At IFAI Expo 2016 in October, IFAI Japan conducted a Japan Technical Seminar to discuss the status of the Japanese chemical fibers industry. The Japan Chemical Fibers Association gave a presentation on “The future of Japanese high performance/high functional fibers.” The association consists of members of many of the leading global chemical fiber manufacturers, including Teijin, Toray, Kuraray, Toyobo, Asahi Kasei, Unitica, Mitsubishi Rayon, Kaneka and others.
In addition to the current status of the Japanese chemical fibers industry, discussion included Japan’s application development of high-performance and high-functional fibers, as well as the future direction of this industry, particularly a strategy for Japanese high performance/high functional fibers as it pertains to each member company.
The Japanese chemical fibers industry has been focusing on development of high-performance and high-functional fibers since the early 1990’s in order to avoid the global over-supply situation, especially for common polyester fibers.
As a result, the Japanese chemical fibers industry is maintaining a competitive edge in this area. For example, Japanese companies have 70 percent of the world share of PAN-based carbon fiber. Because of its light weight and strength, this fiber is used in aerospace, automobile, railroad carriage, fuel cell, construction and other industries.
Applications in new markets, such as healthcare (medical devices and regenerative medicine), new energy (wind and solar power, storage batteries), advanced technologies industries (next-generation vehicles, aircraft, aerospace, battery materials), and creative industries (fashion, traditional crafts, and tourism) have been developed as well.
More recently, the Japanese chemical fiber industry has been focusing on incorporating the utilization of IoT technologies and “smartification” into the chemical fiber business in order to develop new markets for chemical fibers. For example, they developed a more focused smart, sensing beacon, called PaperBeacon, which can identify a specific place, such as a table, that conventional beacons cannot. For this reason, it will offer high user experiences not possible previously, and it could have an important impact on a variety of businesses.
Another example is sensor-incorporated garments for exercise, sports and healthcare to monitor body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and other data.
Mr. Hiroya Kagiygama of the Japan Chemical Fibers Association says, “We are not only providing good quality products, but we are also seeking to provide solutions to customers.” And member companies are creating new markets for advanced technologies.
The presentation included information on several products, as well as a list of more than 400 of Japan’s advanced fibers and textiles with characteristics and manufacturer information for each one.
Kikuko Tagawa is the director of IFAI Japan. She can be reached at email@example.com.