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Toshiba Materials in Major Investment to Increase Silicon Nitride Ball Production Capacity

Toshiba Materials Co., Ltd. (President: Katsuaki Aoki) today announced a
major investment in a new manufacturing facility for silicon nitride balls
on the same site as its headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. The project has a
budget of over 5-billion yen (approx. US$38 million) and is expected to see
production start in November 2023. It will increase capacity by 50% against
fiscal year 2021.

Continued advances in automobile electrification requires solutions that go
beyond higher voltage batteries and shorter charging times. One measure to
reduce costs and improve performance is the integration of motors and
inverters. Although this increases risk of electrolytic corrosion[1] in
motor bearings[2], the problem can be overcome with hybrid bearings, which
replace standard steel balls with ceramic balls with steel inner and outer
races. Advantages of high reliability, excellent strength and superior wear
resistance are increasingly positioning ceramic balls as the solution of
choice.

Toshiba Group has long recognized the potential of fine ceramic products,
and won basic patents for silicon nitride compounds as early as 1974. Today,
Toshiba Materials, spun off from Toshiba in October 2003, continues to
advance R&D and manufacturing of silicon nitride balls, recognized for their
reliability and for delivering the highest mechanical performance of any
silicon balls. Its experience and record of success in bearing balls that
meet demands for high speed rotation and anti-electrolytic corrosion,
including machine tools, wind power generators and rolling stock, have won
the company about 50% of the world market[3]. With significant increases in
demand for bearings for electric vehicles on the horizon, Toshiba Materials
has now decided to make this significant investment in increasing capacity.

The new production facility will be built on the company’s headquarters
site, where an old building, no longer in use, will be demolished to make
way for it. The new facility should be seen as the first phase of expansion,
and Toshiba Materials is already considering further expansions to meet
future demand growth.

Toshiba Materials will continue stable supply of high quality products, and
will contribute to increased use of environmentally friendly electric
vehicles.

Features of silicon nitride balls

Low density: less than half the weight of a steel ball of the same size
High heat resistance
Resistant to electrolytic corrosion, as it is an insulator
Resistant to corrosion and rust caused by acids and alkalis
A non-magnetic material, not easily affected by a strong magnetic field
1 Electrolytic corrosion: damage to a bearing caused by a current flowing
through it.
2 Bearing: A part that allows a shaft to rotate smoothly in a machine.
Formed with an inner race, balls, and outer race.
3 Toshiba Materials’ investigation, July 2022

About Toshiba Materials

Toshiba Materials Co., Ltd. (http://www.toshiba-tmat.co.jp/en/) was spun off
from Toshiba Corporation in 2003. With material designing technology as its
core capacity, Toshiba Materials supplies materials and components essential
for society’s development. Main products include metallic materials,
components, fine ceramics parts and chemical materials. In the year ended
March 31, 2021, net sales totaled 24.3 billion yen (approx. USD 210
million).

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