A joint venture between AFM Corp. and Mitsui Home Co. Ltd., a major Japanese home builder, should boost North American exports of expanded polystyrene foam-core wall panels, according to a top AFM official. AFM, based in Excelsior, Minn., is owned by 20 EPS foam molding companies that do collective research and development and marketing.
AFM member companies market their products under common names, including R-Control Structural Building Panels and Diamond Snap-Form EPS Insulated Concrete Forming System.
Foam-core panels are made by sandwiching EPS insulation between two boards, creating an all-in-one package of insulation and structural support.
Mike Tobin, AFM executive vice president, said the AFM-Mitsui venture has been named R-Control Homes Inc. R-Control is now a registered trademark in Japan, he said.
AFM's relationship with Tokyo-based Mitsui Homes dates back more than 10 years.
``We're doing exports [to Japan] now,'' Tobin said.
``We already make panels in Tokyo now and we'll open two more plants by the end of the year.''
R-Control Homes plans to open one factory in Sapporo, in the northernmost area of Japan, and a second in Nagoya in the south, Tobin said.
Mitsui Homes is one of Japan's largest home builders, erecting about 11,000-13,000 homes a year. Most of these are Western-style framed homes, but the company is exploring greater automation of the construction process.
R-Control Homes will establish a network of licensed firms to distribute and manufacture AFM products in Japan.
Tobin said Mitsui already has about 20 foam-core panel homes in a model home park.
AFM and Mitsui formally announced the joint venture in mid-June, with a ceremony in Japan.
The companies have achieved full code approval in Japan, according to AFM.
AFM companies operate 36 EPS plants in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.