Chairman Dr.Yuichiro Sumi
Mr. Yamasaki, before setting up TBM Co. Ltd, you knew about the Stone Paper, what did you think back then?
I first encountered this material when an acquaintance showed me the stone paper that was made in Taiwan in 2008. The world was becoming more and more eco-friendly at that time. It hit me! … An eco-friendly material made out of limestone. So I went to Taiwan to become a Japanese importer. When I first saw the product, I was not sure that this would be neither an innovation nor a global business.
There were issues with the Taiwanese stone paper, what initiatives did you instill to solve these problems?
When I presented this product to large companies in Japan, many showed an interest. The concept and the potential of the material was greatly valued. However, it did not sell well at all, this was because the paper was heavy, expensive and the quality was unstable. I was confident that if these problems were solved, this could become successful big business. Therefore, every month I went to Taiwan in order to try and improve the quality.
When you met Mr. Sumi, What did you talk about? And Mr. Sumi what was your first impression of stone paper?
I was introduced Mr. Sumi as the 'God of the paper' by an acquaintance. I implored him to assist and to provide me with advice to improve the quality of the stone paper.
Synthetic paper has been investigated in the industry for a long time, but it has been a difficult material to make business out of. When I first heard the stone paper story from Mr. Yamasaki, I was very interested.
Please tell us the story of the day in the fall of 2010, when you began to develop a new material called LIMEX utilizing a method of internal development.
After receiving Mr. Sumi's advice, I toughly negotiated with the Taiwanese maker, but to no avail. Nevertheless, at that time, I already believed in the possibilities of stone paper as a business and the social implications of the business. I could not give up, I was sure that this was a business filled with dreams. That is why I converted to in-house development.
Of course I was slightly worried about utilizing in-house development, but with the strong words of Mr. Yamasaki “Let's do it!” I decided to go forward. Of course we did not yet have our own plant, so we had to do our experiments in other companies and laboratories that lent us their machines. I was having many difficulties as naturally, many companies did not allow us to use their facilities. At last Hitachi Zosen Corporation supported us so we were able to apply to file the patent in 2011. We were then nominated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to receive financial support. The development of LIMEX had finally started moving forward.
In 2015, the plant in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture was completed. How did you feel at this moment?
Until the moment that the plant was completed we did not feel comfortable at all. We had received support from various people and I felt a huge responsibility. I was thrilled when the plant was finally completed. Seeing so many young people working there, I was filled with excitement that we had come this far.
Yes, Mr. Yamasaki was very moved. It felt like a dream as I remembered all the suffering we went through. At the same time, I was uneasy as I knew that things were about to get much more difficult.
Please tell us about your feelings for LIMEX
First of all I would like LIMEX to be a revolutionary Japanese technology. I also dream to set up these plants in developing countries, countries that are currently facing water shortage and make notebooks and textbooks for the children there. LIMEX is a material with huge potential, for example, when making plastic it is mainly a composite material. LIMEX is mainly made out of calcium carbonate and it can be made into sheets, this is very rare and makes LIMEX a very unique material. Furthermore, by combining various elements we can make different materials, leading to an uncountable number of materials that can be created. Even though there are many challenges, we need to achieve our goals.
In the past we have had many sad and bitter experiences but when I see people in society using our products and when LIMEX was used for the Milano Expo posters, I felt extremely proud. Things like that make me go forward. My excitement and dreams for LIMEX are overflowing. In the future I would like to make LIMEX an industry and create bountiful job opportunities. However, first, I want to make the people that surround me smile and ensure that the company is a happy place.