. gas turbines that are said to have no equal in Japan soon will be available. The Model TA 45 (45 kilowatts), Model TA 60 (60 kilowatts) and Model TA 200 (200 kilowatts) Turbo Alternator Sets will be distributed by EBARA CORP., a major minority investor in ELLIOTT CO., one of the partners in Elliott MagneTek (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 346, July 1998, p. 5). The Lexington, Tennessee manufacturer claims several advantages for the Turbo Alternator over traditional reciprocating generator sets, including a longer life cycle, greater reliability, just one-fourth the weight and size and lower pollution. Elliott MagneTek says as well that the Turbo Alternator, which can use propane, natural gas or diesel oil for fuel, not only will cost less to install and maintain but also will produce electricity at a lower cost per kilowatt-hour than most grids when used for peak shaving.

An exchange rate of ¥117=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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