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“TOP Machining Technology” – Chapter 1 (Cont.9)

2022.11.16

With conventional basic materials, processing is becoming increasingly difficult due to the diversification of materials, in addition to the miniaturization of products and parts that cannot keep up with the world’s most advanced technological developments.

Let us now trace the history of manufacturing from the perspective of materials.

Humanity’s use of materials, which began with the processing of stones and wood to make weapons and farming tools, made dramatic progress when we learned to use fire.It was discovered that metals contained in minerals could be extracted by firepower. This bronze was mainly used for weapons and ornaments, giving power to the rulers of the time. As time went by, it became possible to create a metal stronger than bronze by using higher firepower. That metal was iron. Since then, iron has been widely used as a material that is hard, strong, and can be freely processed according to its use. In the modern era, the use of iron spread to all kinds of industries: iron played a leading role in Japan’s first railroad, which opened in 1872, as well as in shipbuilding, which was the starting point of industrialization. To build a large ship, iron must be cut, bent, and shaved. Power devices such as steam locomotives and power engines would not have been developed without the presence of highly workable iron. Various parts for shipbuilding were manufactured in company towns around major shipbuilding companies, and the technical skills of machining were refined.

It is no exaggeration to say that the roots of all heavy industry, including the processing industry, lie in the shipbuilding industry. Automobiles and home appliances in the 20th century would not have spread rapidly without the use of iron as a material. This is because not only the products themselves, especially automobiles, are made of iron, but also the equipment used to manufacture them. In this way, iron has supported all industries as a “basic material” and enriched our lives. However, as we enter the 21st century, there is now a demand for lighter weight automobiles and airplanes in order to reduce fuel consumption. Furthermore, as cutting-edge research and development is conducted in all fields, including space development and medicine, conventional basic materials are no longer sufficient. Take the automobile industry, for example. The history of car manufacturing has been a continuous process of trial and error in pursuit of weight reduction. This is because, as each new piece of equipment is added, the car body becomes heavier and larger, while downsizing and weight reduction of parts is essential to improve fuel efficiency.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s “Trends in the Size (Weight) of Passenger Cars (Private and Commercial),” the average weight of passenger cars has increased by about 400 kg over the past 30-plus years (1980-2013). By reducing the weight of the vehicle by 100 kilograms, the fuel consumption is reduced to 1 per liter.  By reducing the weight of the vehicle by 100 kilograms, the fuel consumption is reduced to 1 per liter. From the fact that it is said that the kilogram will increase, we can understand the magnitude of the impact that weight reduction has on fuel efficiency. In particular, in recent years, there has been a shift away from steel and toward other materials in order to reduce vehicle weight. Specifically, nonferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and titanium are being used, and the ratio of lightweight materials such as resin and composite materials called CFRP is increasing.