GH Craft started in 1970 when Gaku and Hikaru (acronym GH comes from initial letters) began to prepare for incorporation while both were still at the university. When we started, our main work was to design and create racing yachts and small ships that sailed faster than wind. At that time, yachts used light-weight wood frames, and through the 60’s and 70’s FRP (fiber reinforced plastics) were rapidly gaining its popularity.

Wood is a natural composite material with a fiber characteristic and superiority. It is still a superior industrial materials in yachts, vessels, and construction in general. About 50 to 60 years ago, superior adhesives were industrialized and plywood became available in the market. Light-weight plywood structure gained market shares in small yachts and construction industries. Even today it is used in 2x4 construction industry.

Plywood alternately lays materials with 90 degree angles (0/90/0 degree) taking advantage of strength against tension and compression. This creates superior panel materials.

Our founding period was repetition of creating light but strong yacht structure with our own hands and brains, and then participating in yacht competition to see the superiority of our products.

Soon we entered into the age of glass fiber that has relatively low elasticity. Compared to wood-made yachts, physical strength is low and waves deformed the bottom of the yachts. Therefore, despite its superiority in lightness and durability, it was difficult to win the race in competition. FRP was composed of glass fiber and heat hardening (non-saturating polyester) resin leading to lighter and stronger composite such as sandwich structure resulting in further advancement of materials and mold processing technology.  

1970’s was the time when the carbon fiber market started as the most strongest yet light-weight industrial material. In our competition world, we adapted this cutting edge material right away. In advanced aerospace industry honey comb structure using carbon fiber was just starting while in Japan fishing rods, tennis rackets, and golf clubs started to use carbon technology. Fortunately, GH Craft adapted the cutting-edge technology earlier than Japanese commercial and defense industries through yacht competition world. Becoming a Japanese board member of SAMPE (Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering, headquartered in US) enhanced our knowledge and understanding of the technology.

In 1980’s Japan, motor sports was reaching the peak and racing cars started to use carbon fiber materials. This was the period that we started to use CAE, CAD, and CAM as well as autoclave technologies. We reorganized our corporate structure to be able to run the complete capability of designing models, tooling, jig forming, molding, assembling, and evaluating.

In 1990’s, Japanese motor sports industry quickly started to decline correlated with  the bubble economy burst. During the bubble period through each motor sports seasons, GH Craft experienced the demanding development cycles with severe design requirement in a short production time. We learned from these experiences the standard design and development of the automobile industry. We came up with the solution of significantly reducing development period at the front line of world class motor sports, and then shifting gears for new aerospace world.
Our new challenge in aerospace industry coincided with the rapidly growing cost sensitivity in the industry. They started to listen to new ideas in order to lower the cost instead of high quality with high cost standard that they used to have.

GH Craft succeeded to bring in new ideas based on our yacht and racing car experiences. We created tooling and jig molding in a short period, and produced satellite structure, test vehicle structure, and load equipments.  

In 1998, Nippon Challenge returned to America’s Cup. In the past, Yamaha structured the yacht, but this time Professor Miyata of Tokyo University (http://triton.naoe.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/home-j.html) leaded the technical team for developing specification of the yacht shape using hydro- and aero-dynamics while GH Craft directed the building team by designing structure and constructing the hull and mast.

In order for a wide range of young engineers and technicians to learn the expertise of constructing America’s cup yacht using aerospace level composite materials, we recruited building team members from all over the country. At the same time, the sailing team participated in the construction along with GH Craft staffs to create completely different shapes for Ashura and Idaten in a short time period but within the low budget.

In America’s Cup race, just like Formula 1 and soccer’s world cup game, the competition level is world class. And unfortunately, Nippon Challenge team could not go through the preliminary competition. However, we have achieved the world’s top level quality including the construction process of the yachts.

Year 2000:
HOPE-X Project to Develop All Carbon Fiber Composite Experimental Fuselage

However GH Craft is more than just a mold tool maker and manufacturer, and aims for engineering tasks and manufacturing challenges using our strength through understanding the end users structural, technical, functional and economic needs.

This demands good harmony between structural and physical strength design and elaborative design. We are contributing to the industry by designing, developing and prototyping something that has not existed yet in the world, and by introducing ingenious ideas in prototype creation.
Size specification of America’s Cup yacht above:
Length: 24.0m
Width:     4.3m
Composite Material Structural Weight: 1.6 metric ton

Considering the yacht hull as a beam and comparing its bending moment strength to the specification of HOPE-X, the test results were about the same as HOPE-X or better. This meant that the significant cost reduction (about 1/5 〜 1/10) from the conventional aluminum sheet based structure, which was the driving force of this project.

If this HOPE-X project continued as planned initially, in 2005 the first Japanese made composite spaceship would have been launched from Tanegashima and returned near Christmas islands in the Pacific Ocean following the US success of Space Ship One in 2004. It was regrettable that the project has not been carried out.

In 21st century, advanced composite will finally end the great development age started in the second half of the 20th century. And it will grow to be a general industrial structural material. Commercial airplanes like A380 and 787 already started to use it, and mass production in the automotive industry using the material is being considered now. GH Craft has started R&D in this field as well.