Kobe sees growing demand for challenging technologies
Article published in ERJ's March/April issue
Japanese major reports growing demand for technologies that overcome the challenges of mixing silica into rubber compounds
Kobe Steel expects a significant increase in sales of tire and rubber machinery this year, due to “aggressive” orders over the past 12 months, company executives said in an interview with ERJ.
Sales of tire and rubber machinery for the Tokyo-based company’s previous financial year came in at $192 million. Sales are projected to reach $196 million in fiscal 2017 (ending March 2018) and grow further in fiscal 2018.
Kobe Steel sees markets for its tire and rubber machinery recovering in China, stable in Europe and “positive” in North America, reported Hiroki Toyoizumi, sales & marketing manager, industrial machinery at the company’s Machinery business unit.
Within the European market, he said, there is good growth in eastern Europe, since many tire makers have been expanding in this area. And further east, the company has received a recent order from Russia, though Toyoizumi declined to identify the customer.
The Kobe Steel manager put the company’s rubber mixer-building capacity at around 150 machines across its three plants, adding that this was sufficient to cover current growth in demand.
Toyoizumi went on to say that Kobe Steel’s rubber machinery business was not affected by the recent quality issues revealed by its parent group.
Kobe Steel is continuing to optimise its machines to deliver optimal mixing quality and high productivity levels, said departmental colleague Yasuaki Yamane, assistant general manager, group leader process/test for mixing machinery within the engineering section of the Machinery business unit.
There is, he said, particular market demand for enhanced silica-mixing technologies, such as Kobe Steel’s hyper cooling rotor, which is designed to increase process stability, quality and productivity.
The KCS3.0 design, said Yamane, improves the ability of compounders to control mixing temperature and input high levels of energy into the compound. It is intended particularly for high-silica compound mixing.
Overall, the Kobe Steel executive said the company had sold more than 20 machines with advanced cooling technology over recent years.
There is also growing demand for the Japanese company’s hybrid offerings, which combine the performance of tangential and intermeshing mixers. These designs, can enable tire markers to minimise the need to install additional lines at their plants, Yamane pointed out.
Increasing use of high levels of silica in tire compounds has also prompted Kobe Steel to develop a new protective surface material for the mixing chamber.
Called KA#T1, the material can withstand silica abrasion and the aggressive acids produced from its reaction with coupling agents, explained Yamane.