Hosokawa Micron is a global leader in a niche area: fine powder processing equipment. The company estimates that it has a global market share of approximately 30%, including sales and engineering. Fine powders are required for a broad range of fields and applications (from wheat flour to convenience foods, foundations and other cosmetics, chemicals, resins, pharmaceuticals, lithium-ion battery materials, magnetic and other electronic materials, minerals, materials for automotive parts, and construction materials). The equipment for processing these fine powders encompasses mills*1, classifiers*², mixers*³, bag filters*4, dryers*5, agglomerators*6, particle design*7, and measuring equipment*8. The global market for general powder-processing equipment is worth around JPY1.8tn. Hosokawa Micron serves a sub-market (high-value-added sales, engineering, and aftersales of systems for producing fine powder processing equipment), which Shared Research estimates to have a market size of around JPY200bn.
*1 Mills: Machines that apply energy in the form of hammers or jets to convert solid materials to powders
*2 Classifiers: Machines that separate particles by size
*3 Mixers: Machines that combine different powders into consistent mixtures
*4 Bag filters: Machines that collect powders by separating airborne particles from gases
*5 Dryers: Machines that produce dry powder by applying heat to evaporate moisture or organic solvent
*6 Agglomerators: Machines that apply pressure to create particles, granules or flakes of a desired size
*7 Particle design: Machines that combine ultrafine powders to create composite particles with new physical characteristics
*8 Measuring equipment: Equipment that measures fluidity, the amount of coarse powder, wettability, and electrical properties such as electric charge
In FY09/21, Hosokawa Micron had sales of JPY60.8bn (+13.6% YoY) and recurring profit of JPY6.6bn (+31.3% YoY). The Powder Processing Equipment business accounted for 75.1% of sales and the Blown Film business for 24.9%. In the Powder Processing Equipment business, the company sells standalone powder-processing equipment and systems and provides services (engineering, aftersales, and toll processing of powder). The Blown Film business was originally a main business of Alpine, a German firm Hosokawa Micron acquired. In this business, the company produces high-performance film production equipment (that uses the inflation method to blow air into extruded plastics) and conducts system engineering.
In the Powder Processing Equipment business, the company has the world’s largest lineup of powder-processing equipment. From this portfolio, Hosokawa Micron helps customers determine powder-handling processes, select individual equipment, and set operating conditions. The company also provides system engineering, including overall control services. In addition, Hosokawa Micron offers consulting services based on its expertise in the production of high-performance powders, from micron-level milling and classification to the combination of powders. At its test centers, the company has developed and accumulated expertise on the production of powders tailored to customer specifications. Hosokawa Micron also has the engineering capabilities to build the fine powder processing systems customers need. The company has continued to develop fine powder processing technologies since its establishment in 1916. Over this time, the company has gained a substantial technological edge over competitors. Hosokawa Micron has more than 25,000 customers, including most companies that require high-performance powders. Shared Research understands this background has contributed to the company’s high level of profitability (an average recurring profit ratio of 10.4% in the three years to FY09/21, outpacing the 6.7% average for the top 50 Japanese companies in the machinery sector).
Hosokawa Micron proactively acquired global companies in the 1980s, buying five overseas manufacturers of fine powder processing equipment whose scale of business surpassed its own. In this way, the company grew into a global leader in a niche area of fine powder processing equipment, with a global share of around 30% of that market. In FY09/20, overseas sales accounted for 73.9% of the total. By region, in FY09/20 Europe accounted for 37.8% of sales, Japan for 26.1%, the Americas for 19.1%, and Asia and other regions for 16.9%. The weighting toward Europe is due to Hosokawa Micron’s acquisition of European companies: mixer manufacturers Nauta Mix (Netherlands, bought in 1982) and Vrieco Zelhem (Netherlands, 1983) and a manufacturer of integrated fine powder equipment, Alpine (Germany, 1987). In the US, Hosokawa Micron acquired US Filter systems, which mainly produces mills and bag filters, and a US Filter group company, MikroPul (US, 1985). Hosokawa Micron sees the small percentage of sales in the US and Asia (relative to the macroeconomic scale of these regions) as an issue, which it plans to address by reinforcing sales in these regions.
To date, Hosokawa Micron has used its technological expertise to develop numerous products. In the area of mills and classifiers, examples include the Micron Mill and Super Micron Mill ultrafine mills, which grind powder down to the micron level. The Micron Separator classifies powder to a given range of particle diameters, improving the performance of photocopier toner. Other developments include the Mechano Fusion system and Nobilta (particle design systems for composing powders with different characteristics). These offerings are used with materials used in the electrodes of lithium-ion batteries, other electromagnetic materials, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
Customers for fine powder processing equipment span a wide range of manufacturing industries, including chemicals, resins, food products, pharmaceuticals, electronic materials, materials for automotive components, and construction materials. Accordingly, the company’s operating performance closely tracks private-sector capital expenditure. Performance is particularly sensitive to the results of Japanese manufacturers of electronic materials, such as rechargeable battery materials (for the electrodes of lithium-ion batteries) and magnetic materials such as Neodymium.
In the Blown Film business, the company manufactures equipment for producing high-performance films, ranging from monolayer plastic for trash bags and shrink-wrapping materials to multilayer films used in packaging materials for products sold online, food product packaging, and protective films for electronics. This equipment uses the inflation method to produce these high-performance films. Recent years have seen the development of multilayer films with strong shielding properties, and the rapid expansion of e-commerce has led to growth in demand for film.
In full-year FY09/21, orders rose 20.9% YoY to JPY69.7bn; sales rose 13.6% YoY to JPY60.8bn; order backlog rose 36.7% YoY to JPY37.2bn; operating profit increased 33.0% YoY to JPY6.4bn; recurring profit was up 31.3% YoY to JPY6.6bn; and net income attributable to owners of the parent increased 41.7% YoY to JPY4.7bn. Sales and profit improved in both the Powder Processing Equipment and Blown Film segments. The average exchange rates over the period were JPY107.50/USD (JPY107.88/USD in FY09/20) and JPY128.50/EUR (JPY120.75/EUR). In the Powder Processing Equipment segment, sales were robust for applications including lithium-ion batteries, carbon black tire recycling, and cell culture media for the manufacture of medical products. In the Blown Film segment, sales of individual packaging products and high-performance barrier antibacterial films increased especially in the US, and a shift to more easily recyclable monomaterials provided a tailwind in Europe.
For full-year FY09/22, the company forecasts sales of JPY64.0bn (+5.3% YoY), operating profit of JPY5.6bn (-12.1% YoY), recurring profit of JPY5.6bn (+14.8% YoY), net income attributable to owners of the parent of JPY4.2bn (-10.6% YoY), and a year-end dividend of JPY70 per share (the company implemented a 2-for-1 stock split on October 1, 2021; a dividend of JPY135 per share was distributed in FY09/21, before the split). This forecast assumes average foreign exchange rates of JPY108/USD and JPY130/EUR. As the leading company in powder technology, Hosokawa Micron strives to provide new technologies and system engineering capabilities to suit customer needs and expand its material business (including cosmetics and hair-growth agents that leverage the company's proprietary nanoparticle composition technology), and further enhance the strength of its brand in the Blown Film segment. The company also aims to keep improving profitability by continuously introducing new products and systems with high added value.
FY09/24 will be the final year of the company’s 17th three-year management plan. The company has five strategies under this plan: strengthen intragroup collaboration to expand the global sales network; centralize and share information through digital transformation (DX); application and market-oriented marketing and product development; introduce work style reforms and cultivate human resources; and push forward with ESG/SDGs initiatives, contributing further to society and environmental protection.
