Japanese Consortium to Build New Aerospace Forger

March 2, 2011
Large-scale components in Ti, Ni, other specialty metals and alloys metals Est. investment about $244 million

Four companies are pooling their resource to establish a new forging operation in Japan, capable of producing large-scale components in titanium, nickel, and other specialty metals and alloys metals for aircraft engines and fuselages. High-alloy forgings for power plants will be another target market for Japan Aeroforge Ltd., which is a partnership of Hitachi Metals, Ltd., Kobe Steel Ltd., IHI Corp. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., capitalized at 3.7 billion yen (about $45 million.)

The entire investment is projected at 20 billion yen (about $244 million), according to the consortium's statement.

The centerpiece of the operation will be Japan’s first 50,000-metric ton forging press. A 50,000-m2 location has been chosen on a man-made island in the Mizushima Port, at Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture, which is in the western part of Japan. A source at Kobe Steel Ltd. reported that a site-selection process found Kurashiki to be most suitable setting for the new plant, “in terms of support from the local authorities and government, land prices, and other factors.”

No equipment supplier has been named for the 50,000-metric ton press, and design details are still undecided, though the source indicated that discussions are in progress with several press builders.

The plant is expected to be in development soon and construction will be complete by March 2012. Following customer certification trials, volume production anticipated in mid- to late 2014. Product volumes have not been detailed.

Hitachi Metals Special Steel Co.’s executive Koji Sato will be the president of Japan Aeroforge Ltd. The new venture will have about 40 full-time employees.

Each of the partners in Japan Aeroforge aim to improve the competitiveness of Japan’s aircraft industry, and the availability of large, high-tech forgings is critical to its development. Japan Aeroforge also hopes to export components to aircraft manufacturers worldwide. Only a handful of forging presses in the world are equal to the 50,000-metric ton capability anticipated by the new venture.

The leading partners are Hitachi Metals and Kobe Steel, and both companies have incorporated Japan Aeroforge in their business strategies. Hitachi Metals brings expertise in forging and molding technologies and Kobe Steel is Japan’s only integrated manufacturer of titanium.

IHI and KHI will provide start-up support for Japan Aeroforge, but their contribution to the organization will be in line with their machining and fabrication technologies for aircraft parts.

Hitachi Metals, Kobe Steel and other suppliers will provide titanium, nickel and other materials to Japan Aeroforge for forging. Then, the forgings will be returned to Hitachi Metals, Kobe Steel, and others for heat treatment, machining, and inspection. Then, Hitachi Metals and Kobe Steel will supply the forged parts to IHI, KHI, other domestic industrial and electrical machinery manufacturers and heavy electrical machinery manufacturers.

Hitachi Metals and Kobe Steel will each hold a 40.53% share of Japan Aeroforge; IHI and KHI will hold 5.41% shares. In the coming weeks, Marubeni-Itochu Steel Inc. (5.41%) and Sojitz Aerospace Corp. (2.7%) will join the venture.