Table Speech

Past, Present and Future of Special Paper

March 29, 2017

Mr. Yoshio Inoue
President & CEO, Tomoegawa Co., Ltd.

 There is no clear definition of special paper, but if I may, it would be something like “paper with properties different from standard paper, utilized for specific purposes.” Some products can be classified as special paper at first and gradually become standard paper through commoditization.

 Paper was first invented in ancient China. Papermaking technology was invented in 105 A.D. by Cai Lun, a court official of the Later Han Dynasty. Western paper is manufactured through “pulping (separate fibers from woodchips and convert into pulp)” and “papermaking” processes. Standard paper is manufactured by specialized paper machines that integrate the two processes. Special paper is manufactured by multi-purpose paper machines which use outsourced pulp to produce high-mix low-volume products.

 Over 100 years ago when our company was founded, there was increasing demand for various types of special paper, ranging from electric insulating paper and telecommunication paper we had imported from overseas back then to thin paper for packaging and decorative paper called “fancy paper” which is classified under special printing paper today. As Japan achieved rapid economic growth after the War, the paper industry came to enjoy increasing demand for different types of special paper, including industrial paper and communication paper. Coupled with the development of processing techniques of “impregnation,” “coating” and “bonding,” special processed paper came into usage.

 I must say special paper business is more susceptible to technological innovation than standard paper. For example, our company no longer produces tabulating card paper while electric insulating paper has only limited application today as it is replaced by plastic materials.

 As we entered the 1980s, we witnessed a burgeoning demand and commoditization of thermal recording paper as well as the development of “functional sheet” that utilizes chemical, inorganic or metallic fiber as raw materials and is defined as “wet nonwoven fabric.” Around 2000, the special paper and the functional sheet were combined to make a “special functional sheet” and are widely utilized today.

 Majority of special paper products have a relatively short product lifetime, yet the business as a whole has survived. We owe much to our predecessors for their incessant quest for innovative ideas, materials and technological development that pioneered new business domains.

 As we are entering the fourth industrial revolution with accelerating IoT (Internet of Things), there is a growing demand for inorganic fiber sheet and special paper which have characteristics to control heat, electricity and electromagnetic waves. I am determined to learn from the pioneering spirit of our predecessors and work towards innovative development of our industry.

About Concrete and Utility Poles

March 29, 2017

Mr. Katsuhiko Amiya
Chairman & CEO, Nippon Concrete Industries Co., Ltd.

1. About concrete
 Concrete is an essential material used in civil engineering and construction. Together with steel, it contributes to ensure safe and reliable infrastructure but I regret to say its social benefits are underestimated compared with steel.

 Concrete is made by mixing sand, gravel and water and adding cement to bind the materials together. The “strength” of concrete mixture is proportional to the “mixing ratio”. You may have come across the word “high-strength concrete” in advertisements for high-rise condominiums. “Ultrahigh strength concrete” has enabled the construction of skyscraper condominiums. Concrete has high “compression” strength but low ability to bear “tensile” stress. This is why concrete is usually reinforced with steel for wider utilization. Compressive stresses are induced in “pre-stressed concrete” to gain even greater tensile strength.

 The history of concrete dates back 2000 years to the Roman times. The oldest concrete called the “Roman concrete” enabled the construction of spectacular structures, including the world’s oldest Roman Pantheon made entirely out of concrete without the reinforcing support of steel. Thanks to the superior durability of Roman concrete, ancient structures have endured for millennia. Research results conducted in Japan over the past decade show that Roman concrete equaled modern concrete in strength. Also, Romans added ingredients like horse hair to prevent cracks and blood to make it more frost-resistant. Unfortunately, these innovative ideas disappeared with the collapse of the Roman Empire and we had to wait until the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century when modern concrete came into use.

 Looking at the future, I can say long-life concrete will become common. The Ministry of Construction launched a technological development project in 1998 towards achieving a 500-year-lifetime concrete. I can also say precast concrete will come to replace cast-in-place concrete quickly to become the majority, thanks to greater control over material quality and workmanship in precast plants.

2. About utility poles
 The Upper House passed a bill last December to promote the elimination of the vast network of 35 million utility poles by replacing them with buried lines. This is to improve the disaster prevention properties of roads, to ensure safe and pleasant traffic space and to improve the urban landscape. Concrete utility poles being our leading product, we pay close attention to the government plan.

 Let me highlight two issues to overcome. One is the enormous cost for installing underground power lines, estimated to be 400-500 million yen per kilometer, 10 times more than utility poles. It could cost as much as 500 trillion yen to bury all the utility poles. Another issue is the time-consuming construction to bury cables, currently estimated to take 7 years for 400-500 meters.

 Before I close my speech, let me highlight that to facilitate the elimination of utility poles, we must stipulate programs with tangible objectives and sound financial management, based on a long-term comprehensive promotion plan. We should also review other options, including the installation of smaller-diameter utility poles for the safety of pedestrians.