Supporting technical innovation
In 2017, the Central Research Institute celebrated the 100th anniversary of its foundation in Oi-cho, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo by the Mitsubishi Joint-stock Company. Starting with around 30 members, the Central Research Institute gathered specialists in mining and other scientific fields and has conducted cutting-edge development supporting the growth of Japan and improvement of the technological level of metal processing. In this feature, we introduce the history of the Central Research Institute
After becoming president of Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha in 1916, Koyata Iwasaki lamented the lack of research in the metals industry in Japan. He said, “Although manufacturers in Japan are eager to import or copy technology from Europe and the United States, they are loath to invest money in private research facilities or for nurturing researchers. It’s a shame to rely solely on national or government-operated institutions.” To address this shortcoming, he established the Mining Research Institute (Currently the Central Research Institute) in Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo.
The Mining Research Institute focused on seven areas of research – ore dressing, wet smelting & the chemical industry, the electric furnace industry & alloys, coal & byproducts, analysis, firebrick & cement and the prevention of smoke pollution. Metallic materials research was started on Stellite alloys and TRIDIA (1932), the material that would be used in the manufacture of cemented carbide tools ahead of other companies in the industry. This pioneering development put Mitsubishi ahead of other companies and at the forefront of the modernization of Japan.
Having passed through the wartime and post-war period, liberalization of trade and rapid technological innovation began. In 1963, as part of its long-term plan to promote the stabilization of management, Mitsubishi Metal Mining Co., Ltd. added the Metal Processing Division to the already operational Mining Division and Smelting Division as the three major pillars of the company. Along with this change, the Central Research Institute aggressively promoted the development of a wide variety of new metal processing technologies. In 1954, cemented carbide manufacturing technology from DEW in the former West Germany was implemented, and the Research Institute started full-scale research on the basic properties of cemented carbide and the development of new tool materials. As a result, TiC cermet, ceramics and TiC coating were commercialized as new tool materials. In addition, the Research Institute worked on the synthesis of cubic boron nitride (CBN) as an ultra-high pressure sintered material and succeeded in particle-size crystal formation (0.3 mm) for the first time in Japan. This success accelerated research on new cemented carbide materials. Along with this, research on aluminium alloy and titanium alloy machining, magnetic materials and sintered parts contributed to the improvement of the machining business.
In 1976, the Mitsubishi Metal Corporation Central Research Institute became independent. It promoted business-based research to enhance performance.
In the field of metal processing, the institute worked with the Research Development Corporation of Japan in 1984 to conduct research on the practical application of lowpressure artificial diamond manufacturing technology, before other companies around the world did so. This resulted in improved adhesion to the base cemented carbide material; the major challenge at the time, and led to the world’s first mass production technology for artificial diamonds. This proved to have excellent wear resistance which can extend product life 3 to 5 times that of the existing cemented carbide tools. The development of tool materials has been promoted using ultra-high pressure sintered body tools and ceramics, and in 1984, they succeeded in developing “Non-Coated CBN series”, a CBN ultrahigh pressure sintered tool with ceramic binding phase that had twice the tool life of existing CBN sintered tools. In regard to CVD coating technology, they succeeded in developing TiC coating (the first diamond coating) in 1970 and a 3-layered coating tip, whose top surface was coated with Al203, in 1977. In regard to PVD coating technology, there was a successful development in 1979 and 1980 of the UP Process, a new coating technology which proved to extend tool life up to three times longer than existing tools. Mitsubishi Materials has founded advanced development strategies that will lead to major progress.
From 1983 to the present, the Central Research Institute experienced a wide variety of changes. In 1983, it was merged into Mitsubishi Metal Corporation. In 1990, Mitsubishi Metal Corporation and Mitsubishi Mining & Cement Co., Ltd. were merged into Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, one of the largest material processing manufacturers in Japan. It had three research institutes and five centres with approximately 1,000 employees engaged in research and development.
Responding to such changes, the Central Research Institute reinforced its development capabilities. In order to improve competitiveness in manufacturing tool materials and to satisfy market needs, the institute furthered research on wear resistance in Al203 coating. In 2005, they succeeded in completing technology that controls crystal growth in the c-axis direction. Completing new technology at a rapid pace, the institute’s research achieved a wide range of results that support current Mitsubishi Materials products. The mission of the Research & Development Division is to execute the development of new products, new technology and new businesses for Mitsubishi Materials.
In order to do so, leveraging of the technical management resources that the Mitsubishi Materials Group is necessary and to utilize cutting-edge technology from both home and abroad. This will enable a look toward the next 100 years for people, society and the earth.