Products (Machinery - Industrial parts)
TOKi Engineering Co., Ltd. : Metal Packing
Have you ever noticed how pipes or the lids of bento lunchboxes are fitted with rubber filler? This filler is called “packing,” and it is in place to improve the sealing tightness of such items, keeping them fully sealed and preventing the outflow of liquid and gas.
And packing actually plays a very important role, in our daily lives but on factory lines too. It is packing that is stuffed between two planes of junction on receptacles and pipes in which liquid and gas are contained, and packing that prevents them from leaking out.
When looked at in terms of industrial machinery or finished products, packing is just a tiny part of the whole. But without it, it would not be possible to transport materials and resources from machine to machine. There are also multiple cases in which considerable damage can be caused as a result of content leaking out from connecting parts. The cause of the accident can almost always be found in the joints; it could even be a saying.
A revolution in packing has been brought about by a Japanese company located in Fukuoka prefecture. TOKi Engineering is a small company, with less than 20 employees, but the metal packing that they produce had come to play a vital role in machinery and products in Japan and around the world. They may be small in number, but certainly significant in influence.
A Packing Revolution
‘Revolutionizing packing’ is the philosophy that drives this small but exciting company.
Today, most packing distributed throughout the world is made of rubber.
But despite the widespread availability of rubber packing, it is in fact rife with problems. Rubber is actually a very porous material, full of pores invisible to the naked eye. Materials that pass through these pores can leave odors, and the inside of the pores can become a breeding ground for bacteria; this means that rubber packing needs to be replaced regularly. Rubber can also become severely deteriorated due to acid and alkaline chemicals as well as heat. It is also highly sensitive to vibration, so there is a constant risk that the packing will become compromised, resulting in leakage.
Metal packing, however, is not affected by any of these problems.
The convex prominence processed into the packing is normally pressure bonded to the pipe connection, but by maintaining the joint surface at 45 degrees, TOKi Engineering was able to create a project unmatched by any other company in accuracy. Metal packing also has a number of other distinct merits.
TOKi Engineering’s metal packing means that packing can be manufactured from material identical to that used for the pipes and receptacles themselves; which means that, in essence, there are no more joint surfaces. And all of the problems associated with rubber—odor transfer to rubber packing, odor transfer from rubber packing to other parts, bacterial growth in rubber packing, deterioration through use, the need for regular cleaning and maintenance—can all be solved by making a switch to metal packing.
Metal packing is not only hygienic, it’s also easy to clean. Some rubber packing is rendered unusable after just a single wash, but metal packing can be used over and over, remaining consistently hygienic. Metal packing can even be recycled when it has served its use. It is durable against breakage and deterioration, as well as heat and chemicals.
Initial costs are relatively high, but dimensions are the same as conventional rubber packing and metal packing can easily replace its rubber counterpart. It requires little maintenance over long periods of use, and therefore has impressively low running costs in the long run. It is also notable for the reliability of its sealing tightness; it has demonstrated significantly improved performance on rubber packing over a prolonged trial and error testing period.
At present, this metal packing has been adopted by a number of companies specializing in manufacturing machinery for food production, with particularly strong uptake in leading food companies. Consideration is also being given to its introduction in artificial dialysis machines in medical facilities. TOKi Engineering is also receiving increasing numbers of inquiries about its revolutionary product from prominent manufacturers overseas, including the United States. Indeed, international interest is outstripping domestic demand.
In addition to its metal packing, TOKi Engineering is also involved in the manufacturing and sales of Non Packing Ferrule, designed to improve the quality of joint surfaces. These are joint surfaces that do not require packing, which can be used in pipes simply by welding. Interest in this product is expected to soar in the future. TOKi Engineering has also been turning its attention to hydrogen, a power source attracting increasing global interest, with the intention of developing packing specially adapted to hydrogen pipes. This is a clear indication of the company’s intention and ability to perform upon and lead the global market.
The world is in need of TOKi Engineering products; so it is almost a shame that domestic demand in Japan is less than what this internationally pioneering technology deserves. The failure of Japan to evaluate and value appropriately the product innovation shown by small and medium sized companies may well be one of the reasons Japan is finding it increasingly hard to maintain its position at the top of the international economic leaderboard. If outstanding products such as these TOKi Engineering products were embraced more enthusiastically on a domestic level, it would doubtless have a beneficial impact on the level of technological innovation in Japanese industry. TOKi Engineering doesn’t have to be “just” the company that brought innovation to a single industrial section; they could also be the spark to set growth alight in Japan’s industry as a whole.
March 6, 2012
About the author
Hiromi Jitsukata is a reporter for Japanest NIPPON