World-leading levels of fine-powder processing technology and technical consulting
Engineering capabilities backed by a diverse range of fine powder processing equipment
Global M&A expertise accumulated through five major acquisitions in the 1980s
Delayed business development in the US and Southeast Asia
Low name recognition in B2C businesses (cosmetics and hair-growth agents)
Missing investment opportunities due to excessive prioritization of a robust financial structure
|Gross profit margin||35.9%||34.8%||34.1%||34.4%||35.7%||36.4%||36.9%||36.2%||36.2%||35.5%|
|Operating profit margin||9.6%||7.5%||6.9%||5.2%||8.2%||10.2%||11.5%||10.7%||9.0%||10.5%||8.8%|
|Recurring profit margin||9.5%||7.8%||7.0%||5.6%||8.3%||10.5%||11.7%||11.0%||9.4%||10.8%||8.8%|
|Per-share data (split-adjusted; JPY)|
|Shares issued (year-end; '000)||17,231||17,231||17,231||17,231||17,231||17,231||17,231||17,231||17,231||17,231|
|EPS (fully diluted; JPY)||133.3||135.7||138.3||150.3||150.6||213.6||255.9||257.2||204.2||289.2|
|Dividend per share (JPY)||18.0||24.0||30.0||30.0||35.0||35.0||55.0||55.0||55.0||67.5||70.0|
|Book value per share (JPY)||1,250||1,550||1,700||1,807||1,708||2,070||2,271||2,270||2,500||2,829|
|Balance sheet (JPYmn)|
|Cash and cash equivalents||6,126||8,237||9,915||10,017||12,642||17,446||20,087||15,867||15,445||19,943|
|Total current assets||26,226||27,282||30,701||30,500||30,162||37,122||41,074||38,623||40,557||47,189|
|Tangible fixed assets||14,623||17,583||18,662||17,480||15,528||17,086||18,012||18,868||21,681||22,901|
|Investments and other assets||1,450||1,338||1,849||2,258||1,845||2,289||2,828||2,317||2,347||2,295|
|Total current liabilities||14,287||12,912||14,327||14,158||13,193||16,656||19,191||17,641||18,024||21,562|
|Total fixed liabilities||7,625||7,868||8,946||6,233||5,996||6,217||5,725||5,639||6,580||5,617|
|Total net assets||20,705||25,694||28,193||30,323||28,690||33,965||37,299||36,832||40,575||45,939|
|Total interest-bearing debt||3,814||3,539||4,045||3,526||2,889||1,951||1,656||1,182||2,198||1,424|
|Cash flow statement (JPYmn)|
|Cash flows from operating activities||1,243||4,206||3,567||2,492||4,208||7,257||5,351||3,191||3,990||6,087|
|Cash flows from investing activities||-972||-2,271||-2,244||-1,233||659||-1,414||-1,278||-3,048||-3,877||-2,613|
|Cash flows from financing activities||-457||-825||-82||-1,273||-1,158||-2,739||-1,119||-1,928||94||-1,687|
|Total asset turnover||99.7%||100.9%||99.1%||92.7%||90.6%||94.6%||95.5%||90.5%||85.4%||87.9%|
On November 12, 2021, Hosokawa Micron Corporation announced earnings results for full-year FY09/21, and an increased dividend from surplus.
The company decided to increase the year-end dividend for FY09/21 by JPY25 per share, from its initial forecast of JPY55 per share to JPY80 per share, considering that net income attributable to owners of the parent reached a new record high in FY09/21. Including the interim dividend of JPY55 per share, the annual dividend will be JPY135 per share (JPY110 per share in FY09/20).
|Gross profit margin||36.4%||36.4%||36.3%||36.2%||35.9%||34.9%||35.3%||36.2%||35.3%||35.3%||35.5%||35.5%|
|Operating profit margin||10.9%||11.6%||10.1%||10.7%||7.1%||7.0%||6.8%||9.0%||9.5%||9.2%||9.9%||10.5%|
|Recurring profit margin||11.2%||11.9%||10.5%||11.0%||7.6%||7.6%||7.3%||9.4%||10.1%||9.8%||10.4%||10.8%|
|(JPYmn)||Q1||Q2||Q3||Q4||Q1||Q2||Q3||Q4||Q1||Q2||Q3||Q4||% of Est.||FY Est.|
|Gross profit margin||36.4%||36.4%||36.1%||36.1%||35.9%||34.0%||36.2%||38.3%||35.3%||35.4%||35.7%||35.6%|
|Operating profit margin||10.9%||12.3%||6.8%||12.2%||7.1%||6.9%||6.3%||14.3%||9.5%||8.9%||11.1%||11.9%||9.7%|
|Recurring profit margin||11.2%||12.6%||7.2%||12.5%||7.6%||7.6%||6.7%||14.4%||10.1%||9.4%||11.5%||11.9%||9.7%|
|By segment (cumulative)||FY09/19||FY09/20||FY09/21|
|Powder Processing Equipment||10,282||20,671||30,077||41,060||10,305||20,009||29,116||40,393||10,157||20,760||32,406||45,643|
|Powder Processing Equipment||1,206||2,647||3,552||5,267||1,122||2,008||2,899||4,528||1,149||2,394||4,001||5,992|
|By segment (quarterly)||FY09/19||FY09/20||FY09/21|
|Powder Processing Equipment||10,282||10,389||9,406||10,983||10,305||9,704||9,107||11,277||10,157||10,603||11,646||13,237|
|Powder Processing Equipment||1,206||1,441||905||1,715||1,122||886||891||1,629||1,149||1,245||1,607||1,991|
In FY09/21, orders were JPY69.7bn (+20.9% YoY), sales came to JPY60.8bn (+13.6% YoY), and order backlog was JPY37.2bn (+36.7% YoY). Operating profit came to JPY6.4bn (+33.0% YoY), recurring profit was JPY6.6bn (+31.3% YoY), and net income attributable to owners of the parent was JPY4.7bn (+41.7% YoY). Sales and profit increased in both the Powder Processing Equipment and Blown Film segments. The average exchange rates over the period were JPY107.50/USD (JPY107.88/USD in FY09/20) and JPY128.50/EUR (JPY120.75/EUR).
Operating profit rose YoY between FY09/16 and FY09/18, but both sales and operating profit declined YoY in FY09/19 and FY09/20. In FY09/20 in particular, sales fell 3.4% YoY and operating profit fell 19.0% YoY with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In FY09/21, despite ongoing pandemic-related risk, orders came in steadily throughout the period to reach a record high, enabling the company to achieve a V-shaped recovery. The order backlog at end-FY09/21 was also at a record high. In FY09/21, sales were second only to the JPY64.2bn achieved in FY09/98 (that year the company was involved in some narrow-margin business it no longer conducts), while operating profit was narrowly second only to the JPY6.5bn achieved in FY09/18. OPM was 10.5% (+1.5pp YoY), achieving the company's objective of getting OPM above 10%.
In October 2017, at the beginning of the 16th three-year management plan (FY09/18–JPY09/20), Hosokawa Micron indicated that it was targeting FY09/20 sales of JPY56.0bn, operating profit of JPY5.6bn, recurring profit of JPY5.6bn, and net income of JPY3.9bn. As of FY09/18, the first year of the plan, it had already hit the sales target, posting JPY56.9bn, but growth stagnated thereafter, such that FY09/20 fell short on all targets, with sales of JPY53.5bn, operating profit of 4.8bn, recurring profit of JPY5.0bn, and net income of JPY3.3bn. The main reasons for the shortfall were delays on acceptance inspections due to pandemic-related travel restrictions and postponement of capital investment in an uncertain economic environment.
Versus the full-year company forecast (revised upward on August 6, 2021), sales reached 104.7%, operating profit reached 113.8%, recurring profit 117.4%, and net income 123.7%. Sales and profits surpassed the company forecast as revised on August 6, 2021.
FY09/21 orders totaled JPY69.7bn (+20.9% YoY): JPY48.9bn (+9.9% YoY) in the Powder Processing Equipment business and JPY20.8bn (+58.5% YoY) in the Blown Film business. In the Powder Processing Equipment business, orders were robust for applications including lithium-ion batteries, carbon black tire recycling, and cell culture media for the manufacture of medical products. In the Blown Film business, orders of individual packaging products and high-performance barrier antibacterial films increased especially in the US, and a shift to more easily recyclable monomaterials provided a tailwind in Europe.
