BreakThrough Interview

A Pioneering Company in Water Jet CuttingYoneyama Seisakusho Co., Ltd.

2017.01.20

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Example of Water Jet Cutting (CFRP)

  • This article covers the story of a manufacturing company based in the Tama region of Japan that succeeded in transitioning from a PCB mold business to a water jet cutting business.

Water jet cutting slices materials with ultra high-pressure and high-speed water

As a contractor, Yoneyama Seisakusho Co., Ltd. specializes in water jet cutting. The mechanism of water jet cutting consists of filtrating tap water with a micron filter, mixing an abrasive agent to the water flow pressurized to around 320Mpa with a special high-pressure pump, and then ejecting that water at a speed of around Mach 2 to 3 to cut materials. The thickness of the high-pressure water flow used for cutting is around φ0.9-1.2mm, and it can be used to cut not only metal but various types of materials, including plastic, glass, ceramic, sponge, gel, wood, stone, and other natural materials. Compared to other cutting methods, water jet cutting is known to have advantages such as less thermal effect and stress on the material when cutting, and it also does not generate toxic gas or new chemical compounds, because it does not modify or alter the property of the raw material and also does not damage its functions. As a result, water jet cutting is ideal for cutting composite, laminated, soft or thin and fragile materials, because it does not distort the material when cutting.

At the company’s factory located in Mizuho town of Tokyo’s Nishitama district, it delicately carries out various kinds of water jet cutting projects ordered from all parts of Japan. The types of orders that the company accepts include the cutting of parts ordered by major manufacturers, prototype samples, inquiries from research institutions, as well as inquiries from artists for cutting materials for their artworks. “I hope people will first contact our company for anything related to water jet cutting,”says CEO & President Toshiomi Yoneyama.

Water jet cutting machine

Successful business shift from a PCB mold business

Yoneyama Seisakusho’s founding dates back to 1975, when Toshiomi’s father Kenji Yoneyama (currently an Adviser) renovated a space in front of his house and started designing and manufacturing PCB molds. Back then, the company received an uninterrupted stream of orders from major manufacturers and the company’s earnings increased steadily. However, as a result of the strong yen following the 1985 Plaza Accord, Japanese manufacturers started moving their factories overseas in search of cheaper labor. After Chamber of Commerce and Industry conducted company diagnosis, it commented that “mold-related work will all move overseas in the near future,” so Kenji began exploring a new business that could replace his mold business.

That was when Yoneyama Seisakusho came to know about water jet cutting, and in 1990 the company purchased a cutting machine that costed 100 million yen. Back then, the Internet use had not yet spread, so the company promoted the advantages of water jet cutting through trade shows and also made efforts in gathering information on customer needs. In the meantime, sales of the company’s mold business saw a steady decline, and its water jet cutting business had developed into its core business by 1993. From 1996, the company specialized in contracting water jet cutting projects.

Head Office of Yoneyama Seisakusho

Contributing to manufacturing by leveraging its cache of unique cutting know-how

The Tama region, where the head office of Yoneyama Seisakusho is located, is known as an area where many SMEs involved in manufacturing are located. A major factor that enabled the company to weather trials of time—such as the collapse of the bubble economy in Japan and increasingly globalized economy—and successfully continue its business was its departure from a business model that depended on subcontracting projects from large companies and evolving into a proposal-based company focusing on its own one-of-a-kind technology.

“I hope to take advantage of our network with excellent companies in the Tama region to contribute not only to manufacturing in Japan, but also manufacturing in the world,” shares Toshiomi.

Currently, the company has approximately 600 clients, and it centrally manages production from order to delivery by using a database system it created in-house that can be operated on an iPad. In addition, this database system makes it possible to share with all employees the individual work details as well as cautionary details to note when conducting cutting work.

Toshiomi says, “While there are other companies that have entered the water jet cutting market, I believe we are the only company that has the accumulated know-how to handle any kind of material and conduct the cutting work well. Moreover, we are carrying out research of cutting technology and the materials themselves to improve our technological capacity.”

President Toshiomi Yoneyama

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Yoneyama Seisakusho Co., Ltd.

As a contractor, Yoneyama Seisakusho Co., Ltd. specializes in water jet cutting.

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