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Over 120 Years of Sumitomo Electric

Since the Company’s founding in 1897, Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. has continued to take on challenges to achieve a prosperous and dream-filled future. In late 19th century, Japan was still heavily dependent on expensive imported electric cables. Sumitomo Electric decided to break ground with the electric wire business for the benefit of the nation. Starting with the production of copper and silicon copper wires, the Company played an important role in supporting the development of Japanese industries, succeeding in the first domestic production of high-voltage underground cables and the production and installation of the world's longest submarine cables. 120 years have passed since then. With its belief in the great potential of "innovation," the Sumitomo Electric Group will continue to contribute to the development of Japan and the world, both today and in the future.

Historic Milestones


History of Sumitomo Electric

Journey of Sumitomo



Sumitomo Copper Rolling Works founded

Sumitomo Electric Copper Rolling Works Founded 1987

Sumitomo Copper Rolling Works, which formed the basis of Sumitomo Electric Wire and Cable Works, the predecessor to Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd., was established in 1897. The nation was experiencing a severe recession as a reaction to an entrepreneurial boom following the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). In the wake of Sumitomo's acquisition of Japan Copper Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in March of this year, Sumitomo Copper Rolling Works was established.


Developed trolley wire

Sumitomo Electric Developed Trolley Wire 1914

In 1914, we developed trolley wires. The first delivery was made to Tokyo City (present-day Tokyo metropolis) in 1916. Since then, these trolley wires have been used in various railways in Japan (in recent years, in the Keihan Nakanoshima Line, Tokyo Metropolitan Nippori-Toneri Liner), as well as overseas in the Taiwan High Speed Rail, also known as Taiwan's bullet train.


Sumitomo Electric Wire and Cable Works established

Sumitomo Electric Wire and Cable Works established 1911

Despite the remarkable development of the electric power business, the nation was still relied on imports for high-grade goods, and its technologies were immature. Lamenting the situation, Kankichi Yukawa, Director and Manager of Sumitomo Head Office, decided to further accelerate the electrical wire business to benefit both Sumitomo and the nation. In the fall of that year, Sumitomo Electric succeeded in the practical application of lead-coated power cables for the first time in Japan, demonstrating a further leap in technology. These cables were used for power transmission from Kyoto Dento's thermal power plant in Fushimi to Kyoto City.



Manufactured and installed 21 km of submarine power cable, the world’s longest at that time


This major project started when Sumitomo’s copper mine refinery was relocated to the uninhabited island of Shisakajima in 1905. Much time and expense was incurred since coal used as fuel had to be transported by ship from Niihama each time, making it less economical to continue with thermal power generation on the island. A hydropower plant was located on the opposite shore of Besshi, where there was an abundance of power. However, it was a remote spot located more than 20 km away, and required underwater power transmission lines that were considered impossible with the technology of that time.


Successful domestic production of piano wire for valve springs of aircraft engines


Started production of anti-vibration rubber and fuel tanks


Started production and sales of sintered powder metal products


Started automotive wiring harness business


Started researching cemented carbide


Delivery of Japan's first cable capacitator to Nippon Electric Power Company, Limited.


Started production of special steel wire


Successful production and stringing of the world's first 250kV transmission cable with Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.


Experienced four aerial bombings in WWII

Sumitomo Electric History 1945

Although the war had ended, plants had been hit hard by air strikes and were in a desperate situation. After expressing appreciation to the employees for all their past efforts, then-President Sadao Bekku said that Japan must now rebuild itself as a cultural nation, and that Sumitomo Electric's products are essential to achieving this, and therefore, the company must strive to manufacture products for achieving its mission in whatever form the company would take. In addition to electric wires, Sumitomo Electric also manufactured daily necessities, and other agricultural tools, using materials on hand.



