February 23, 2010


Creative Printing Technology that Contributes to Realizing a Sustainable Society -- Toppan Printing Co.

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.89 (January 2010)

"Towards a Sustainable Japan -- Corporations at Work" (No. 87): (English)

Toppan Printing Co. is one of the largest printing companies in Japan; it shares outstanding scale with its main competitor Dai Nippon Printing Co. These two companies are the leaders that support the Japanese printing industry, which is further composed of several second-tier companies and medium-sized companies, together with the many small-sized offices of fewer than 20 employees that account for over 90 percent of the Japanese printing industry.

With the spread of digital media such as the Internet, the volume of printed paper has been decreasing in recent years. Printing companies are therefore trying to expand their business scope and set up new business models that can help them survive.

Toppan was established in 1900 by engineers at the Printing Bureau of the national government's Ministry of Finance. It started by printing securities, and went on to printing commercial flyers, pamphlets and other publications and then on to packaging. The company's scope of business further expanded from printing on paper to printing on plastics and building materials.

As the printing business expanded, the company began to handle electronics. Toppan, which is celebrating its 110th year in 2010, is now operating eight departments -- Securities and Cards, Commercial Printing, Publications Printing, Packaging, High Performance Components, Industrial Materials, Semiconductor Related and Display Related.

Toppan is also conducting business globally, and has set up hubs for research, production and sales in other countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Oceania. By focusing on research and development in each area of business, it not only provides materials, but collects and responds to requests from along the supply chain, from manufacturers to retail stores in order to identify new business demands. In pursuit of demand creation, Toppan aims to propose distinctive solutions to customers by developing original and innovative products and services.

"Even though its areas of business are expanding, Toppan is always centered on printing," says Toshiro Kinoshita, a manager of the Quality & Ecology Center in the Corporate Manufacturing, Technology & Research Division. From among the company's eight business fields, we interviewed him about its corporate efforts focused on improving environmental performance or contributing to environmental protection.

Cartocans Contribute to the Forest Cycle

The printing business is an urban-oriented, mass-production industry. All our lives, we are surrounded by printed matter such as ads, magazines and packaging, so efforts to conserve the environment by printing companies and their client manufacturers are highly visible to the public. With the growing concern about the environment, actions taken by printing companies draw constant attention.

Toppan's environmental management is based on two types of corporate activity -- environmental conservation and the development and production of eco-friendly products. One of the products being realized in response to this policy is the "cartocan," a next-generation paper beverage can.

The Cartocan packaging system was originally developed in Europe, where advanced ecological approaches have found favor. Toppan improved the system by applying the company's "EP-PAK" paper-based liquid container technology. Cartocan also employs Toppan's transparent high-barrier "GL" film, one of the world's highest-functioning moisture and oxygen shielding films. These technologies help make product distribution more efficient by allowing the contents to be preserved for long periods at room temperature, and also makes recycling easier when sorting out the package after use because no metallic materials such as aluminum are used.

3rd Eco Products Awards Go to Innovative Products and Services

In addition to making use of Toppan's unique technologies, Toppan's Cartocan container also feature their use of Japanese timber, including wood from thinning plantation forests, which accounts for more than 30 percent of raw materials. This was one reason why Cartocan was selected as a recommended product by Japan's Forestry Agency in a publicity campaign to boost the use of domestic timber.

Campaign Starts to Boost Use of Domestic Timber

Kinoshita says, "The problem with wood produced during forest thinning is that its uses are very limited. The Forestry Agency has been encouraging the use of forest-thinning byproducts to ensure a cycle of sustainable forest management in the course of planting, growing and harvesting trees. We think our mission is to contribute to its use from the viewpoint of protecting forests."

Since its market debut in 1996, more than 100 million Cartocan-packaged beverages have been sold annually. An association to promote forest-friendly paper beverage containers established in 2004, the Morikami Association, has been making efforts to further popularize Cartocan containers. Its members consist of beverage companies that use such containers, package manufacturers and other organizations that want to support the protection of Japanese forests. Toppan is also contributing to forest preservation as one of the members of this association.

