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Business development of the environment-friendly product Water-Treatment Membrane Module in South Korea Launch of New Business, which can answer to the world's Water problem

Water shortage and deterioration of water quality have been large problems on a global scale as population increase, urbanization, and industrialization have progressed in developing countries. "POREFLON PTFE MF (Microfiltration) Membrane Module" which was developed and launched by Sumitomo Electric in 2003. The product has been selected to be used in a number of water treatment facilities in Japan and overseas countries, and has contributed to local communities by recycling and purification of industrial and domestic wastewater. This time we pick up a project in South Korea in 2009. That was one of results in global business development.

Shinpyon Sewage Treatment Plant

Birth of a new environment-friendly product
About two hours driving to south from Seoul in Korea. There is "Shinpyon Sewage Treatment Plant " with a shape of a ship in a peaceful rural area. Sumitomo Electric's POREFLON PTFE MF Membrane Module is used here. We asked Toru Morita who developed this membrane module and is a leader of the project about the background of development, "POREFLON is a porous membrane of fluororesin developed based on our original technology we have accumulated in the field of coating materials of electric wires. In the past, the material was used only for special applications, such as filtration of semiconductor manufacturing chemicals and artificial vessels. We tried to develop a product using the material for another big market and to contribute to society. It was the start of development." With a trend of increase of environment businesses, sales of POREFLON PTFE MF Membrane Module was started as an environment-friendly product in 2003. "It was quite new business for Sumitomo Electric. The start was hard for us. There were a lot of competitors, and we, a sales staff and I didn't know even where to sell." Morita looks back on.
Toru Morita Toru Morita Project Leader, Module Product
Engineering Division
Sumitomo Electric Fine Polymer, Inc.
With Solid Confidence in Performance
The product with unprecedented strength and performance. Morita says, "Our strong point is that we developed high-strength and chemical resistant POREFLON into a cost-competitive product which is suitable to water treatment. We achieved the high strength without using reinforcing materials thanks to our processing technology and structure. Strength is an important issue which has an effect on the running cost. In the product presentation, we placed the membranes in front of customers so that they can pull the membranes to check the strength. The strength was understood at a glance. In overseas countries, in particular, the demonstration was easier to understand and more persuasive than figures and explanation." As a result of continuous sales efforts with cooperation between sales and manufacturing staffs using global networks of Sumitomo Electric, the product was selected for the 2,000t class Shinpyon Sewage Treatment Plant project which DAEWOO Engineering & Technology received an order for. "It is a system called MBRwhere the microbial layer contains membrane process. This time, we succeeded in super-downsizing of the system by installing the activated sludge layer vertically. Thus the system is quite competitive," says Morita with confidence.

Unitized porous
membranes made of 100% PTFE
(Polytetrafluoroethylene)

POREFLON PTFE MF Membrane Module (Submerge type)
MBR(Membrane Bioreactor)
Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) employs the organic matter decomposition process using the activated sludge (microorganisms) together with the membrane separation process. It is a treatment method mainly for wastewater with organic contents.
Days of visiting South Korea with the module
However, at introduction of the system, there were a pile of issues to be solved, such as communication problems due to different languages and technical problems against harsh winter particular to Korea. Moreover, there was a bottleneck that evaluation was required using actual wastewater in Korea. "Under unavoidable circumstances, we brought samples prepared in Japan to Korea and asked experiments. Then we returned back to Japan with the experimented samples and analyzed them. We repeated that. Under the circumstance where we could not be in time if we did not start mass production by that time, I traveled between Japan and Korea many times carrying the module in order to save time as much as possible," laughs Morita. He traveled with a large box of 2 m and paying extra charge of air tickets. Besides, he felt ashamed many times due to smell particular to sludge after experiments. "I could overcome the hard days thanks to support of business partners in Korea and sales staffs."
(Left) After MBR treatment (Right) Before MBR treatment Sampled in Shinpyon Sewage Treatment Plant (Left) After MBR treatment (Right) Before MBR treatment
Sampled in "Shinpyon Sewage Treatment Plant"
Product that can answer to global environmental problems
Konishi who travels around the world and continues sales promotion activities as a sales staff at this time says about thought on the product, "Now, water shortage and pollution have occurred here and there in the world, and, in fact, one among six people cannot use proper water. Coming to think about it, it is the result of pursing affluent and convenient life by human beings. We have enjoyed the affluence, so we want to contribute to society as much as possible by contributing to solving water problems." Morita says, "There is no doubt that Japanese membrane technology is at the top level in the world. Under such condition, our company aims to contribute to word's water treatment business with our original technology that other competitors do not have. It may be possible that we change the water conditions in countries all over the world with our technology and products. I want to continue to make efforts with such dream and pride."
Sumitomo Electric's mission on the water treatment business have just started.
Satoshi Konishi Satoshi Konishi Manager, POREFLON Group,
Functional Fluororesin Sales Department
Fine Polymer Sales Department
Electronics Sales Unit 

Through the water treatment project, we continue to contribute to South Korean society together with Sumitomo Electric Industries.


DAEWOO E&T
(DAEWOO Engineering & Technology)
President

Mr. Lee Kwang-Yun

Awareness of water among people in Korea has changed since the latter half of 1980's. As people's lives are enriched, the age where water is just used and drained away has shifted to the age where water is reused, and cleaner water is demanded. Now in Korea, business related to the environment, such as the water treatment business, has started on a nation-wide basis. We adopted Sumitomo Electric's Industries' product to the water treatment system using membrane modules which will be the mainstream among water treatment facilities in the future. The major deciding factors were its outstanding durability and efficiency. Our accomplishment of this project was recognized, and we received the Environment New Technology Award from the Ministry of Technology in Korea. Next, a 40,000t class project is already decided. We hope Sumitomo Electric Industries will continue to work on water treatment projects in Korea together with us as a reliable partner.

At the Shinpyung Sewage Treatment Plant At the Shinpyung Sewage Treatment Plant

We will develop the business globally for happiness of human beings and global environment.

Akihito Kubo Managing Director
General Manager of
Electronics Business Unit 

Akihito Kubo

Fine Polymer Business Unit is a unit that has technology to improve quality of polymeric materials by irradiation and fluororesin processing technology, and operates a business of products developed by the technology. In 1999, product R&D and manufacturing departments spun off to form Sumitomo Electric Fine Polymer, Inc. The water-treatment membrane module of this time was based on a porous membrane "POREFLON" developed by Sumitomo Electric in 1982 ahead of all others in the world, and was brought to market in 2003. At present, sales promotion activities are developed mainly in Asian regions, such as China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, where needs of water treatment are high.
The essential point of the Sumitomo Spirit is contribution to society. Each of our product is developed to lead to happiness of human beings. As population increases in the future, we cannot avoid water shortage globally. This product is one of our tangible and valuable environment-friendly products. In the future, We want to work on sales promotion with a global view for global environment through active proposal activities to manufacturers in European countries and the United States that are advanced countries in water treatment.

“POREFLON” is a registered trademark of Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.

※Interviewed in July 2010
2010 SEI CSR EYE Next
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