Hitachi Metals has now become Proterial
Making a material difference
When January comes around, many of us make plans and resolutions for the year ahead. Japan-based company Hitachi Metals has taken a particularly momentous step. On January 4, 2023, the company will make a new start as Proterial, Ltd.
The company consists of two divisions — Advanced Metals, and Advanced Components and Materials — which make products for the automobile, infrastructure and electronics sectors. The company had sales of 942.7 billion yen in FY2021 and its proprietary products are found everywhere, from vehicles, trains and aircraft to smartphones and industrial robots.
Combining “pro-” with the word “material”, the new name is a reflection of the essence of the corporate philosophy. While “pro-“ represents the company’s “three pros” — professional (work that exceeds expectations), progressive (a spirit that keeps challenging) and proactive (an enterprising attitude), “material” refers to the high-performance materials that are the result of the company’s original technologies, which are underpinned by the three pros.
The new name also expresses Proterial’s commitment to striving for the highest standards in its original technologies, products, processes and people to bring new levels of value to its customers all around the world.
At liberty to harness megatrends
Unconstrained by the portfolio strategy of its former parent company, Proterial will be free to accelerate its programme of transformation and growth, as well as enjoying easier access to the external expertise needed to navigate a fast-changing business landscape and to the capital needed for investment in growth.
Proterial has staked out strong positions in multiple growth areas. Long a leader in components for petrol-driven cars, the company also makes a wide range of products for every kind of electric vehicle (EV). According to a recent International Energy Agency report, EV sales, which doubled in 2021, have increased by a mind-boggling 55 times since 2012, so this is a market that is indeed expanding in “ludicrous mode”.
Highlights for Proterial in the EV space include its NEOMAX® series of proprietary neodymium magnets. More powerfully magnetic than ordinary ferrite magnets, neodymium magnets help make EV motors smaller, lighter and more energy-efficient. This explains why more than one in six of all EVs sold last year contained them.
Proterial continues to innovate aggressively in this area. Recently, it used its proprietary microstructure control technologies to develop materials for lithium-ion batteries that will reduce the cobalt content of the cathode by a hefty 80%. Cobalt is not only a very scarce resource but is also responsible for large volumes of greenhouse gas emissions in the battery manufacturing process, so the less of it that is used, the better.
The same focus on lower-environmental-impact technologies can be seen in the amorphous alloys Proterial makes to contribute to the energy efficiency of power transformers. While traditional transformers are highly inefficient because they consume power when in standby mode as well as when changing the voltage, transformers that use Proterial’s proprietary amorphous alloy Metglas® consume two-thirds less standby power than ones using conventional materials.
Ready for next-generation technologies
Soaring demand for low-impact, energy-efficient technologies is far from the only megatrend which Proterial is addressing. The company makes products for many of the technologies integral to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, from robotics and 3D printing to artificial intelligence.
Take factory automation as an example. Proterial makes high-performance magnets, linear motors and cables for the industrial robots that are helping industry deal with a global labor shortage. Using its materials know-how, Proterial has created uniquely flex-resistant cables for the moving parts of robots which have the capability to withstand repeated bending and twisting that is part and parcel of machines performing complex tasks at superhuman speeds.
Nowhere is the same combination of durability and reliability more crucial than in aerospace, where lives are at stake. Here, Proterial has deployed its metallurgical mastery to create structural components for landing gear that can withstand repetitive heavy loads, and for aero-engines that can withstand high-temperature, high-pressure combustion gasses and high-speed revolutions. As the pandemic recedes and air travel gets back to normal, demand is starting to take off.
Coming back to Earth, we live in a world where electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets permeate our lives 24/7. Here too, Proterial has a crucial role to play, creating materials for the metal masks of organic electroluminescent displays, and clad metals that help reduce the thickness, weight and number of components in mobile devices, making them more portable and user-friendly.
The development-driven company
What is behind this track record of broad-based innovation across multiple product categories? Two factors are at work. The first is Proterial’s century-long tradition of “co-creation”. The company makes a point of getting close to its customers and grasping their specific needs before deploying its accumulated know-how to devise genuinely one-of-a-kind solutions. The second is a serious commitment to research and development. Proterial has three research centers of which one, the Global Research and Innovative Technology Center (GRIT), collaborates with research institutes, universities and corporations in an open-innovation model to develop innovative sustainable advanced materials around medium- to long-term themes. The company, which prides itself on creating unique products that offer best-in-class performance and often have top market share, is targeting an increase of the share of sales generated by new products from 16% now to 30% by 2030.
Proterial is now taking the opportunity to redefine its mission and values around the most pressing challenges of the 21st century: It knows that it is only by conducting its activities with unfaltering integrity that it can meet the expectations and trust of the communities it serves. By creating new and ongoing value, it plans to help customers realise innovation and contribute to a sustainable society. With a combination of professional determination, progressive intent and proactivity, Proterial will strive to provide exceptional materials that pave the way to a brighter future for the world.
Founded in 1910. Reborn in 2023.
Hitachi Metals is now Proterial, a company committed to making best-in-class materials. Found in everything from trains, planes and automobiles to smartphones, industrial robots and power generation equipment, its products are helping pave the way to a brighter future.