Of the roughly JPY46.3bn in equipment orders received by the company in FY09/21 (excluding aftersales and toll processing), the Powder Processing Equipment business accounted for about 55% and the Blown Film business for about 45%. Equipment orders in the Powder Processing Equipment business came to JPY25.5bn, including JPY8.0bn (about 17% of the total) for the chemical industry (excluding electronic materials), JPY4.8bn (10%) for the pharmaceutical industry, JPY4.4bn (9%) for the mining and metals industry, JPY4.3bn (9%) for the electronic materials industry, JPY3.3bn (7%) for the foods industry, and JPY700mn (2%) for the plastics industry. The chemical industry (the company's strongest field) slumped in FY09/20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has recovered, driving the 20.9% YoY increase in total orders.
While equipment orders grew YoY, aftersales orders declined YoY (the company thinks that customers were actively conducting capital investment, but that their plants were not operating at full capacity). Toll processing orders were essentially flat YoY.
The order backlog at end-FY09/21 was JPY37.2bn (+36.7% YoY): JPY25.3bn (+17.0% YoY) in the Powder Processing Equipment business and JPY11.9bn (+105.0% YoY) in the Blown Film business. The historical average delivery time is six months in the Powder Processing Equipment business and 11 months in the Blown Film business. However, as of end-FY09/21, delivery times were running one to two months longer for the former and two months longer for the latter due to supply chain issues.
FY09/21 sales came to JPY60.8bn (+13.6% YoY) on robust orders received, achieving solid double-digit YoY growth. By segment, the company reported Powder Processing Equipment sales of JPY45.6bn (+13.0% YoY) and Blown Film sales of JPY15.1bn (+15.3% YoY).
Group companies in Europe accounted for 58.1% of sales, group companies in Japan and other parts of Asia for 25.6%, and group companies in the US for 16.3%. In the Powder Processing Equipment business, the ratios of sales in Germany (Hosokawa Alpine) and Japan (parent) were relatively high, while the ratios for the Netherlands (Hosokawa Micron BV), the US (Hosokawa Micron International), and other regions were about the same. In the Blown Film business, Germany (Hosokawa Alpine) accounted for about 2/3 and the US (Hosokawa Alpine American) for about 1/3.
Sales by customer location were JPY21.8bn (+8.0% YoY; 36.0% of total) in Europe, JPY13.9bn (+0.5% YoY; 22.9% of total) in Japan, JPY12.8bn (+42.1% YoY; 21.1% of total) in other parts of Asia, and JPY12.1bn (+18.8% YoY; 20.0% of total) in the Americas.
FY09/21 operating profit was JPY6.4bn (+33.0% YoY), including JPY6.0bn (+32.3% YoY) in the Powder Processing Equipment business and JPY1.7bn (+4.2% YoY) in the Blown Film business.
GPM deteriorated 0.7pp YoY to 35.5% due mainly to changes in the product mix, but the SG&A ratio fell 2.2pp YoY to 25.0% as higher sales offset an increase in logistics costs, and travel expenses declined in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to hold down costs. As a result, OPM improved 1.5pp YoY to 10.5%.
FY09/21 capital investment totaled JPY2.5bn (-32.9% YoY). In light of the pandemic, the company curtailed its capital spending (although it will put the savings toward capital investment in FY09/22: see the "FY09/22 company forecast" section for details). FY09/21 depreciation came to JPY1.6bn (+15.4% YoY) as a consequence of increased capital investment between FY09/17 and FY09/20. FY09/21 R&D expenses were JPY880mn (+1.6% YoY; the figure was stable in the JPY800–900mn range in the five years through FY09/21).
The company decided to increase the year-end dividend for FY09/21 by JPY25 per share, from its initial forecast of JPY55 per share to JPY80 per share, considering that net income attributable to owners of the parent reached a new record high in FY09/21. Including the interim dividend of JPY55 per share, the annual dividend will be JPY135 per share (JPY110 per share in FY09/20). The company conducted a 2-for-1 split of its common stock on October 1, 2021.
In this segment, full-year orders were JPY48.9bn (+9.9% YoY), order backlog was JPY25.3bn (+18.3% YoY), and sales came to JPY45.6bn (+13.0% YoY). Segment profit was JPY6.0bn (+32.3% YoY). Demand for equipment for the toll processing business and chemical industry (the company's strongest field), which had been sluggish in FY09/20, showed signs of recovery, and demand for mill systems for use in polyester film recycling rose as global environmental awareness continued to rise. The company also received orders from all fields, including those for electronic materials and pharmaceuticals, and in the aftersales area.
Orders in full-year FY09/21 were JPY20.8bn (+58.5% YoY), order backlog was JPY1.9bn (+104.9% YoY), and sales came to JPY15.1bn (+15.3% YoY). Segment profit stood at JPY1.7bn (+4.2% YoY). Equipment used to manufacture multilayer films with five to nine layers performed well in the US for packaging and lamination, and equipment used to manufacture easily recyclable multilayer films using only polyethylene performed well in Europe. Deals closed in China, Southeast Asia, and South America, also contributed to high levels of orders.
For details on previous quarterly and annual results, please refer to the Historical financial statements section.
|(JPYmn)||1H Act.||2H Act.||FY Act.||1H Act.||2H Act.||FY Act.||1H Est.||2H Est.||FY Est.|
|Cost of sales||17,325||16,814||34,139||17,869||21,321||39,190|
|Gross profit margin||34.9%||37.4%||36.2%||35.3%||35.6%||35.5%|
|Operating profit margin||7.0%||10.9%||9.0%||9.2%||11.5%||10.5%||9.2%||8.3%||8.8%|
|Recurring profit margin||7.6%||11.1%||9.4%||9.8%||11.7%||10.8%||9.2%||8.3%||8.8%|
For full-year FY09/22, the company forecasts sales of JPY64.0bn (+5.3% YoY), operating profit of JPY5.6bn (-12.1% YoY), recurring profit of JPY5.6bn (+14.8% YoY), net income attributable to owners of the parent of JPY4.2bn (-10.6% YoY), and a year-end dividend of JPY70 per share (the company implemented a 2-for-1 stock split on October 1, 2021; a dividend of JPY135 per share was distributed in FY09/21, before the split). This forecast assumes average foreign exchange rates of JPY108/USD and JPY130/EUR.
As the leading company in powder technology, Hosokawa Micron strives to provide new technologies and system engineering capabilities to suit customer needs and expand its material business (including cosmetics and hair-growth agents that leverage the company's proprietary nanoparticle composition technology), and further enhance the strength of its brand in the Blown Film segment. The company also aims to boost profitability by continuing to introduce new products and systems with high added value.
The historical average delivery time is six months in the Powder Processing Equipment business and 11 months in the Blown Film business. However, as of end-FY09/21, delivery times were running one to two months longer for the former and two months longer for the latter due to supply chain issues. Since delays in the booking of sales have not been entirely resolved and there is uncertainty regarding COVID-19 variants and other factors, the company has conservative plans despite starting the fiscal year with a record order backlog of JPY37.2bn (+36.7% YoY).
The company's FY09/22 forecast assumes the following three cost increases (totaling roughly JPY1bn) as risk factors.
As stated, these are risk factors and may not all manifest. If they can be avoided, operating profit could exceed the projection. The company achieved OPM of 10.5% in FY09/21 and is projecting 8.8% in FY09/22, but will strive to reach at least 10%.
The company assumes rising raw material prices will have a negative impact of roughly JPY500mn. When the company receives an order, the Powder Processing Equipment business, for example, typically takes six months to fulfill it (two months for design and four months for manufacturing). For this reason, if raw material prices rise two months after the company receives an order, the procurement cost will be higher than the estimated cost at the time of the order. When the company has a sizable order backlog, profitability deteriorates as raw material prices rise, but improves as they fall.
In response to price increases for steel and other materials in May and June 2021, the company revised its prices during the summer to pass on some of the higher costs to customers. However, it is unable to pass on the difference between estimated material costs at the time of an order and the actual procurement costs incurred later. In addition, orders received before summer 2021 (especially those for the Blown Film business, which have longer lead times) will bear the full impact of further rises in raw material prices. The company has therefore factored in a cost of sales increase of roughly JPY500mn, taking into account the risk of a gap between estimated costs and actual raw material procurement costs in relation to orders included in the order backlog at the start of FY09/22.
