Pursuing Stability on Water with a New Shape. TOP FLOAT (Floating pier) with Enhanced “Wave Dissipation Function”Toshipla Co.,Ltd
“TOP FLOAT”. The shape is completely different from previous floating piers (floats)
Points to be noted
- Experience and ideas open up a niche world
- Develop user-friendly products from the perspective of users
- Complete support for manufacturing from product design to final product
Floating pier (Hereinafter referred as float) is a raft or a life buoy. It is connected and floated on the water to be used for scaffolding, leisure activities, and as a mount for water power generation.
Toshipla Co., Ltd. has been engaged with blow molding of plastics for 30 years since its establishment. The company has an integrated setup for design, mold making, and commercialization. In the blow molding process, plastic is softened by heat and extruded into a pipe (called a parison), this is followed by blowing compressed air into the parison while the resin is still soft, plastic expands and presses against the mold, it is then cooled and solidified to complete the molding process. The company, based on its strength in handling all processes from design to production, changed its former company name (Toshikawa Plastic Co., Ltd.) to the current company name in 2016. The goal was to become a manufacturer who can manufacture original products. One of the products they developed was a float “TOP FLOAT” with enhanced “Wave dissipation function”.
Previous floats have a cube shaped hollow structure to float on the water. The hollow construction makes the floats light, but it is affected at places with waves and starts to shake. Though the shaking can be absorbed by increasing the weight, the value of the float lies in making it light enough to float while keeping it heavy enough not to shake. The weight of some of the products from overseas is adjusted by filling water inside the floats.
We asked Mr. Toshikawa, development head of the company, about the development history of “TOP FLOAT”.
According to the development head, the company has been manufacturing floats for about 15 years, and in addition to frequent feedback from users on “Shake”, it was the challenging spirit of the president due to which the float development was started. They considered that it may be possible to solve the problem of shaking by not focusing on the conventional shape, and started the research 5 years ago and built many prototypes before developing the product.
When asked how a shape different from a conventional cube and balance between light weight for floating and weight for stability was achieved, he said that the first step in development was to think about the ease of use for workers.
He said that it started with the idea that the product should be easy to assemble at the site in a few steps as possible.
The improvement point given maximum importance was to suppress shaking. Though shaking can be reduced by increasing the size, development costs will increase, and hence, they focused on the shape. The product is spiral shaped with through holes for allowing air to pass, and provided with fin stabilizers (shake prevention device) inspired by ships. The spiral shape enhances wave dissipation effect by maximizing the surface area receiving the waves, and the through holes allows air to flow through the unit reducing wind impact on the float.
The product weight has also been increased. The balance between light and heavy was achieved by filling the product with foam material. The product is patented in Japan with Patent No. 5970084, and a patent has been acquired even in China.
The size of “TOP FLOAT” is 1 m. The size can be increased by connecting multiple units.
Development head of Toshikawa spoke about the thought put into manufacturing the spiral shape, which has been used for the first time, “We work with low level technology. We take up challenges with human ability. Though our ideas may be contrary to that of major companies, and we may be headed in the other direction of the present era, our priority is to do whatever it takes to develop the target product. New products can be developed by working flexibly without being restricted by fixed concepts”.
“TOP FLOAT” has been designed such that the system can be changed, depending on the structure placed on top. For water solar photovoltaic electricity generation, solar panels can be placed by installing stands, and double-sided glass panels can be used to utilize reflection of sunlight even from the water surface. The float can be easily used as a scaffold by placing boards on top. An advantage of this product is that the usage can be flexibly changed compared to other floats.
Development head of Toshikawa said, “In the future, we will make improvements according to user requirements and at the same time we are considering developing products of 2 m length. Increasing the float size will bring down cost as the number of required units will reduce. Capital investment is the biggest issue we are facing”, and the concept is finally based on the user’s perspective.
The company always strives to create products from the perspective of workers, and have been developing products based on the requirement at the work sites. Importance is given to products that are unbreakable and usage is easy to understand. One of their customers, Furukawa Electric has been using the patented products of Toshipla for over 15 years.
In the future, as a manufacturer exhibiting the spirit of challenge and technical ability, they plan to manufacture niche useful products suitable for small and medium size industries.
Interview Date: October 29, 2018
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