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Lamborghini sets up shop at NITech

Chunichi Shimbun

Nagoya Institute of Technology in Aichi Prefecture has teamed up with Lamborghini SpA on finding a way to mass produce carbon fiber-reinforced plastic so the light yet durable material can be applied to products other than cars and planes.

The CFRP project will be based at the university, which established the Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory Japan on its campus Tuesday.

Paolo Feraboli, the leader of Lamborghini’s research team in Seattle, became head of the new lab, the automaker’s first in Japan. Feraboli will be a professor at NITech while conducting research with Japanese companies.

By setting up in Chubu, where most of the nation’s automobile and aircraft companies are situated, the research center hopes to create opportunities for other collaborations in Japan so the use of CFRP can be extended to consumer items, including golf clubs and fishing rods.

NITech has already agreed to conduct a joint research project with a Saitama Prefecture-based manufacturer of processed carbon materials, it said.

CFRP can greatly improve fuel efficiency in automobiles, but mass production has been a challenge because making carbon fibers is a time-consuming process. Compared to steel, CFRP is 10 times stronger but only a quarter of the weight. It is used in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as well as golf clubs.

After starting research into carbon fiber in 1985, Feraboli’s team developed a technology to mold auto bodies by presswork in 2010. This raised productivity to 100 vehicles per week from two and slashed costs by 95 percent.

When Lamborghini began hunting for a research base in Nagoya last year, NIT offered its campus.

“By basing ourselves in Nagoya where many manufacturers are located, we hope to establish contact with different industries for which CFRP can be useful,” Feraboli said.

Osamu Eryu, vice president of Nagoya Institute of Technology, said CFRP will revolutionize Japanese industries.

“I hope we will serve as a bridge with domestic firms for the development of new products,” he said.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Nov. 10.