Article by Joanne McIntyre

Mr. Atsuhiko Kuroda is the General Manager of the European office of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation in Düsseldorf, Germany. He started by explaining some background to the Japanese and global titanium market. “Today the total global production of titanium (Ti) is about 150,000 tonnes annually, with Japan producing 10-11% of this. Looking at the global position almost 50% of the Ti consumed is used in the aerospace industry, including military applications.

However aerospace applications are limited in Japan so the situation is somewhat different. Historically most of the Ti consumed within the Japanese market has been within the chemical and power generation industries.” Despite the lack of a large aerospace market Mr. Kuroda expects that demand will continue to increase. “Global demand for Ti is expected to grow by around 5% annually, and again most of this growth is expected within the aerospace industry. Demand for commercial planes is growing, especially for small sized aircraft. Airbus and Boeing both have large back-orders to fill. 

NSSMC supplies a certain amount of commercially pure titanium to the aerospace industry and has recently invested in new furnaces to meet this demand: refined products are needed to avoid all chance of failure. However Japanese Ti producers are not positioned to compete on a large scale in this wellestablished market so we are forced to be innovative and focus on developing new markets.”

Three strong sectors

Based on the conventional markets, cush as the chemical industry, NSSMC chose to focus its efforts on three main sectors:
1. Aerospace,
2. Automobile industry,
3. Architecture.

The chemical industry has a long history of using titanium for products such as heat exchangers. The automobile industry is also an important consumer in Japan and one that the company works closely with in order to promote the use of Ti. “Japan has a strong automobile industry. In addition, a remarkable amount of titanium is used worldwide for motorcycle exhaust systems.

We also supplying Ti connecting rods for motorcycles for a large Japanese manufacturer. For these bikes weight is an important issue and Ti is a very strong yet lightweight material.” “Our strategy is not just be a product supplier to the industry but also a solution provider. We work closely wth customers to find ways to use Ti efficiently and economically for their benefit. For example we have a close cooperation with auto manufacturers such as Toyota for whom we have proposed many materials and how to best use these for various parts. Now proposing not only the material but how to use it.

The golden area around the light on the ceiling is made of titanium, Hyperbeta Gold. Hyperbeta gives an indirect lighting that makes use of the fine inclination – a unique feature of titanium – of the enlarged crystal. It shines and sparkles by reflecting light in a manner which cannot be with paint. Design: hashimoto yukio design studio inc.

Restaurant: Syozui Using Ion-Plating (IP) technology, this titanium roof is an ideal substitute for gold-leaf with its titanium nitride material color. The membrane is strong, and it can be used with confidence in an environment where the gold-leaf could peel off. The color tone will not change over 100 years according to the acceleration test result. The material can also be folded after IP. It’s important to not only suggest the material, but how to use it.”

Rainbow of colours

Titanium is ideal for architecture applications because it is very lightweight and easy to install to a great height. In a seismically active country such as Japan which experiences many earthquakes each year, it improves the safety of tall structures and is an economical investment over the lifespan of the project. However it is the company’s expertise in the surface treatment of Ti that is driving its innovations in the architecture sector. Ti sheets for both interior and exterior use are produced in various textures and a huge array of colours.
“We like to think that we can expand the imaginations of architects and designers with the many possibilities they can choose from. It is possible to make titanium sheets in literally any colour.” The colour on the surface of the titanium is set by the thickness of the oxide film which is controlled by anodic oxidation. To achieve colours with a shimmering ‘glitter’ effect such as Hyperbeta, the colouring is treated in the furnace and then coloured by anodization. NSSMC’s expertise lies in its advanced knowledge of how to control the stability of the oxide layer to produce the exact shade required. An interesting benefit of this process is that titanium can be made to resemble other materials. For example titanium can be produced in verdigris colour to resemble copper roofing. 
For restoration or preservation projects it can exactly replicate wooden beams. “This is a very interesting development for the restoration of old buildings” explains Mr. Kuroda. Titanium has a very long life span and as long as the coloured oxide layer is not harshly scratched it will last the lifetime of the panel.

Unique animation technology

NSSMC has developed exclusive and unique animation software to allow designers to view three dimensional on-screen models of the objects, walls or roofs they wish to clad in the colour and texture finish of their choosing. This technology allows designers and architects to visualize and expand on their ideas by showing exactly how a finished wall or roof will appear, opening up new possibilities for Ti usefor interiors and exteriors.
The animation software is not limited to architecture applications, explains Mr. Kuroda. Designers of homeware such as cups, plates and other domestic items also make use of the technology to produce high end, coloured titanium.
The coloured and textured Ti material is branded TranTixxii and is marketed as “Design Titanium” to a wide range of customers including end-users, architects and designers. The company aims to increase demand by improving the added value to the final products by developing new products together with customers.

“When designers come to us and say “I want to make this” we are able to provide 3D computer simulations of the rooms, building, roofs or objects showing the titanium in whatever finish and colour they desire. It is changing the way the world sees and uses this durable and beautiful material.”