Association Established to Promote Forest-Friendly Paper Beverage Container

New Solar Cell Backsheets Contribute to Solar Cell Promotion

Beyond the printing field, Toppan is extending its business to the fields of semiconductor solutions and electronics, and even farther to new-generation solar cell components.

Solar cell modules are covered in front by glass, and their back surface is protected by a plastic film, called a backsheet, chosen for weight reduction and necessary for more efficient collection of generated electricity. Backsheet material must be highly weather resistant to protect solar cell modules from the outdoor environment over the course of decades. In the solar cell market, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (commonly known as DuPont) of the U.S. boasts more than 25 years of production and sales experience for its " Tedlar(R) film," a standard material for solar cell backsheets.

In July 2008, Toppan concluded a technology transfer and license agreement for DuPont's polyvinyl fluoride resin processing technology used in producing solar cell backsheets, together with a trademark license agreement for DuPont's registered trademark "Tedlar(R) film." Then, in April 2009, Toppan completed construction of its Fukaya Plant in Fukaya City, Saitama Prefecture, as a production base for new high-function films.

With a consolidated production line for the Tedlar (R) BS-TX Series of new solar cell backsheet products manufactured with raw materials supplied by DuPont and Toppan's printing processing technology, the plant started shipping samples in June 2009.

The background to Toppan's entrance into this new business area is the current global growth in the solar cell market. Thanks to Japan's subsidy program for residential solar panel installation that started in 2008, household solar power generation systems are expected to spread rapidly. Reflecting this trend, the company aims to provide a stable supply of backsheet material to Japan and the world.

Toppan makes the best use it can of its technologies for stable quality mass production developed over decades of printing experience, applying this as well to its partnership with DuPont, which has accumulated a great deal of expertise in raw material production using outstanding technology. Kinoshita says "We will further utilize the vacuum vapor deposition technology developed in manufacturing GL Film, the high-quality packaging barrier film, and contribute to expanded use of solar cells from the material supply side."

The Fukaya Plant has one of the nation's largest production lines for solar cell backsheets, with the annual production capacity corresponding to over 2 gigawatts of solar power generation capacity. The company plans to develop further innovations in production technology and expand its business to become a major manufacturer of various high-function films.

"Why did the automobile manufacturing industry in Japan grow to be globally competitive? I am speaking not only of top manufacturers such as Toyota, but also of the suppliers of car components, which have faced very tough competition in the world market. The Japanese photovoltaic industry can also grow stronger and attain top world levels if the component manufacturers compete with each other to supply major domestic solar cell producers. This is how Toppan can make a contribution." Kinoshita says.

While supplying parts of commodities closely associated with future lifestyles such as Cartocan and solar cell backsheets, Toppan the nation's first printing company to achieve carbon offsets in plants and offices through carbon dioxide emission trading.

Specifically, the company bought carbon offset credits of 7,600 tons in total to cover the approximately 3,000 tons of CO2 emissions from five buildings at its headquarters in Akihabara, Tokyo and 4,600 tons from the Sodegaura Beverage Plant, one of a group of companies making up the Toppan Packaging Service Co. The purchase was based on Certified Emission Reduction (CER) credits obtained from greenhouse gas emission reduction projects approved by the United Nations.

Toppan Printing is striving for a more sustainable society in every business field and in all its group companies through programs such as Eco-Protection Activities to reduce environmental impacts at operational sites, Environmental Management Activities to manage environmental initiatives systematically, Eco Creativity Activities to develop and offer environmentally friendly products, technologies and services, and Environmental Communication Activities to collaborate with a wide array of stakeholders.

See also: A Key Player in Information and Culture (Toppan Printing Co.)

Written by Reiko Aomame