“We are working to strengthen our ability to
provide solutions to our customers”

Elected as new President and CEO of Teijin Limited, Akimoto Uchikawa has replaced Jun Suzuki at the head of the Japanese group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of carbon fibre, aramid and composites. After his first 6 months of governance Uchikiwa outlines for JEC Composites Magazine the group’s development and sustainability strategies and discusses the affect of the Covid-19 crisis on its business. This interview has been published in the JEC Composites Magazine N°148.

“We are working to strengthen our ability to<br data-lazy-src=

5 minutes, 10 secondes

JEC Composites Magazine: Could you tell us about your background in composite materials and your responsibilities at Teijin prior to becoming CEO?
Akimoto Uchikawa:
“I have been involved in the field of high-performance materials since I joined Teijin more than 30 years ago. I served as general manager of the Composites Business Unit in fiscal 2020, and as president of Teijin’s overall Materials Business, including the Carbon Fibre, Aramid and Composites Business Units, in fiscal 2021. The Composites Business Unit integrates Teijin Automotive Technologies’ (formerly Continental Structural Plastics (CSP), acquired by Teijin in 2017) engineering capabilities to collaborate with automotive OEMs from the early stage of their programmes and provide cutting-edge components that make vehicles environmentally friendly, lighter, safer, more energy effcient and more durable. As a result, we have been working on largescale programmes for pickup trucks and other vehicles. We have been highly evaluated by customers and received innovation awards from major North American OEMs. In addition, we promoted the integration of the business brands of related group companies operating in the United States, Europe, and Asia.”

Teijin/Teijin Group CEO Message

JEC Composites Magazine: What key composite developments are you pursuing to make the Group’s motto “Sustainable Solutions for your Ideas” a reality?
Akimoto Uchikawa:
“In addition to our high-performance materials, we are working to strengthen our ability to provide solutions to our customers by integrating a wide range of materials and technologies. We are evolving from being a provider of high-performance, highly- functional materials to being a solutions provider in order to be closer to society and customer challenges. Combining the know-how cultivated over many years, we will work towards a common vision in order to become the OEMs’ go-to resource for all things related to lightweighting, especially in the mobility industries.
For example, we are currently leveraging our collective materials expertise to develop lightweight multi-material battery enclosures that are less complex than their metal counterparts. These enclosures are also easier to service and can be made from our proprietary flame-retardant materials, which prevent thermal runaway. We are also working on lightweight and durable honeycomb technologies with a Class A finish.
Furthermore, we are pursuing new endeavours in areas such as action on climate change and promotion of a circular economy through recycling technologies, bio-derived materials, the use of green energy and life-cycle assessments (LCA).”

JEC Composites Magazine: What are the main application sectors for Teijin’s composite products?
Akimoto Uchikawa:
“We mainly provide composites based on carbon and glass fibre for applications such as automotive exterior and structural components, aircraft structural materials, industrial machinery and sporting goods.”

Multi-material battery enclosure

JEC Composites Magazine: What are the main goals of your new carbon fibre initiatives with Fujitsu and Fuji Design, and how are these projects progressing?
Akimoto Uchikawa:
“We are not only trying to provide recycling technologies and materials, but also the infrastructure required for a circular economy, as well as the necessary materials and technologies. What society needs is neither recycling technology nor recycled materials. Society wants solutions that contribute to reducing its environmental impact. As an environmentally-advanced company, we want to lead the way.
Considering the environmental contribution of the materials industry in the future, we can assume that traceability, not only for materials but also for product recycling, will become more important. So, we decided to create new value by using Fujitsu’s traceability- related know-how. The project will not only trace the resource cycle, but also reflect it in LCA and the creation of environmentally-friendly designs as a new value.
As for the project with Fuji Design, we aim to accelerate recycled carbon fibre business in order to reduce the amount of used CFRPs landfilled or incinerated and contribute to a lower environmental footprint, as there are only a limited number of companies in the world that are able to mass-produce and commercialize recycled carbon fiber so far.

JEC Composites Magazine: How did the COVID-19 crisis affect your strategy for the development and delivery of composite materials?
Akimoto Uchikawa:
“The spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting governmental restrictions on people’s social and economic activities worldwide have continued. Although demand mainly recovered in the automotive and aircraft industries in fiscal 2021, supply chain operations remained sluggish in various industries, while factors such as the semiconductor shortage and the rise in raw material and fuel prices and logistics costs had massive adverse impacts on corporate performance.
Meanwhile, we have been implementing various investments to enhance our future profitability despite the COVID-19 pandemic, including a new automotive composites plant for a new programme with OEMs and a new carbon fibre plant in view of the recovery in the aircraft industry’s demand. We are also working on carbon fibre prepreg and other thermoplastic carbon fibre intermediate materials for future aircraft applications.
Faced with the disruption of the global supply chains due to COVID-19, we also established supply chains based on the circular economy: local production for local consumption.”

Carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic used in GMC Sierra Denali

JEC Composites Magazine: Are innovation and higher-performance materials the only cards to counter increasing energy and shipping costs in the composites industry?
Akimoto Uchikawa:
“I do not see it that way… Taking electric vehicles (EVs) as an example, renewable energy and higher-performance batteries are also useful cards. We will use the tangible and intangible assets we have cultivated over 100 years to provide solutions, not just weight reduction through composites. This is what I mean by the transformation into a solutions provider. Meanwhile, we will of course provide solutions for issues where weight reduction will have the most significant effect.”

JEC Composites Magazine: The aerospace market is returning to growth. How are you organizing your operations to satisfy this demand while ensuring your sustainability targets are still met?
Akimoto Uchikawa:
“The demand for air travel is recovering, mainly in regions with high vaccination rates, in addition to the strong demand for cargo transport. As a result, the demand for carbon fibre for aircraft applications is also showing signs of recovery.
In anticipation of the increasing demand for small and medium-sized aircraft in the near future, we are focusing on expanding our carbon fibre intermediate material line-up, such as thermoplastic prepreg, thermoplastic consolidated laminates and textile prepreg for next-generation aircraft with improved fuel efficiency, lower manufacturing costs and recyclability. We are also working on utilizing recycled materials and participating in research organizations for the joint development of innovative carbon fibre materials for next generation aircraft.
Through these efforts, we will not only reduce the weight of aircraft but also foster environmentally-friendly design in order to make air travel more compatible with the advent of a sustainable society.”

This interview has been published in the JEC Composites Magazine N°148.

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