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KAWAI MARKS 40 YEARS OF LEADERSHIP
In the use of composite materials for acoustic pianos

Rancho Dominguez, CA • December, 2010 – Kawai, one of the world’s largest makers of pianos, is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its pioneering use of composite materials in acoustic pianos. The company, founded in 1927, was the first to utilize a durable material called ABS to replace wood for selected parts in its piano actions. The first Kawai upright pianos with ABS action parts were introduced in 1971, setting the stage for four decades of success and innovation with composite materials in Kawai pianos.

In the 1960s, Kawai craftsmen were troubled by a continual problem. Wood action parts had a tendency to shrink and swell dramatically with changes in climate. These dimensional changes would cause parts to shift out of position or become loose, which would undermine the precision of the action and impair the touch and tone of the piano. Piano technicians could treat the symptoms through a process of meticulous adjustments called regulation. But the problems would return with the next significant seasonal change. These inconsistencies led Kawai to seek alternative materials for selected piano action parts.

Kawai ABS-C Grand Piano Action

The search led Kawai to consider “composites” – substances made of two or more materials possessing significantly different physical or chemical properties. When ABS became commercially available in 1965, Kawai found its properties compelling. Because ABS is stronger than comparable wood parts, can be molded more precisely and consistently than wood, and is virtually impervious to changes in climate, it was seen as an ideal material to improve the precision, stability, touch and tone of a piano. After several years of testing, Kawai began using ABS for upright piano actions in 1971.

Today, in addition to its use in Kawai pianos, ABS is found in products as varied as telephones, computers, cars and commercial aircraft. The use of composites has grown dramatically in society—and at Kawai. Though wood is still used for action parts that directly influence tone, the majority of the moving parts in modern-day Kawai piano actions are made of composite materials. The company’s newest innovations, the Millennium III Grand and Upright piano actions feature many action parts made of “ABS Carbon,” a Kawai-developed composite that combines ABS with long carbon fibers. ABS Carbon is much stronger than standard ABS and allows parts to be designed lighter in weight to produce faster note repetition for the player. It represents another significant step in the ever-expanding use of modern materials to produce a better piano.

Over four decades, millions of pianists have enjoyed the important benefits of composite materials in Kawai instruments. In the decades to come, Kawai will continue its leadership role in the industry by embracing advancements in materials and technology that enhance the future of the piano.

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