Hosokawa Micron will negotiate with its customers to determine whether it can revise prices again in FY09/22, but in any case thinks it will be unable to pass on to customers 100% of the increase in the prices of raw materials. Customers are also facing a difficult business environment, and it would be unethical for the company to be the only one trying to secure profit.
The company plans an annual dividend of JPY70 per share. It conducted a 2-for-1 split of its common stock on October 1, 2021, and the annual dividend in FY09/21 (pre-split) was JPY135 per share (JPY67.5 per share if the split is considered).
Rather than begin the 17th three-year management plan in FY09/21, when economic uncertainty was high, the company decided to delay the launch until FY09/22. For FY09/24, the final year of the plan, it targets sales of JPY67.0bn (versus JPY60.8bn in FY09/21), operating profit of JPY6.7bn (versus JPY6.4bn), recurring profit of JPY6.7bn (versus JPY6.6bn), net income attributable to owners of the parent of JPY4.7bn (versus JPY4.7bn), OPM of 10%, and ROE of at least 10%. The plan assumes average foreign exchange rates of JPY108/USD and JPY130/EUR.
Hosokawa Micron has switched from a shareholder returns policy based on a dividend payout ratio to one based on a total return ratio. It has set a target of a 30% total return ratio, and has clarified that it aims to achieve a 30% ratio on average during the period covered by its 17th three-year plan (FY09/22–FY09/24). For more than 10 years, the company targeted ROE of 10% and a dividend payout ratio of 30%, but failed to reach the payout ratio target in any of the 10 years through FY09/21. It therefore decided to target a 30% total return ratio, which it considers a more achievable target.
The company plans to use operating cash flows generated during the three years of the 17th management plan to fund capital investment, repayment of interest-bearing debt, and shareholder returns.
Total of cash balance at end-FY09/21 and estimated cash inflows (three years): JPY37.6bn
Total of estimated cash outflows (three years) and working capital at end-FY09/24: JPY37.6bn
The company’s ongoing goal is to establish its leading-edge technologies as global industry standards. For example, Hosokawa Micron has a large share of the market for powder processing equipment for cell culture media and thinks that delivering such equipment on a global basis will enable it to become the global standard supporting cell culture media manufacturing processes. As a result, the company would be the first that less developed countries would turn to with capital investment inquiries. This basic policy will guide Hosokawa Micron in the years covered by its 17th management plan and beyond, even for the next 100 or 200 years.
To achieve its objectives, the company will conduct five initiatives: strengthening intragroup collaboration, centralizing and sharing information via digital transformation (DX), promoting market-oriented marketing and product development, introducing work style reforms, and pushing forward with ESG/SDG initiatives. It recognizes the importance of linking the five initiatives and working on them simultaneously.
The company will cultivate sales in areas where economic growth is high, such as Latin America and Africa, in an aim to expand sales in emerging markets.
The company intends to expand sales by reinforcing group ties in China, Southeast Asia, and other Asian markets where economies are growing faster than in developed countries, and also by reviewing product and sales strategies.
In existing markets, the company will propose its products to customers around the world based on its understanding of the standards they require. To standardize its products on a global basis, the company will establish a system that will enable it to quickly identify companies (especially in China and South Korea) to which it can make proposals, whether they are interested in equipment from the group's European companies or its Japanese or US companies, since Chinese and South Korean companies are expected to make capital investments to achieve the same quality as is available in Europe, the US, and Japan. Since the decision-making process is slightly different in China and South Korea, the company will determine which of the group companies' products from Europe, the US, or Japan will be the best match and make proposals accordingly.
One focus market is the lithium-ion battery market. The value chain for batteries has typically gone from materials manufacturers to battery manufacturers to automakers, but there is now a possibility the chain will skip materials manufacturers, with battery manufacturers or even the automakers themselves directly investing capital. for that purpose The company plans to respond to such changes.
Another focus market is the cell culture media market for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products, where demand is growing especially in China and the US. Hosokawa Micron says its powder processing equipment and systems enjoy a high share of this market, and it will be working to increase orders in the market. Since this is a unique field requiring specialized processing technology, there are few companies in possession of such technology.
Hosokawa Micron will also work to develop emerging markets such as those in Latin America and Africa. The company began establishing sales bases in Latin America in the latter half of 2021 and will continue to develop its sales channels and cultivate potential customers from FY09/22 onward. The reason for the focus on Latin America and Africa is that they are rich in mineral resources, so need technology for grinding and transporting minerals, but the company also intends to expand sales by capturing demand related to the local processing of fine powders, as part of a trend of emerging nations shifting from simply exporting their resources to exporting high-value-added products.
Hosokawa Micron will promote sales of manufacturing systems in addition to standalone equipment, levering its strengths (including a broad lineup of systems that encompass multiple processes, including grinding and mixing, depending on the material being handled). It also aims to increase the size of orders by selling manufacturing systems. In the past, the company's manufacturing bases in Japan, Germany, and the US delivered ancillary equipment directly to customers. However, since that increases the final proposal price, they have in recent years been sourcing ancillary equipment locally, especially in China and South Korea, for delivery to customers. This approach has allowed the company to lower its selling prices without negatively affecting operating profit. In addition to providing total systems for powder processing, the company provides aftersales services and toll processing, giving customers the advantage of having all their needs met by a single company.
Powder Processing Division: The company aims to increase the size of orders, including peripheral equipment. In Japan, performance hinges on the number of projects reaching JPY50–100mn, so the company will work to increase that number. In addition, it will determine at the R&D stage the estimated scale of customer upgrades from small to large plants. It will also work to promote its brand in overseas markets and emphasize the creation of new projects.
Pharma & Lab Division: A project team that belonged to the Powder Processing Division now functions as an independent division, starting in FY09/22. There are two reasons for this change: the regulations for pharmaceuticals are clearer than those for powder processing systems, and the new Pharma & Lab Division's focus is on orders worth less than JPY50mn, so the business strategy and marketing approach differ from those for the Powder Processing Division. The new division will make proposals for high-value-added technologies (including containment technology* and particle composition technology**). Overseas group companies usually conduct sales by field, while in Japan they are conducted by region, so the company established the Pharma & Lab Division to help it shift to a field-based sales structure. Since pharmaceuticals require more expertise than other fields, the Pharma & Lab Division stands out for its sales staff and engineers with specialized pharmaceutical knowledge. Since group companies in Europe and the US are more advanced in this field, Hosokawa Micron will actively promote the group's overseas record to Japanese customers.
*Containment technology: Technology to realize securely sealed equipment that prevents chemicals from entering the air or leaking out of equipment, where they could affect human bodies
**Particle composition technology: Technology for coating powder, for example, to make bitter medicine more palatable
After Sales Division: The company will increase its headcount of quality technicians and establish a system that enables prompt repair at customer plants, since it is beneficial to customers, the company itself, and the environment if customers use the company's equipment for as long as possible. Encouraging customers to use the equipment for a long time lowers disposal frequency, reducing overall waste and ultimately helping customers save money.
Material Business Division: The company will focus its resources on R&D, including for cosmetics and hair growth products, while pursuing collaboration with universities and pharmaceutical companies. Concurrent with development, it will prepare samples and promotional materials to cultivate overseas sales channels. The company will promote collaboration with Shionogi Pharma Co., Ltd., in the field of drug delivery system (DDS) formulation (developing production technology complying with GLP* and GMP**). It will also review the sustainability of packaging materials and consider the adoption of new materials.
*GLP (Good Laboratory Practice): Standards to ensure the safety and suitability of facilities, equipment, organizational structure, staff, inspections, procedures, and results at testing facilities conducting preclinical (or nonclinical) studies such as animal experiments (in vivo) and test-tube experiments (in vitro) related, for example, to cell culture
**GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice): Standards for manufacturing and quality control for pharmaceuticals and quasi-drugs
The company intends to reconfigure its overall IT design, analyzing and putting to use the information it has accumulated on markets, customers, and projects, as well as testing data.
