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No. 354, March 1999

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American Companies in Japan


A decade after it established a company with JAPAN STORAGE BATTERY CO., LTD. to market uninterruptible power supplies, EXIDE ELECTRONICS GROUP, INC. sold its share of GS-EE CO., LTD. to its partner. The Raleigh, North Carolina manufacturer did not state explicitly why it ended the joint venture, which sold UPS products made by both companies. Over the years, however, Exide Electronics formed a number of distribution relationships in Japan, and its involvement in GS-EE might have caused some problems for the other arrangements. GS-EE will remain a distributor of Exide Electronics' UPS products for workstations, servers and other network devices.

A flywheel system developed by BEACON POWER CORP. for maintaining power for communications services during brownouts or blackouts will be evaluated by KOBE STEEL, LTD. The steelmaker also will oversee field trials of the 20C1000 Cable/Telecom Flywheel System by local telephone, CATV and wireless providers. Beacon's system, which is made of composite materials and can provide 1 kilowatt of continuous power for up to two hours, has several advantages over the batteries normally used to provide backup when power is interrupted. For one thing, its useful life of roughly 20 years is more than twice that of batteries because it contains no parts that can wear out. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Beacon is majority-owned by SATCON TECHNOLOGY CORP.

Sales of POWER EFFICIENCY CORP.'s Power Commander motor controller have started. About a year after it began to investigate the Japanese market, where electricity costs are high, the Hackensack, New Jersey company signed up HANEDA & CO., LTD. of Nagoya as its distributor. The solid-state Power Commander can cut power consumption for three-phase induction motors by as much as 20 percent to 30 percent under the right circumstances, which include a variable load but a constant motor speed. Among the major applications are elevators, escalators, conveyers and machine tools.

SUMITOMO 3M LTD. has developed and put on the market two types of electrical conductive tape that can control electromagnetic interference within the range of 30 MHz to 1 gigahertz. The aluminum tape, which is designed to shield disk drives and LCD components, costs about $37 per square yard. Its cloth counterpart is priced around $145 per square yard. Sumitomo 3M believes that its anti-EMI tape can produce $2.6 million in sales the first year.

A big but unnamed manufacturer of audio systems is the first local company to place a substantial order for surface-mount components incorporating SurgX electrostatic discharge protection. This technology is owned by Fremont, California-based ORYX TECHNOLOGY CORP., which licensed it to IRISO ELECTRONICS CO., LTD. in November 1997. The contract covers 300,000 ESD-protected discrete components a month, but the volume is expected to expand as other parts of the contracting company adopt the technology. Iriso currently can turn out 5 million units a month utilizing the SurgX technology; however, it plans to increase monthly capacity to as much as 100 million units before the end of 1999.

WOODHEAD INDUSTRIES, INC., a supplier of communications and connectivity products for the factory floor, has identified more business in Japan as key to its ability to double sales by 2002. The Northbrook, Illinois company has had a marketing subsidiary in Yokohama since 1996. It handles all three Woodhead brands: SST, a line of products for more than 40 industrial communications protocols; Brad Harrison, which encompasses quick disconnect connectors, multiport interconnection systems and sensor actuator bus systems; and mPm. Although capital spending is off in Japan, Woodhead is optimistic about sales there because its products help to boost productivity.

A CD-recordable copier manufactured by MEDIAFORM CORP. of Exton, Pennsylvania is being sold by IMATION CORP.'s subsidiary. The CD-2701 CD-R copier automatically duplicates up to 50 CD-Rs at a time completely unattended, with failed recorded CD-Rs separated from successful media. The $7,400 system can be used as well to make small numbers of copies of multiple masters. The CD-2701 also is said to be one of the few CD-R stand-alone copiers that lets the user copy and verify on the same machine.

Big speaker manufacturer BOSE CORP. continues to expand home-theater choices for Japanese consumers. Its latest product is the American Sound System or AMS-1, a compact system that also is priced more affordably at $850. A MiniDisk recorder, the MDA-8, is a $495 option.

An exchange rate of ¥117=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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