Photo by NEC Corp. Mass production of Japanese lacquerware has never been realistic, due to the laborious manufacturing process.
Using resin sourced from grasses, trees and other non-edible plants, Japanese technology giant NEC has developed a bioplastic that features the famous ‘urushi black’ hue of the country’s traditional lacquerware.
Working with the Kyoto Institute of Technology and local lacquerware artist Dr Yutaro Shimode, NEC developed a technology for mixing additives in order, in its words, to “adjust colouration and light reflectance of the material, enabling, for the first time, the realisation of optical properties similar to the deep and shiny ‘Urushi black’ colour of high-grade Japanese lacquerware”.
According to NEC, the new plastic “balances a high level of environmental friendliness and decorativeness and makes it possible to mass produce products of various shapes and patterns using the usual moulding process for ordinary plastics”.
Black colouring agents and highly refractive organic ingredients were mixed with the cellulose resin as special additives, so as to adjust the resin's colouration and light reflectance properties.
By dispersing the additives into fine particles, NEC said it was the first to achieve the advanced optical properties exhibited by high-grade Japanese lacquerware.
NEC said the new process would make it possible to mass-produce the bioplastic into products of various shapes and patterns.
Mass production of Japanese lacquerware has never been realistic, due to the laborious manufacturing process, which involves the manual coating of wooden substrates with lacquer, letting this harden, followed by a repeated polishing of the product.