By integrating production systems with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the company is building systems that will enable the remote operation of plants. In addition, the company plans to obtain and analyze detailed data on powder treatment processes, allowing it to provide high-value-added services to customers remotely. The company will provide a remote (real-time communication) service, enabling customers to check testing and measurement results obtained from the company’s test center.
The company aims to increase speed and efficiency by centralizing, standardizing, and sharing information through DX, and to build an e-learning program within the group to accumulate and utilize the group's knowledge. For example, it has begun sharing internal knowledge among group companies, such as about what is selling well in Japan, what proposals pique customers' interest, and how to process raw materials. In Japan and other parts of Asia, many of those responsible for DX also had other jobs, but the company aims to speed up the transformation process by assigning dedicated DX staff.
The company provides remote services (using real-time communication) that allow customers to remotely confirm measurement analysis and results and oversee shipping inspections without actually visiting a test center. Since the Osaka Factory began operations just as COVID-19 was spreading, the company invested additional capital to rapidly establish a system to provide remote services related to shipping inspections.
Gen4® RM is Hosokawa Micron's proprietary service integrating AI, IIoT, and big data into the powder processing workflow to monitor the operational status of production lines and accumulate operations data. Eventually, the company aims to use machine learning to analyze operations data and use AI to analyze and resolve customer needs, such as increasing production volume or reducing power consumption, which it hopes will lead to improved productivity and efficiency in customers' production lines. The company has already implemented remote monitoring and, as of early FY09/22, is verifying the implementation of predictive maintenance and efficient remote operation.
The company will research markets, by industry and material, consolidating and reflecting this information in the products it develops. The company will develop products once it has a detailed understanding or concept of the markets where they are likely to sell.
Hosokawa Micron will revamp its R&D and sales structures, reinforcing its specialized systems for R&D and creating consistent groupwide selling standards.
The company will develop products by application based on its market strategies. It will conduct market research, aggregate information on applications for individual materials, and use the aggregated information in product development. In Japan and other parts of Asia, divisions were not previously broken down by application, but Hosokawa Micron launched the Pharma & Lab Division in FY09/22 (see detail earlier in this report).
The company hopes to integrate the marketing tools used independently within the group to enable real-time viewing of global data for marketing purposes.
The company will foster its corporate culture and revamp its systems to encourage a spirit of challenge when taking on business in new fields and areas of operation.
By encouraging international exchanges of personnel, the company will cultivate human resources with a global mindset to invigorate communication within the group.
President Hosokawa thinks the company's once good corporate culture was disrupted when the company experienced a financial crisis more than 20 years ago. Thereafter, after a string of voluntary retirements, the company went on the defensive in general, a position from which it has been unable to escape over the last 20 years. President Hosokawa thinks it is important to foster a positive corporate culture once more, and discussion and communication have gradually improved during the past 10 years of growth. The company as a whole will openly strive to rebuild and renew a favorable corporate culture.
Hosokawa Micron will use internal and external online training programs to convey knowledge and skills within the company, in preparation for which it will digitize a variety of information. In Japan, it will use an in-house internship program to build the careers of personnel. In place of departmental transfers, the program will use internships lasting two weeks, three months, or six months on a project-by-project basis, with a focus on young and mid-level employees, so they can learn about what other employees at the company do.
The company has business opportunities in the areas of sustainability, environmental initiatives, and social contribution. Since the company's businesses themselves can contribute to sustainability, Hosokawa Micron hopes to contribute more by growing its businesses and improving its performance.
The company will utilize IIoT technologies, strive to optimize the operation of powder processing systems, boost operating efficiency, and conserve energy.
The company will make use of IIoT technologies to reduce waste materials.
The company will develop powder technologies aimed at making material particles finer and higher-performance, creating lithium-ion battery materials that will improve energy efficiency and contribute to decarbonization. The company will also develop technologies for materials used in solid batteries, neodymium magnets, and the silicon manufacturing equipment needed for solar cells.
In aftersales services, Hosokawa Micron intends to maintain product performance and production efficiency through optimum aftersales work.
The company uses powder coating that does not require solvent when using measuring equipment in December 2020.
The company plans to promote the development of technologies in the field of pharmaceuticals and healthcare (dental materials, cosmetics, hair-growth agents). Hosokawa Micron aims to boost permeability and efficacy of drugs and use coatings to reduce bitterness.
By developing blown film technologies, the company aims to encourage the move from multilayer films (made of multiple materials) to monolayer film (single material) for the packaging of food products and facilitate recycling.
In October 2017, at the start of its 16th three-year management plan (FY09/18–FY09/20), the company targeted sales of JPY56.0bn by FY09/20, with operating profit of JPY5.6bn, recurring profit of JPY5.6bn, and net income of JPY3.9bn. In FY09/18, the first year of the plan, sales surpassed this target, reaching JPY56.9bn. However, growth stalled after that, and in FY09/20 sales were JPY53.5bn, operating profit was JPY4.8bn, recurring profit was JPY5.0bn, and net income was JPY3.3bn. The company attributes these shortfalls mainly to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as restrictions on business trips led to delays in acceptance inspections, and an uncertain economic outlook caused companies to hold back on capital expenditures.
Hosokawa Micron sells mainly to other companies via its Powder Processing Equipment business (providing powder technology solutions) and Blown Film business (manufacturing equipment for producing high-performance films). Globally, the company develops, designs, manufactures, sells, and maintains the products needed for these businesses. The company also engages in the businesses of toll processing and measurement.
The powders produced by the processing equipment Hosokawa Micron manufactures are used across an extremely wide range of industries. Notable fields include automotive, batteries, magnets, electronic materials, ultrahard materials, construction materials, foods, pharmaceuticals, chemical products, synthetic resins, and agriculture, and the company’s equipment is used to process materials, intermediate goods, and final products.
Automotive: Bumpers, tires, metallic paints, ceramic filters
Batteries: Cathode and anode materials for lithium-ion batteries
Magnets: Neodymium magnets
Electronic materials: Crucibles for silicon production, semiconductor sealing materials, capacitors
Ultrahard materials: Tools
Construction materials: Mineral materials, gypsum, ultrafine cement, fillers, extenders, coating materials
Foods: Rice flour, powdered tea, wheat flour, spices, starch, tofu residue, dietary fiber, convenience foods, health foods
Pharmaceuticals: Tablets (orally disintegrating tablets), powdered medicines, injected medications
Chemicals: Flame retardants, liquid-absorbing polymers for disposable diapers, toner, cosmetics
Synthetic resins: Water pipes, fluorine coatings, PET bottles, synthetic fibers, biodegradable resins
Agriculture: Feed, fertilizer, pesticides
Of equipment orders received by the company in FY09/21 (roughly JPY46.3bn excluding aftersales services and toll processing), the Powder Processing Equipment segment accounted for about 55% and the Blown Film segment for about 45%. The Powder Processing Equipment business received JPY25.5bn in orders, including JPY8.0bn (17% of orders) for the chemical industry, JPY4.8 (10%) for the pharmaceutical industry, JPY4.4bn (9%) for the mining and metals industry, JPY4.3bn (9%) for the electronic materials industry, JPY3.3bn (7%) for the foods industry, and JPY700mn (2%) for the plastics industry (please refer to the "Business by segment" section for detail).
At Hosokawa Micron, powder processing does not end with the grinding*1 process. Rather, the company maintains an entire range of technologies and products to handle all related manufacturing processes, including classifying*², mixing*³, drying*4, agglomeration*5, dust collection*6, feed and discharge, transport, and storage. Measuring equipment is also necessary to check the condition of powder materials and make the most of these products. The tendency of powder to harden, flow, whirl, clump, or disperse also differs, depending on its state. Because it is more difficult to handle than gases or liquids, powder requires specialized technologies.
Hosokawa Micron is an all-around manufacturer of the major equipment used in the production of powder. This equipment extends beyond the grinding machines that produce powder and includes classifiers, mixers, dryers, bag filters, and agglomerating equipment. The company also has the engineering capability to provide comprehensive systems encompassing powder technologies.