Typhoon Jane strikes Japan

Sumitomo Electric History 1950

Typhoon Jane was a large typhoon that hit Osaka in September 1950, inflicting damage with 336 people dead, 500,000 victims, and 15,000 houses collapsing mainly in the Kansai region. The western plant of Osaka Works was flooded by water. Aluminum overhead transmission cables bound for India were submerged by floodwaters. Although the products could have been made usable by washing them, management decided to re-make them all, with no thought of gain. This clearly shows our traditional spirit of devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to supplying quality products and placing prime importance on reliability.


Succeeded in achieving domestic production of oil-tempered wire


Dywidag railway sleepers and air suspension for railway ties

Sumitomo Electric Dywidag Railway 1962

Regular tracks are often visualized with wooden railway sleepers, but in the case of Dywidag sleepers adopted in the Tokaido Shinkansen, PC materials assumed this role in place of wood. Sumitomo Electric's Dywidag sleepers were adopted for use in the Tokaido Shinkansen in 1961, with full-fledged delivery starting in the following year.Since the start of research in 1955, we have developed air springs mainly for railway cars. In 1962, we developed a diaphragm air spring in cooperation with Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd. and supplied to private rail cars and bullet train cars.


Parabolic antenna for syncom satellite, used to transmit live broadcasts of the Tokyo Olympic games

Sumitomo Electric Parabolic antenna Tokyo Olympic Games 1964

Sumitomo Electric's parabolic antennas for syncom satellites were used at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, enabling the world's first satellite TV broadcasting of the Olympics. Broadcasting the games in real time to the world was one of the dreams of the people around the world at that time.


Started production of compound semiconductors


Joint experiments on bus location systems, a first in Japan

Sumitomo Electric Bus location System 1973

In addition to traffic control systems, we also developed a bus location system from the middle of 1970s to 1980s. Road congestion was already a significant issue, and the poor punctuality of city buses had resulted in a visible decrease in users. The bus location system was examined as a countermeasure to address this issue and was introduced for the first time in Japan. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Transport, joint experiments were conducted with Sumitomo Electric in charge of the development of equipment, and Tokyu Corporation in charge of operations.


Hamana Bridge World's greatest span length using prestressed steel


Delivery of piano wire to Chosei Bridge (Nanao City, Ishikawa Prefecture), Japan's first PC bridge

Sumitomo Electric Chosei Bridge 1951

The Chosei Bridge over the Misogi River, which flows through Nanao City in Ishikawa Prefecture, is Japan's first prestressed concrete (PC) bridge and was installed by Nanao Shipyard of East Japan Heavy Industries, the predecessor to P.S. Mitsubishi Construction Co., Ltd., in December 1951. Piano wire was supplied by Sumitomo Electric. The bridge was removed in flood control works carried out in 2001 and partially relocated to Kibo-no-Oka Park (Hope Park) on the outskirts of Nanao City. The bridge still continues to contribute to the community.


Succeeded in achieving domestic production of television broadcasting antennas

Sumitomo Electric Television Broadcasting Antenna 1957

Trial broadcasting in Japan began in Tokyo in 1952. The following year, NHK Tokyo and Nippon Television Network Corporation launched TV stations in succession. However, facilities used in these early TV stations, including antennas and power cables, had all been imported.Sumitomo Electric had been manufacturing antennas and electrical supply cables for the National Police Agency and Defense Agency. Based on these technologies, the Company began developing antennas and electrical supply cables for TV broadcasting with the cooperation of NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories.


Started production of Sumitube™


Start of FPC production


Established first overseas factory in Thailand


EXPO' 70 Provide power cables, steel cords for moving walkways and traffic game

Sumitomo Electric Expo 1970

A "Traffic Game," the main feature of the Automobile Pavilion at the Japan World Expo held in Osaka in 1970, was a one-of-a kind exhibition at the Expo venue, where visitors could enjoy taking part. In the game, colorful miniature cars ran on a grid-shaped track constructed in the circular square. The cars need to enter their opposite base and continues to cross back to their original base. If this circuit is successfully completed three times within two minutes, the driver received a souvenir gift. With 250,000 participants, the success rate was about 3%. The royal family, including the Crown Prince, also visited during that time.


