The Technologies that Drive Our Lives
Japan’s Toppan Printing has been in business since 1900. It is the largest printing company in the world with sales of 1,431,595 million Japanese yen as of March 2017. It is also the parent company of several Toppan companies in North America.
Toppan got its start by employing the latest printing technology at that time, called Erhört letterpress technology, which delivered high definition print quality, and was an effective method to combat counterfeiting, making it the ideal medium to print bank notes and postage stamps.
Throughout its history, Toppan has continued to develop further innovative printing technologies, diversifying beyond its original operations to commercial printing, publication printing, and package printing, expanding its scope into the North American market and beyond. We spoke with Atsushi Kusano, Public Relations representative for Toppan’s four subsidiaries in the U.S., to learn more about this powerful cutting-edge company and its business expansion in the U.S.
As Toppan grew, it diversified its business beyond conventional printing into broader fields such as packaging and electronics. Toppan’s technologies called “Printing Technologies” include Marketing Solutions, such as in-store advertising solutions, consumer behavior research and IT solutions; Information Processing, such as IC cards, books, magazines and catalogues, visual solutions; Microfabrication, including photomasks, holograms and color filters; Surface Treatment, such as GL FILM – a transparent barrier film with the world’s highest level barrier performance – information recording materials and industrial and decorative materials; and Material Forming, such as plastic bottles, corrugated fiberboard and molded plastic products. This breadth of expertise accommodates the wide range of Toppan’s customers’ needs, and enables the company to serve a variety of sectors.
“Toppan’s first footprint in the U.S. was the opening of a representative office in New York in 1964,” says Kusano. “These overseas activities were launched by establishing the Hong Kong plant in 1963. Toppan now has four major U.S. subsidiaries – Toppan America, Toppan Photomask, Toppan Interamerica, and Toppan USA.”
Mike Hadsell, President and CEO of Toppan Photomasks, Inc., elaborated further on his division. Toppan purchased DuPont Photomasks in 2005, giving the company a wholly-owned subsidiary with a global footprint that included the U.S., Europe and Asia. That purchase afforded Toppan the number one position in the photomask industry.
A photomask is analogous to a photographic negative. It contains light and dark areas that are lithographically transferred to wafers or other substrates to create semiconductors and other electronic devices. It can take from 15 to 80 mask layers to form all the structures necessary produce a semiconductor, depending on the complexity of the device.
“In the U.S., we make products for a variety of technologies from our facility in Round Rock, Texas. We have a very large customer base and are regularly recognized for our technology, quality and excellent customer support. Most recently we received Texas Instruments’ Supplier Excellence Award, one of only twelve such awards given by TI to its over 4,000 suppliers,” says Hadsell.
Toppan’s research and development is largely undertaken in Japan, and the firm’s reputation in the printing industry is legendary. “We have the Japanese headquarters for research and development, but we also cooperate with GLOBALFOUNDRIES in Burlington, Vermont (formerly IBM Microelecteonics) developing key photomask technology and materials. This cooperation includes about six engineers from Japan, living and working in Vermont,” says Hadsell.
One of the main impetuses of a cooperative approach to research and development is to drive leading technology. With this strategy, Toppan Photomasks is now able to support global customers such as Samsung, Texas Instruments, UMC, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, as well as future customers all over the world.
Dennis Ryan, Regional Director of Toppan Printing Company Co. (America), told us a bit more about Toppan’s work in bank card and credit card technology. Toppan America was incorporated in 1971, and Ryan’s current aim is to introduce new technologies to the banking and payment card industry. The banking and credit card industry in North America is undergoing technological change, as the traditional 50-year-old magnetic stripe card is being replaced by smart chip cards called EMV cards. EMV refers to the global chip card standard created and supported by VISA, MasterCard, American Express and others.”
“The EMV migration is ongoing now, and the conversion to Contact EMV Cards is almost complete,” says Ryan. “The next generation of bank card/credit card technology will add EMV contactless technology to the chip card.”
