With its diverse product range, from cellulose nanofiber (CNF) to home and personal items spearheaded by the renowned elleair series, Daio Paper holds ambitions to continue its growth on the global stage.
A simple glance at the ELLEX logo provides an insight into the thinking behind Daio Paper, an ambitious full-range paper manufacturer founded in 1943. As Senior Executive Officer Michihiko Tamaki explains: “It contains 10 ellipses that represent all the different functions of our branded Cellulose Nanofiber (CNF), highlighting elements such as environmental awareness as well as the strength, lightweight, high water-retention and elasticity qualities.”
That sustainability vision of the company has three aspects, namely, hygiene, life and regeneration, with which, Mr. Tamaki says, “we hope to achieve our ultimate goal and management philosophy: to realize and shape an abundant and affable future for the world.”
“We created CNF to tackle some of the globe's biggest issues,” he continues, “and we have identified two in particular that Japan is currently facing. The first is the issue of fossil fuels and the transition away from materials derived from them. The second is the need to create environmentally friendly products that contribute to a better quality of life.
“We have tried to minimize the amount of energy used in production and have managed to reduce that energy cost considerably compared to processes of the past. Every year we are striving to reduce those production costs even more.”
ELLEX, the branded CNF product line, comes in five different forms — two slurry types, dry powder, molded sheet and resin composite pellet — and this opens up a huge variety of applications for them, including electronic devices, protective encapsulants for AV equipment, paints, inks, robotics and, importantly, automotive interior materials and components.
This focus on cars is key for Daio Paper’s use of CNF, and is no better demonstrated than with the company’s involvement in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Race in Colorado, U.S.A., says Mr. Tamaki.
“Partnered with Samurai Speed, we began entering this race in 2018 with a Nissan car, something we repeated the following year. We switched around a lot of the parts from steel to CNF, including the spoiler. Although there was a race in 2020, we withdrew due to COVID-19. In 2022, we managed to save 60kg (132lbs) in weight, a 51% reduction,” he explains.
“The idea behind our involvement in this competition is to showcase our various CNF products by modifying both the interior and exterior of the car, including body panels, doors, and even finer details like the door mirror cases using our CNF molded sheet ELLEX-M and resin ELLEX-R55. Every year we are looking at exploring new ways to make improvements.”
Our company’s CNF research and development is subsidized by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development (NEDO). The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has positioned the Daio Paper Corporation as a ‘Zero Emi Challenge Company,’ one that boldly takes on innovation initiatives towards the realization of a decarbonized society.
One question, of course, is when CNF will form part of everyone’s daily lives, and Mr. Tamaki reveals his thoughts on the timescales for this. “We know from experience that carbon fiber took around 50 years for mainstream adoption,” he says. “That process began with developments in fishing rod technology and if you follow its path all the way through to today, we see it being used everywhere, even in airplanes. I actually think that 50 years is too long for us, so we are predicting around half of that as the maximum amount of time required. Ideally, we would like to achieve this much sooner and be seeing major changes within a 5 to 25-year timeframe. When you think about it, this project is quite a long-term investment.
“A lot of interested parties are pushing for this timeline to be expedited. Decarbonization is a big thing right now, with the Japanese government setting clear goals for carbon neutrality by 2050. These are real issues, with the amount of carbon in the atmosphere being a real threat; and with temperatures rising, we must do something.”
With so many potential applications for CNF across a myriad of industries, Daio Paper’s motto of ’passion with sincerity’ is expected to help it achieve the ambitious plans in the not-so-distant future.