Completed the Tokyo Traffic Control Center, one of world's largest


Started production of optical fiber cables



Started manufacture of parallel wire


Parallel wires are giant-sized suspension materials used for large suspension bridges and cable-stayed bridges. With manufacturing starting in 1980 for Onaruto Bridge, these wires were also produced for the Kita and Minami Bisan Seto Bridges, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, and Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge.


Opening of Kansai International Airport(provide communications network system, power cable support and steel for paving)


Construction work on Kansai International Airport began in January 1987. Sumitomo Electric was responsible for the construction of roads and railways, electrical power supply to the airport, paved PC steel materials for parking lots, information infrastructure, and integrated communication systems. Specifically, our PC steel products are used in airport roads, including the Japan Highway Public Corporation's Kansai International Airport Line and Hanwa Expressway, as well as the Hanshin Expressway Wangan Route, in addition to elevated bridges and orbital concrete sleepers for the Kansai International Airport Line on the JR and Nankai Railway.


Installation of submarine cables in Tachibana Bay, Tokushima


A world's first mass production of high-performance GaN MEMT


Started power transmission via superconducting cable in actual power transmission lines


A high-temperature superconducting cable manufactured by Sumitomo Electric was used for the practical application of underground power transmission cables for the first time in the world. In a superconducting cable project in Albany, U.S. SuperPower Inc. was the main contractor, National Grid supplied power cables, BOC (now Linde) conducted cooling, and Sumitomo Electric oversaw the manufacturing, installation, and operation of superconducting cables. A 350-m superconducting cable was constructed over 3.2 km between two substations in Albany City, and long-term power distribution demonstration was carried out using a real system.


Started sales of the world's highest fiber count optical cables


400kV XLPE cable installation project in the UK and Belgium

sumitomo electric belgium project

This project built an interconnecting transmission line between the UK and Belgium over a total length of 141.5 km including 130 km long under sea connection. Sumitomo Electric and its subsidiary, J-Power Systems, will oversee the design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance of the transmission cable system. Please take a look at this project in our e-magazine "id".


Started experimental production of intelligent robot with advanced awareness and judgment functions


Produced one of the world's largest synthetic monocrystal diamonds (1.2 carats)


In 1970, we began research on synthetic diamonds. As a manufacturer of cemented carbide, we had numerous requests to produce ultra-high-pressure products, such as diamonds, but we had no technical basis with which to do so. Two-axis machining equipment was not available anywhere in Japan and equipment from overseas was every expensive. Therefore, we started to research ultra-high-pressure technology from zero by ourselves. In 1982, we succeeded in manufacturing a 1.2-carat, single crystal diamond, which was included in the 1984 version of the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest synthetic diamond at that time.


Started experiments on InGaAs crystal growth for the Space Shuttle Endeavour


NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavor enabled a number of experiments that were difficult to conduct on the ground ("Fuwatto '92" project). One experiment tried to produce new ambitious materials by taking advantage of the features in outer space where substances with poor compatibility like oil and water will mix uniformly.


Developed aluminum wiring harnesses


For wiring harnesses, copper wires are commonly used for the excellent electrical conductivity. However, in order to contribute to the reduction of vehicle weight, the Sumitomo Electric Group developed aluminum alloy wires that have a current conductivity equivalent to that of copper wires with half the weight of copper wires. Aluminum wiring harnesses using these electric wires have been sold since 2010. Of the cars in the world, one in four uses Sumitomo Electric Group wiring harnesses.


Construction of a 1 MW CPV power generation plant in Morocco and start of performance evaluation

power plant

Based on a demonstration contract with the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN), a megawatt-class power plant using our 1-MW concentrator photovoltaic system was built in Ouarzazate, Morocco. We are carrying out five-year field demonstration from November 2016 to May 2021.