“The dream that one day there will be zero victims due to traffic accidents” was the reason the company Takata was initially set up. Takata has been focusing on saving human lives for over 75 years. On behalf of virtually all the big automobile manufacturers, Takata produces and develops a broad range of car safety systems aimed at increasing driver and passenger safety. The company is no longer exclusively active in safety technology, but it now also develops plastics from renewable resources as the basis for the future production of own products. This it does in cooperation with other partners from research and industry.
The company's history started back in 1933 when Takezo Takada, a textile manufacturer, established Takata, a company which used weaving technology to manufacture lifelines for parachutes. Twenty years later, Takata began research into the use of parachute technology in order to manufacture seat belts. This grew into an international company with 46 subsidiaries in 16 countries and over 36,000 employees that focuses on the development and production of a broad range of safety systems. The company has nine subsidiaries in Germany, including the European headquarters in Aschaffenburg and three research and development centres in Ulm, Berlin and Aschaffenburg. The German development centres focus mainly on the safety of passengers in cars. For example, the Berlin R&D subsidiary carries out frequent crash tests - both for the safety of car drivers and passengers.
The company started to produce and sell the first safety systems around 50 years ago; just a few years after, the first crash tests were carried out in Japan. Takata built the first ever crash test centre in order to enable the testing of the new safety systems under real conditions. In this and other centres around the world, accidents are analysed in detail and new safety systems developed on the basis of the results gained. The company also started to use crash test dummies for impact tests, something that was a real sensation in the car sector at the time. It also collects and analyses accident data from all over the world. In cooperation with universities and other research institutions, the company does research into the effect of car materials on injuries, pursuing a bioengineering approach. "Through the use of a bioengineering approach, our engineers are following the principles of nature. This resembles the already used lotus leaf approach which is used for the development of paints and varnishes where water and dirt rolls off easily. We have also tested natural principles for industrial approaches and assessed their potential for use in some of our products," said Jakob Lux, press officer of Takata-Petri AG.
What started with the production of parachutes and safety belts was soon complemented with airbag research and the development of children's car seats. Products such as steering wheels, gas generators, interior car surface panels, electronics and sensor systems. Nowadays, Takata's major sales revenues come from airbag systems. Takata has also acquired numerous companies in the sector as well as undertaking joint ventures - resulting in the Takata Corporation. The acquisition of Petri AG, a well-known German steering wheel producer, led to the establishment of Takata-Petri AG, and this name is now used by the company's European subsidiaries.
In recent times, Takata no longer exclusively focuses its research activities on safety technologies, but also on its ability to produce at least partially proprietary products from natural substances. In the ARBOCAR project, Takata is developing a novel plastic on the basis of lignin in cooperation with seven other partners from industry and academia. The goal of the project partners is to prepare lignin, which is predominantly found in wood, in a way that allows them to produce high-quality compounds for the automotive industry. An attractive side effect of this research is that this venture uses the lignin that would otherwise be burnt due to the large quantities that accumulate in the production of paper. The scientists called the new compound ARBOCAR because it is envisaged that the material will replace plastics use in many car applications in the future. ARBOCAR consists of lignin derivatives and other natural fibres such as sisal, hemp or flax. "We are testing ARBOCAR for its use as interior car panels where the use of natural or recycling products is favoured," said Jakob Lux adding that the company has already developed steering wheel covers from lignin. It is still unclear whether this will be feasible in practice, but the approach is in any case very promising.