By on October 4, 2012

When a Japanese chemical factory blew up over the weekend, it looked like baby bottoms would be most affected. Nippon Shokubai is one of the world’s largest producers of acrylic acid, which in turn is a key ingredient for the making of disposable diapers. Apart from causing a diaper dearth, the explosion also “may send shock waves through the auto industry,” as The Nikkei [sub] says.

Acrylic ester is used in auto paints, and especially in top coats. Kansai Paint Co. and Nippon Paint Co supply more than 90 percent of the automotive paint used in Japan, and relied on Nippon Shokubai for more than 50 percent of acrylic ester purchases. Companies are trying to buy acrylic ester from overseas suppliers, but “it will take several months” for carmakers to test the quality of a new paint, a Kansai Paint official told The Nikkei.

According to the Tokyo paper, “the impact may spread to other areas of the auto industry: The Himeji factory also made an automotive catalyst for exhaust control, as well as special additives for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene resins, a material widely used in car interiors and other applications.”

(Hat tip to Daniel Duesentrieb.)

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6 Comments on “Fallout Of Plant Explosion Spreads From Diapers To Cars...”

  • avatar

    ” Companies are trying to buy acrylic ester from overseas suppliers, but “it will take several months” for carmakers to test the quality of a new paint, a Kansai Paint official told The Nikkei.”

    As if the acrylic ester used by DuPont, PPG and BASF plants in North America isn’t just as good. Must preserve the notion of Japanese technical superiority. I wouldn’t be surprised if the carbon fiber that Toyota uses for the LFA starts out as DuPont acrylonitrile.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you kidding? This is what automotive customers around the world do, verify that replacement components and chemicals are functionally the same. This has nothing to do with “Japanese technical superiority” and everything to do with quality control. An American or European company would be stuck testing the paints all the same.

      • 0 avatar


        I work for an automotive electronics supplier, and it’s a matter of being sure that the new provider delivers a similar replacement product or part, not biases about country of origin.

        It takes a lot of quality assurance testing to start using any new part or product…. and money.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota has a partnership with Toray for their CF parts, including the the LFA. Toray’s primary supplier for acrylonitrile is Mitsui. But Toray does have a lot of connections with Dupont, they purchased Dupon’t PTFE fibers business a while back and even run joint ventures with them.

      The reality is that technology doesn’t exist in a regional bubble. But this plant fire is more about a supply issue rather than a fungibility issue.

      Nippon Shokubai is one of the largest manufacturers of acrylic polymers. A factory’s production capacity is fairly inelastic. Its an oversimplification to think to find easy substitutes with the necessary volume on a whim. Keep in mind, that plant produced hundreds of thousands of tons of polymers, no other factory can boost capacity to meet that deficit in short period of time. There will be supply constraints.

      But like I said below, it should have a minor impact. Hard learned lessons of the last few years have Japanese producers looking constantly identifying weaknesses in their JIT manufacturing system. When it comes down to it, solutions will be found, even if it costs more money.

  • avatar

    This should have less of an impact than the German factory fire at Evonik Industries earlier this year that caused the PA12 shortage.

    We had some apocalyptic predictions of factories having to stop due to the lack of PA12, but ultimately the industry just moved to PA612 based grades for automotive fuel line pipes. I believe there was some modifications in wall thickness of the pipelines, but we didn’t have anywhere near the disruptions that was originally expected.

  • avatar

    From the picture, it appears that ‘fire truck’ is being used quite literally!

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