*1 Grinding: This process involves applying energy to reduce the size of solid materials. As pieces become smaller, their total surface area increases, which can make industrial processes more efficient. In lumps of materials, different components may vary in size. Grinding them into smaller pieces allows desired components to be selectively removed (classifying). Also, smaller and more consistently sized materials are better when blending multiple materials (mixing).
*² Classifying: This process refers to separating particles by size. Making particle sizes consistent can change powder’s characteristics, adding value by boosting product performance and quality. Typically, particle sizes vary widely in the fine powders produced by applying energy to solids. Grinding makes particles smaller, but reducing the size of small particles further requires substantial energy. Also, particles that are too small can adhere too much. Classifying helps avoid these problems, and the grinding process is made more efficient by removing particles that have already reached the desired size, leaving behind those that are too coarse. Accordingly, classifying and grinding machines are often combined.
*³ Mixing: In this process, different powders are combined so they are distributed evenly throughout the mixture.
*4 Drying: Heat is applied to evaporate moisture or solvent and leave dry powder behind. Drying may also be used to adjust the temperature of powdered materials.
*5 Agglomeration: Ultrafine particles are compressed or aggregated to form granular materials, which are easier to handle.
*6 Dust collection: Airborne particles are pulled into a machine’s airflow, and the suspended particles are collected as powder. Worksites where powder is processed tend to generate dust; collection helps keep the air clean in and outside the workplace. Collection is also employed in the grinding, classifying, and drying processes to collect powder products. Around waste incinerators, ash collection helps preserve air quality.
The company develops various types of powder-processing equipment. Hosokawa Micron’s lineup also includes high-end powder-related technologies and products across a host of technical fields. This range is due to proactive technical alliances with prominent overseas manufactures such as Nauta Mix and Pulverizing Machinery. The alliances have formed Hosokawa Micron’s foundation as a comprehensive manufacturer of powder equipment.
Sophisticated engineering is needed to ensure entire powder processing systems are high-performing, energy-effective, and efficient. Since the time of establishment, the company’s test centers have amassed huge amounts of data on tests performed and products delivered. The company has system engineering capabilities, including overall control services, to decide powder-handling processes and select individual machines and set operating conditions.
The Hosokawa Micron group’s selling style focuses on responding to customer needs rather than on proactive selling. For example, the company might respond to an inquiry about “a machine that could produce this sort of powder” by building a compact unit at its test center and conducting proof-of-concept testing. Hosokawa Micron is the only company in the world to offer this sort of solution-based technologies, which it says are state-of-the-art.
A former president, Masuo Hosokawa, described the company’s technological stance as “a mountain range of powder technologies.” Through this image, he sought to convey the idea that the company’s wide variety of key powder-processing equipment and technologies were like tall mountain peaks, with the ancillary equipment, system engineering capabilities, and other expertise spreading out like supporting foothills. This view provides the backbone for its management strategy. The company aims to foster next-generation industries through advances in processing equipment, system engineering, new material development, manufacturing, and practical realization.
Hosokawa Micron is an R&D-oriented company that holds 339 patents in Japan and 117 overseas. Through industry–academia collaboration, hosting symposiums and round-table lectures, and contributing to publications specializing in powder technologies (The Micromeritics and KONA), the company strives to maintain solid relationships with researchers and uphold its competitive edge.
Hosokawa Micron says it has no competitors that can match its comprehensive capabilities encompassing R&D and engineering expertise. Instead, rivals typically specialize in certain types of equipment, such as grinding machines, mixing machines, or drying machines.
The Hosokawa Micron group develops leading-edge materials and engages in processes in a wide range of industry sectors; the company does not rely on any specific market. In recent years, lithium-ion battery materials have become a focus as the market has expanded. Even so, this is one of many key powder-related markets for the company, which also include toner, magnetic materials, resins, food products, and pharmaceuticals. Rather than limiting its mainstay markets to specific industries, within the powder market the company concentrates on high-end fields that require sophisticated technologies and seeks to meet new technological demands that go beyond existing market categories.
The company manufactures a wide range of blown film extrusion equipment. The resulting films are used in a wide range of industrial fields. These films include packaging films, barrier films for food products, and protective films for electronic equipment.
The company developed this fine grinding mill in 1930. Incorporating three basic principles of grinding (impact, friction, and shear), the unique structure of this mill made it a breakthrough product of its time. The mill was patented in 1931. The first unit was delivered to Momotani Juntenkan, where it was used to grind face powder materials.
This ultrafine grinding mill, developed in 1951, was definitive due to its ability to produce micron-level powder. The Super Micron Mill combined two Micron Mill grinding chambers to boost capacity. To prevent grinding efficiency from dropping, the Super Micron Mill used a newly developed nozzle-based separating mechanism to sort and eliminate impurities and foreign matter from base material during the grinding process. With this arrangement, the company succeeded in developing a product that was efficient at fine grinding and increased product purity. The company patented this machine as a “fine grinding mill equipped with classifying functionality.”
This classifier was jointly developed in 1955 by Masuo Hosokawa (then senior managing director) and Takuzo Matsuyama (then an associate professor at Kyoto University). Development of the Micron Separator took place alongside the Super Micron Mill. This new high-performance classifier used airflow to separate out particles in a prescribed range of sizes from materials with a broad particle size distribution. At the time of its launch, no other machine was capable of classification to that level of precision. In addition to offering the Micron Separator for sale as a standalone fine-powder classifier, the company combined it with the Super Micron Mill and other grinding machines to create efficient grinding and classifying systems. This machine earned the company patents in the US and in five countries in Europe, as well as in Japan. Its two major inventions (the Super Micron Mill and the Micron Separator) formed the basis for technical alliances the company formed several years later with prominent European and US manufacturers.
In 1984, Hosokawa Micron developed the Angmill, pioneering the nanoparticle technology of today. The rotary impact mills and fluidized fine grinding mills (Jet Mills) of the time were capable of reducing particles down to an average diameter of only 2–3 microns, no matter how much force was applied. Grinding machines typically comprised a grinding rotor that revolved inside a fixed casing. With the Angmill, this approach was reversed: the casing rotated at high speed, while the material powder was flung to and compacted by centrifugal force onto the casing walls. The material powder then could not escape from the grinding force and was effectively ground. The technology used for this ultrafine grinding mill achieved something that had proven difficult until then: continuous grinding to the submicron level using a dry process. The Angmill produced ultrafine powder (average diameter of 0.5 micron) from talc and other mineral raw materials.
Mechano Fusion, developed in 1987 based on the Angmill, was a breakthrough system for fine particle composition. The ability to compose ultrafine powders of different powder materials, fusing (not melting) the materials by applying large amounts of mechanical energy, set Mechano Fusion apart from conventional systems. Composition took place as the result of molecular bonding rather than mixing or chemical reactions. Composition was a dry process (requiring no liquid binders), opening the possibility to combine inorganic, organic, metallic, and other materials. This technology made it possible to develop particles with multiple new functions.
At the time, the concept of particle design was beginning to attract interest within the powder industry, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. The discovery that the Angmill could be used to dry-compose materials at the particle level focused attention on the Mechano Fusion system.
This system allowed ceramics and metals to be fused into materials that have the combined physical characteristics of both constituents. For example, processing powdered PMMA resin together with titanium dioxide nanoparticles (both of which have poor flow characteristics) results in a composite powder that flows much like a liquid. Photocopier toner typically exhibits low fluidity, and unprocessed toner tends to clump when it is poured into a photocopier. By contrast, toner produced using the Mechano Fusion system is highly fluid. The system is similarly used with materials for the electrodes of rechargeable batteries, other electromagnetic materials, chemical products, and pharmaceuticals.
Mixing and dispersion usually occur as the result of three actions: convection, shear, and diffusion. However, composition using nanoparticle materials requires the combination of grinding machine functions (impact, friction, and shear) to overcome extremely strong cohesive forces. However, most conventional mixers and mechanical composition machines tend to be biased toward either the convection, shear, or diffusion functions. Alternatively, the machines may not have enough power to disperse nanoparticles, resulting in agglomerate residue and the target composite particles failing to form. The Nobilta particle composing machine was developed to address this situation.