On the surface an EMV contactless bank card will look the same as the current EMV contact cards. It will have the same secure chip, but will add the additional capability to pay without any physical contact between the chip and the authenticating point of sale terminal. It can be compared to Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay for your credit card. At most point of sale terminals, you will be able to use this dual interface or contactless card capability. Toppan’s unique antenna technology makes this card more reliable and easier to manufacture. Expect to see EMV contactless cards begin to roll out in mid-2018.
“Toppan America thinks we have a very strong argument to make tap & go EMV contactless bank cards affordable and feasible for banks to issue,” shares Ryan. “We also produce other contactless products and solutions here in the U.S. that can be used in secure credentials such as driver’s license or an Electric Identification Card (eID), for example.” In Japan, Toppan manufactures holographic film that can be used in a wide variety of markets and products to reduce or eliminate counterfeiting.
Patrick Page, Director of Sales for Toppan InterAmerica, Inc., notes that his subsidiary is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. This Toppan subsidiary manufactures decorative surfacing materials on both paper and film which are used in industrial, commercial and residential products. The decorative products it prints can be produced to have the look and feel of wood, stone, textiles and other natural materials. It has a global presence, shipping product out of two locations – McDonough, Georgia and Morgantown, Pennsylvania.
30 years ago Toppan Printing decided to purchase the printing assets of Formica Corporation and relocate them to McDonough, GA thereby establishing Toppan Interamerica, Inc. Since that initial investment, Toppan Interamerica has added several gravure printing presses, expanded its building twice and in October 2012 acquired the business assets of Chiyoda America, Inc. in Morgantown, PA.
“We are a market leader, a design leader in our embossed finishes,” says Page. “Our materials are laminated onto particle boards and aluminum. Our products are currently being used in flooring, counter tops, furniture, wall coverings, kitchen cabinetry, and retail store fixtures. We are celebrating our 30th anniversary presently. There is a major trade show going on next August. At that time, we will be celebrating with the industry as well,” says Page.
Masa Tatewaki, Vice President of Toppan USA Inc., told us more about his subsidiary of Toppan, producer of GL FILM, the leading transparent barrier film in the world. This product’s main use is in food packaging, as the film protects foodstuffs from oxidization and promotes a longer shelf life. It protects content from absorbing moisture, drying out or spoiling, provides odor protection, and is highly flex-resistant.
“This technology was invented about 30 years ago in Japan. Since then, the film has been used for Toppan Japan, internally, and we began selling it outside of Japan and the U.S. In the U.S., Toppan has been importing this film from Japan for the past ten years. With a growing demand in the North American Market, we decided to build a local site in Georgia. That was two years ago. The operation started in 2016,” says Tatewaki.
With the Georgia plant, Toppan is strengthening its supply of GL FILM to North America, Latin America, and Europe, and expanding the barrier film business. The packaging market is expected to continue its growth by four percent annually by 2020. The use of transparent barrier film is also increasing.
“In this situation, including the food loss issue, packaging has a big impact on resource, environmental and disposal cost. Toppan will support these social issues with its technologies,” says Tatewaki. “GL FILM has high barrier properties, equivalent to aluminum foil, and could replace glass bottles and cans,” he explains.
“We are expecting a rising demand, and will be replacing glass bottles and cans with lighter and more convenient flexible packaging. This could reduce delivery costs that lead to environmental load. Also, GL FILM is non-foil and microwavable. All of this equates to increased convenience,” says Tatewaki. GL FILM is used for many types of packaged foods, and recently for new items such as baby food pouches.
“With U.S. converters, using Toppan Japan’s packaging technologies, we could contribute to the revolution of U.S. food culture,” says Tatewaki.
Have you ever wondered where some of the advances in everyday technology come from? Toppan and its four subsidiaries have provided us with a number of those items aimed at making our lives a little simpler and safer. The advancements the company has championed include increased security features, better packaging, and greater convenience, to name a few. Toppan is indeed “changing the world with printing technologies,” continuing to explore the infinite possibilities that exist to provide innovation in a variety of fields.