Kobe Steel Ltd., based in Kobe, Japan, has announced that it will expand production capacity at its Takasago steel powder plant to 110,000 metric tons from 96,000 metric tons annually. Production is slated to begin in 2021. The company’s steel powder is mainly used in powder metallurgy to make automotive sintered parts, and, according to the company, it has nearly a 50 percent share of the domestic market in Japan.
On the heels of the company’s expansion announcement, a Tokyo court fined the company ¥100 million (US$90 million) for its involvement in data fabrication over the course of 40 years. The court said that the company had fabricated product-quality data at its domestic plants. The Tachikawa Summary Court found that three of the company’s plants had sent out nearly 300 false product certificates from September 2016 to September 2017. Prosecutors sought the large fine because Kobe Steel, “damaged the credibility of made-in-Japan products” by creating the false reports over the 40-year time period. The company was also accused of violating the law preventing unfair competition. In March 2018, the company’s own report on the issue showed that the company had supplied aluminum and copper products with falsified product certificates to more than 600 firms domestically and abroad. Manufacturers used the metal powderss to make bullet trains and aircraft, among other products.
Kobe Steel has been producing steel powders since 1968 and was the first company to use an atomization process in Japan. The company produces steel powders for various applications, including powder metallurgy, soil and groundwater remediation, and motor and reactors, and others.