On the Nobilta, a specially shaped rotor rotates at high speed inside a horizontal, cylindrical mixing vessel. Consistent impact, friction, and shear forces act evenly on the individual particles. The ability to compose nanoparticles consistently is due to the rotor shape and arrangement. Nanoparticles are processed (precision-mixing or surface treatment) by adjusting the rotational and operating speeds. The Nobilta is used with cathode and anode materials for lithium-ion batteries, toner, photocatalysts, bearings, polymers, electromagnetic wave shield materials, magnets, and pharmaceuticals.
In addition to mechanical force, this type of bonding applies low temperature plasma and other types of physical energy to compose powder materials with new functions. In 2004, the company used plasma to activate particle surfaces, developing a particle design machine (the Nanocular P) that uses the Mechano Fusion structure to promote composition.
Hosokawa Micron was the first company to develop classifying technology capable of separating micron-level particles. This technology allows particles to be arranged according to size after grinding. Advanced powder technologies are used to produce the toner used in photocopiers and printers. Hosokawa Micron launched the first machine for producing toner, an air classifier called the Micron Separator, in 1967.
When producing toner, particle size distribution needs to be controlled stringently to ensure high-quality printed images. Initially, particle size measuring 5–25 microns was needed. At that time, the Micron Separator was the only machine capable of meeting this requirement. Later, the company developed the Super Separator (1979) and the Micron Jet (1981). Applying the engineering expertise it had accumulated, Hosokawa Micron created a complete toner production system to handle everything from mixing raw materials to final packaging. The company sold this system to most of Japan’s toner producers.
As toner production technology grew more advanced, the company developed an impact-type ultrafine grinding mill, the Innomizer (1995), and the Micron Jet, model MJT (1997). Higher-quality toner was needed to match improvements in photocopier performance. Initially, particles measuring over ten microns were suitable. This standard gradually moved to 5–6 microns, with the stipulation that finer dust be separated out. Hosokawa Micron developed technologies to meet these increasingly strict requirements.
In the 2000s, color toner became mainstream. This change gave rise to demand for toner materials whose characteristics differed by color. Demand also arose for low-temperature fine grinding to produce toner including wax to facilitate low-temperature fixing. To meet these needs, the company developed the Glacis, a high-performance, cooling-type fine-grinding mechanical mill. Using the Mechano Fusion system and the Nobilta, which were developed around the same time as Glacis, it was possible to rapidly disperse and fix silica nanoparticles onto the surface of toner particles. This approach resulted in a variety of functional improvements, such as significantly better fluidity.
As the shape of toner particles became a focus as well as particle size distribution, in 2003 the company developed Faculty, to mechanically shape particles into spheres.
The company has also developed equipment to test the physical characteristics of powders. The most widely sold instrument of this sort was the Powder Tester. With worldwide sales totaling more than 4,000 units, this model’s measurement data has made it the industry default for measuring quality standards.
In 1965, Ralph L. Carr of the US developed indices to describe powder “flowability” and “floodability,” which until then had been assessed only intuitively. In 1969, Hosokawa Micron developed a machine to take simple measurements of these indices, adding its own evaluation indices and developing the first-generation Powder Tester PT-A, the world’s first device to measure both fluidity and floodability.
Later, the Powder Tester was digitized. In the 1980s, the company developed the Powder Tester PT-N. This digital model featured a microcomputer and liquid-crystal display. The Powder Tester PT-R, developed in 1997, used a panel computer operating on a Windows operating system. Operations are shown on-screen and conducted using a touch screen. Hosokawa Micron also developed the first laser-based technology to measure angles automatically, enhancing usability and measurement precision. The Powder Tester PT-X, developed in 2011, used imaging to measure angles. The company positioned this as a global strategic product by incorporating actuator validation (calibration) and measures to shield the operator from dust.
The company developed the ACM Pulverizer BC, which was launched in 2016. This grinding mill with built-in impact-type classifier was designed to process cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries. ACM Pulverizer mills with built-in impact-type classifiers also incorporate air classifiers, which simplifies the control of particle diameters and allows them to handle a wide range of materials leveraging numerous optional parts.
The ACM Pulverizer BC used ceramics for the parts that came into direct contact with powder to avoid metal contamination* due to friction with powder. Such contamination directly affects the safety of lithium-ion batteries, so quality standards are stringent. To expand sales in China, South Korea, and other world markets where demand for such mill is increasing, the company has focused on keeping the design as simple as possible and ensuring low initial costs.
*Metal contamination: Metal particles, which are generated by collision between powder and metal part, mixed in with powder products
In the 1980s, the company developed a machine to generate fine metal particles at the nanometer level. The machine utilized technology developed for the formation of ultrafine functional particles by the Institute for Materials Research of Japan’s Science and Technology Agency. At the time, few units were sold, as industry had little need for such ultrafine particles. In the 1990s, however, the company aimed to enter into the materials business that made use of ultrafine particles, leading to the proactive introduction of a host of new technologies in Japan and overseas.
In the 2000s, the company developed the NanoCreator for synthesizing nanoparticles. In addition to mixing liquid materials, this device made it possible to synthesize nanoparticles from various material combinations and composition ratios. Product purity was high, and the technology was suited to mass production. The technology earned an award from the Ceramic Society of Japan in 2005. Also in the 2000s, the company developed formulation technologies for a drug delivery system (DDS) using polylactic co-glycolic acid (PLGA) nanoparticles. In the process of researching PLGA nanoparticles, the company found that PLGA nanoparticles could be effectively absorbed and decomposed in the skin, as well as by the alveolar and intestinal walls. This discovery led to the concept of a drug delivery system (DDS) using PLGA nanoparticles as carriers to send drugs in the desired quantities to the necessary locations. Using this DDS, the company developed cosmetics and hair-growth agents, launching consumer products such as NanoImpact and NanoCrysphere under the Hosokawa brand.
The company is pursuing technological applications in a variety of fields, in cooperation with universities and pharmaceutical companies in such areas as catheters, stents, and other medical devices. In 2002, the company exhibited this technology at the First International Nanotechnology Exhibition and Technology Conference (nano tech 2002), where it earned the First Nano Tech Grand Prize.
Production of anti-cancer drugs: As even a few milligrams of anti-cancer drugs can affect the human body, production methods are needed that prevent people from coming into contact with these drug powders. The company has resolved this issue by combining isolators and grinding machines.
Enhancing quality of life: The company contributed toward the development of drugs that do not have a bitter taste and oral dosages that can be taken without liquids by coating drugs even smaller than 1/100 millimeter before making a tablet.
Improving absorption: Many drugs developed in recent years are not easily absorbed by the human body. The company makes it possible to grind drugs down to several parts in 1/1,000 of a millimeter, enhancing absorption.
The Hosokawa Micron group’s powder technologies (grinding, classifying, spheroidization, coating, measurement, and feeding and discharging) are widely used in the production of electronic components, batteries, and magnet materials.
The company’s powder processing technologies are used for seal materials (epoxy resin, silica, carbon black) that help protect key processing units (such as ICs and LSIs) from the outside environment. The company’s technologies are also used for the electrode materials of lithium-ion batteries and in production systems for the neodymium magnets needed for electric vehicles and wind power generation.
Formed products: Hosokawa Micron provides drying machines and technologies that increase the heat resistance and robustness of electronic components, as well as eliminating residual solvents. The company’s powder technologies help enhance strength through solid-phase polymerization. In optical films used in liquid crystal displays and precision photography, transparency and fouling and the consistency of film thickness have a direct effect on final product quality. The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used in these applications is dried to around a dozen ppm at the solid formulation (pellet) stage. This level of dryness is required to ensure processing proceeds smoothly at the film stage. Uniform crystallization is also essential to ensure uniform film thickness. Hosokawa Micron’s drying system (DRS) addresses these issues.
Thin films: Films produced using the inflation method* are used for packing food products, which require preservation. The films are also used in materials for the packaging of online purchases, meeting the need for elasticity and robustness.
*Inflation method: A film production method in which different resins are extruded in cylindrical and multilayer structures and inflated by blowing air between them.
