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Japan's die industry

Outline

The products that we use on a day-to-day basis are, in general, mass produced in factories.
In order to produce large amounts of the same product, dies from which items of exactly the same shape can be created at volume are needed.
If the accuracy of these dies is poor, then the task of producing tens or hundreds of thousands of products at the same specifications and with the same functions becomes impossible.
It also means the release onto the market of defective products.

When we go into a shop and pick up one of the products lined up on the shelf, we naturally expect the product in our hands to look and function like all the other products created by that manufactured.
But what it is that allows identical products to be manufactured at mass on the factory floor? The answer lies in dies.


Dies: Essential to Industries Shaping Modern Society

Dies are devices used to shape product parts.
The die is used to create a shape that will allow the material being used to best perform its intended function, and it also ensures that as long as the same die is used, the same materials can be molded into the same shape.
Put simply, dies are the key to mass production; they are the point of origin of product manufacturing.
You could even say that the quality of a die is able to determine the quality of a product, a factory, and even a national industry.

For many manufacturers of engineering parts, ensuring that high quality dies are used in their production process is synonymous with maintaining product quality and achieving product improvement.
For example, parts cut from 2000–3000 different kinds of dies are required to make a single automobile, and that figure leaps to 200,000–300,000 when constructing an airplane. A tiny misalignment in the die can lead to a small imperfection in the part, and these small imperfections can result in big problems with the finished item.
Looking at the production process in this way, it is easy to see why the accuracy of each and every die is of such fundamental importance to manufacturers.

The production of dies is a field in which Japan has long boasted remarkably high technological standards, lauded by the rest of the world.
By the beginning of the 1990s, when there was a marked shift among Japanese industries towards processing and assembly-type production, Japan was manufacturing around one third of the total global volume of dies.
This figure was not simply a result of Japan’s unmatched economic power at the time, but rather a reflection of the unmatched standard of its die formation technology.




High Accuracy “Made-in-Japan” Dies

The reasons behind Japan’s ability to produce such high quality dies are two-fold: outstanding technological capability developed over many years in centers of die production, and Japan’s industrial climate.

Today, the die industries in China and Korea are recording eye-opening success, but it should be noted that both countries are importing production processes and equipment from Japan and other countries with established die production technology and using that prior existing technology in their domestic die industries.

By contrast, Japan’s die formation plants have a longer history, dating back to the days of manual labor and only partial automation, and this means that Japanese die manufacturers have an excellent understanding of what processes are required when in order to achieve production objectives. 
This means that Japanese die manufacturers are able to immediately recognize and identify flaws or errors in the production process, to correct them, and to continue to produce products of appropriate quality. 

At the heart of Japan’s die industry are the skilled professionals who oversee the die formation process. Many die production centers in Japan are local and small-scale, with no more than 30 employees. 
While the scale is modest, however, the standard of technological know-how is not, and the expertise concentrated in these small businesses supports manufacturing industries all over the world.

The contribution of these small contractors to the die production industry is particular to Japan. 
In this industry, the client is a manufacturer who produces finished products, and the client requires from the die industry the intensive production of highly specialized items. Mutual trust has been prioritized, as has quality over cost, as well as close and frank communication with parent companies. 
This kind of approach is a marked strength that is not found in manufacturing companies who choose to manufacture dies internally for their own production purposes.

The prevailing atmosphere of Japan’s die industry is also of relevance. 
It is characterized by a genuine love for machinery and for innovation, and by pride in and attachment to the dies formed. Those involved in the industry are constantly striving to achieve better dies and better results, and this is a passion that prioritizes perfection over profit. 
Seen on a short-term basis, Japan’s die industry seems to involve high costs, but it should rather be viewed in terms of the strong relationships of trust it has built up with clients, thanks to its ability to provide consistently outstanding technological solutions, as well as its long-term positive profit performance.

These factors are behind Japan’s high-quality die industry, as yet unmatched by any in the world.

Since the 1970s, when Japan entered a period of high economic growth allowing many production industries to achieve significant growth, until today, Japan’s die industry has been building up a strong body of know-how, and refining and retaining this expertise. 
The entire industry has developed in unison, not just in terms of the technology used in individual units of production, but also including aspects of data, total processes, and production facilities.
This total integration has resulted in a production line from which it is extremely hard to release faulty goods.

Japan’s die industry boasts countless benefits. Three-dimensional CAD software can be used to amend, improve, and innovate during the design process, with that final design then being cut with total accuracy whatever shape of the final mold might be.
 It has stable infrastructure, its die production environment unmatched anywhere in the world in terms of machine tools, electric discharge machines, cutting tools, measuring instruments, and other tools and equipment. It is capable of quick, accurate processing and production. It is able to achieve high levels of customer trust and satisfaction by developing alternative solutions for production that requires the use of regulated substances. 

Rapid industrialization and market expansion is happening throughout Asia today, and is causing fierce competition between companies. 
But Japan remains ahead of the crowd in the production of precision part dies, vehicle body part dies, and dies for plastics, for which there is most international demand.

In the face of increasing international competition, Japan’s die industry will continue to improve the accuracy and innovation with which the world associates it.
 It seems likely that this accuracy and innovation will continue to lead manufacturers from all over the world to a small country in the Far East where clients know that quality can be found. 


December 21, 2012

About the author
Hiromi Jitsukata is a reporter for Japanest NIPPON

Die Types
Dies can be broadly sorted into the following categories, in all of which Japan’s die technology is world-leading.
Forge Dies
Used to process wire rod materials and nonferrous metals with a press. Production of parts for automobiles, construction machinery
Cast Dies
Used to process molten metal by pouring it into the die and then processing with a press. Production of parts for general industry, construction machinery, agricultural machinery
Diecast Dies
Used to shape and process molten metal by injecting the liquid into the die Production of parts for automobiles, precision machinery, home electrical appliances
Plastic Dies
Used to shape and process plastic materials
Glass Dies
Used to shape glass material Production of bottles, jars, lighting equipment, utensils
Leading companies of Japna's die industry
Apic Yamada Corporation
ARRK Corporation
Fine Tech
Hoden Seimitsu Kako Kenkyusho Co., Ltd.
Kikuchi Seisakusho Co., Ltd.
Kuroda Precision Industries Ltd.
MARUJUN Co., Ltd.
Mitsui High-tec, Inc.
Munekata Holdings Co., Ltd.
Nichidai Corporation
Seikoh Giken Co., Ltd.
Suzuki Co.,Ltd.
Taiho Kogyo Co.,Ltd.
Takagi Seiko Corporation