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Mitsubishi electric plans investment for its mechatronics division.

It was 1969 when the term "mechatronics" was coined by a Japanese engineer Tetsuro Mori, and his employer Yaskawa Electric Corp. registered it as a trademark three years later. But it quickly became a popular generic word and concept, at least in Japan, as the electronics industry there began to grow substantially.

These days Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (Tokyo) uses the word for one of its six operating divisions--without being challenged by Yaskawa, now perhaps best known for its Motoman robots.

Mitsubishi's mechatronics products, varying in size from electronic tally counters for on-highway vehicles to large laser-machining equipment, have steadily grown. Mechatronics-division officials are expecting their sales in the current year will rise 2% to an estimated [yen] 880-billion (around $7.3-billion) for the year ending March, while operating profits are likely to go up 8% to [yen] 104-billion. Of that sales total, car starters and other automotive components would account for about half, while machine-tool-related products will account for some [yen] 90-billion (around $750-million), including electric discharge machines, CNCs, and laser equipment.

Estimating that worldwide demand for both laser and electric-discharge machines could increase by as much as 40% by 2010--a figure mentioned by Akira Sugiyama, the senior executive officer supervising the mechatronics operations--Melco has opted for an aggressive investment policy. It calls for spending $125-milion by 2008, a figure that includes $33-million already spent for a CO2-laser parts factory at Kani, Gifu Pref., which will start up in May. Parts will be transported to Nagoya for assembly.

In addition to the parts facility, the group is scheduled to construct a product-development center, also at Nagoya, starting in May, with another $33-million earmarked. Upon completion in March 2008, 460 engineers who are now at nine sites inside the big complex will move to the three-story building. The staff is likely to rise to 505 by 2010, according to Sugiyama. The center, whose top priority will be on nano-technology, is slated to begin running in May 2008.

Meanwhile, on the marketing and user support side, the company recently opened a $4.2-million mechatronics center at Amagasaki, Hyogo Pref., which will cater to mainly EDM and laser-machine users in western Japan. The company's third such facility, after those in Saitama, near Tokyo, and Nagoya, it is equipped with a showroom for 17 machines.

The company is shifting emphasis from its EDM-capacity build-up in recent years to laser. A larger output is needed partly because of supplies to Amada Co. (lsehara, Kanagawa Pref.) under an OEM agreement (see M.I.R., 5/12/2005). An Amada source says merely that its "sales in Europe, based on our tie-up with Mitsubishi," is going smoothly. For its part, Mitsubishi won new orders for 300 units in Japan in the six months to Sept. 2006, while expecting orders for 120 units from European companies for the entire fiscal year ending March. Mitsubishi and Amada face competition with Yamazaki Mazak Corp. (Oguchi, Aichi Pref.) and Nippei Toyama Corp. (Tokyo).

Division managers believe that domestic-Japanese EDM sales would meet their fiscal 2006 target of 2,500 units. By comparison, its monthly capacity at Nagoya is rated at 300 units. In that year, Chinese joint venture Mitsubishi Dalian Industrial Products Co. (Dalian, Liaoning Province, China) is likely to deliver 560 units versus its monthly capacity of 125. The subsidiary is opening its tenth sales and support center at Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in April.

From our Asian correspondent.
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Publication:Metalworking Insiders' Report
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Feb 9, 2007
Words:568
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