Grinding is the process of applying energy to reduce the size of solid materials. As pieces become smaller, their total surface area increases, which can make industrial processes more efficient. In lumps of materials, different components may vary in size. Grinding them into smaller pieces allows desired components to be selectively removed (classifying). Also, smaller and more consistently sized materials are better when combining multiple materials (mixing).
Grinding machines may use a revolving hammer to grind powders through impact (hammer mills) or use high-pressure air to grind on impact (jet mills). Jet mills do not generate heat themselves and also tend to dispel internal heat. This feature suits jet mills to grinding materials that are susceptible to heat. Grinding machines may be dry or wet; Hosokawa Micron’s grinding machines are mostly of the dry variety.
Classifying refers to the process of separating powder particles by size. Making particle sizes consistent can change a powder’s characteristics, adding value by boosting product performance and quality.
Typically, particle sizes vary widely in the fine powders produced by applying energy to solids. Grinding makes particles smaller, but reducing the size of small particles further requires substantial energy. The grinding process is made more efficient by removing particles that have already reached the desired size, leaving behind those that are too coarse. Accordingly, classifying and grinding machines are often combined.
Classifiers can separate out, by size, powders composed of numerous large particles. They can also eliminate large particles mixed in with finer powder.
Fine impact mill with built-in classifier
Impact-type jet mil
(Micron Jet T MJT*2)
Fluidized bed opposed jet mill
(Counter Jet Mill® AFG-CRS*3)
*1 ACM Pulverizer: This fine impact mill has a built-in, high-performance classifier. The mill is used around the world in many industries, including pharmaceuticals, food products, chemicals, resins, and minerals. Fine impact mills typically offer better value for money than jet mills, in terms of both initial costs and running costs (electricity costs). To date, the company has delivered 2,500 units to customers in Japan. By adjusting the rotating speed of the grinding rotor and the classifying wheel, operators can easily control the product size. This model is used with a wide range of materials. A fixed quantity of material is brought into the chamber, where it is drawn between a hammer (grinding rotor) rotating at high speed and a grooved liner that is fixed in place, and the material is ground due to impact from both sides. After the grinding process, circulating airflow carries the powders into the classifying section, where they are classified by the classifying wheel. The coarse material is affected by centrifugal force and flows back to the grinding chamber. Airflow carries particles that have been ground to sufficiently fine powder through the classification wheel to the collector, where they are discharged as products.
The ACM-A produces particles with an average diameter of 10–100μm, while the high-speed ACM-H (circumferential velocity of 130m/s for grinding rotor) produces particles averaging less than several 10μm in diameter. The ACM-HC uses wear-resistant ceramics to prevent the incursion of debris from hammer wear. The ACM-BC is used specifically for processing materials used in the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries. As metallic contamination due to component wear has a significant impact on the quality and safety of lithium-ion battery materials, ceramics are used on the parts that come into contact with the powder.
*2 Micron Jet-T MJT: This Jet Mill, which uses high-pressure gas to grind particles on impact, produces fine and ultrafine powders. This type does not generate heat, suiting to the grinding of heat-sensitive materials. Jet Mills are equipped with compressors, which increase electricity costs, but this model is fitted with a proprietary impact grinding mechanism, making it highly energy-efficient.
Particles pass to a classifying wheel at the center of the casing and are sent to a grinding nozzle at the bottom of the casing (the outlet for material and high-pressure air). The grinding air accelerates materials supplied to the machine to near the speed of sound, and they are ground through impact with the target plate. Particles that have been ground to sufficient fineness pass through the classifying wheel and are collected as products. Materials that are too coarse go to the wall of the casing, where they are again accelerated by grinding air and impact-ground.
With fluidized-bed Jet Mills, which grind particles on impact, powder residue tends to build up inside the chamber. This accumulation of high-value-added material was an issue from the perspective of running costs. To hold down running costs, this model has a simple configuration that prevents the internal accumulation of residue. In recent years, this grinding system has utilized inert gases to prevent oxidation reactions. The model is used in the production of high-performance materials, such as nitrides, and other ceramic materials; magnetic materials such as neodymium; and cosmetics.
*3 AFG-CRS Fluidized Bed Opposed Jet Mill®: This model is an ultrafine grinding machine with an ultrahigh-performance classifier. Easy disassembly and maintenance make this mill well-suited to use with different grinding materials. An optimized classification structure is located at the top of the fluidized bed opposed jet mill to ensure full effectiveness of the semifree vortex generated inside the classifying wheel. Ceramic wheels are used to prevent metallic contamination, and the mill can be scaled up by using a multiwheel to maintain the desired particle diameters. This type of mill may be used with materials for electronics and electronic components (glass and sealing materials), graphite and coke (capacitors and anode materials), activated carbon and minerals (calcium carbonate, talc, and others).
Mixing machines combine powders so they are distributed evenly throughout the mixture. Drying machines delete moisture and/or solvent from powder.
(Nauta Mixer*1, NX*2)
Conical high-speed mixers
*1 Nauta Mixer: This batch mixer consists of an inverted conical body with a mixing screw attached to a rotating arm. More than 20,000 units have been delivered worldwide. Features include ease of discharge with a low amount of residue and simple cleaning, making it easier to use the mixer with multiple products. The Nauta Mixer is used for the mixing of powders or powders with liquids, and also as a heater, dryer, reactor, and cooler. The model offers additional functionality to meet a wide range of applications.
*2 NX: This original Nauta Mixer with an extensive track record and a high performance standard, is available in a wide range of sizes, from compact to ultralarge.
*³ Continuous mixers: This type of machine is used to mix fixed quantities of supply of two or more powders or to mix powders with liquids. Paddles rotating at high speeds in a horizontal cylindrical vessel continuously mix and disperse the materials. High rotor tip speeds (of 20–30m/s) help to break agglomerates in the feed material and achieve quick dispersion. As mixing consistency can be difficult with low-speed mixers, this type of mixer can be used downstream of a low-speed mixer as a final mixer. The rotation speed, paddle angle, and paddle clearance are used to adjust the impact, shear force, and residence time. A version with a split vessel (TCX model) makes changing paddle settings and cleaning easier. Options include a heating/cooling jacket and a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coating to prevent material buildup in the vessel.
*4 Vitomix: Carrying forward the characteristics of the Nauta Mixer, the Vitomix is a new model that offers even better powder functionality. Developed by Hosokawa Micron B.V., the model is sold throughout the Hosokawa Micron group. Two ribbon screws are used to achieve maximum agitation throughout the powder, mixing it quickly. This model facilitates a range of screw operating speeds to meet product requirements: from low-speed operation to avoid damaging powders to higher-speed mixing. For example, when making an instant mushroom soup mixture, the combination might be mixed at a moderate speed to combine wheat flour, starch, powdered milk, spices, salt, and other fine powder ingredients, with flavorings, oils, and other liquid additives mixed in later. In this case, high-speed mixing could help prevent the second-stage mixture from clumping. The combination might then be finished off by gently mixing in dried mushrooms and dried onions. In the past, these mixing processes would have required the use of several machines. According to the company, handling all processes with a single machine reduces total processing time to between one-eighth and one-sixth.
*5 VX: The VX is a batch mixer comprising an inverted cone vessel with two automatically revolving ribbon screws. The Nauta Mixer provides the base design for this powder mixer, which has been engineered to allow a substantial increase in mixing speed. In addition to gentle mixing (as with the Nauta Mixer), the VX allows high-speed mixing to facilitate fast dispersion and shearing strength. With a vessel designed for optimum mixing, the VX has a shorter height than a Nauta Mixer with comparable volume. The VX vessel is an inverted cone designed to minimize dead space and employs a specialized ball segment valve at the bottom, allowing material to be discharged with almost no residue. A large access door on the side of the vessel permits easy cleaning and inspection of the interior. The VX is suited for mixing powders or powders and liquids. It can also be used as a replacement for a Nauta Mixer to increase capacity, for mixing where higher shear is required, and for mixing a large variety of small-lot products.
Drying machines apply heat to evaporate moisture from materials and leave dry powder behind. They can also be used to adjust temperature in granular materials.
Direct heating flash dryer