BreakThrough Interview

Imagination & Common Sense: Innovative Development of Completed Micro Precision Parts Production TechnologyKomatsuseiki kosakusho Co.,Ltd


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Digital clearance adjustment helped improve precision


  • New business growth thanks to one-and-only innovative technology
  • Believing in “Invent the Unknown” & aiming to become a “technology department store”

Press processing is a manufacturing method that is ideal for low-cost mass production of metal parts. This fundamental technology is a staple of manufacturing across all fields.
It would not be exaggerating to say that punch presses are the standard method used to form pressed parts. This shearing process holds the workpiece material between the male punch and the female die, and cuts blanks out of the material. After the blanks are cut from the workpiece material, the border of the punched hole will show droop/rollover, a sheared surface and deformations like fractures and burrs. These formations are important elements that determine the precision and function of the cut pieces. High precision parts processing requires a shorter rollover, longer sheared surface, and minimal burrs. Clearance - the gap between the punch and die - is the key. In order to achieve high precision, the clearance must be set as tight as possible.
Generally, clearance adjustment is performed by a punch press technician, but this analog process is limited to a precision of ±1μm (micrometers, 1/1000mm). Converting the punch location adjustment to digital methods allows for maintenance of nanometer precision. The inventor of these nanometer precision digital clearance adjustment punch dies is Komatsu Seiki Co., Ltd.

The Road to Successful Development

Tomomi Shiratori, director of Komatsu Seiki’s R&D department explains, “Nanometer precision punch die location adjustment is our exclusive technology.”

“Micro” processing usually refers to technology that maintains 1μm accuracy for tools and processed parts. However, as previously mentioned, there are limits to a technician’s manual machine processing and location adjustments, so it is inevitable that some pieces will vary by 1μm. Micrometer processing has been used for pieces that can allow for these slight variations in size.

Komatsu Seiki integrated a Piezoelectric stage (positioning sensor) into the die to convert clearance adjustment into digital adjustment, creating a digital clearance adjustment punch die. This innovation successfully refined the level of clearance precision two digits beyond the μm standard, allowing for accuracy within 10nm (nanometers, 1/100,000mm).

Currently, advances are being made in visibility and measurement of changes in the grains of the workpiece using these molds, allowing for analysis and optimization shearing process conditions to expand contract work.

Digital clearance adjustment successfully enables accurate processing without deviation, making grain deformation evaluation possible for the first time.

Industrial-Academia-Government Collaboration & Innovation

Until 2018, it was common sense within the processing industry that punch location precision was limited to micrometers, and that factory technicians would compensate for what machines couldn’t do. Komatsu Seiki sensed that they had the power to tackle the common sense of the industry head-first by switching from analog know-how to digital methods.

Die and mold presses are an environment that is powerful enough to bend and cut metal, so it is not an easy burden for digital devices to endure. This project was selected by METI’S Strategic Core Technology Advancement Program (Supporting Industry Program) and development proceeded with the help of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), research institutes like the Tokyo Metropolitan University, and metal rolling companies. Shiratori explains, “We worked on finding ways to withstand the load, while limiting the anticipated load, and reached success thanks to progress made through industrial-academia-government collaboration.”

External Promotion to Acquire New Clients

The demand for nanometer precision processing technology is not very wide. That’s why Komatsu Seiki decided to engage in aggressive external promotion of their technology by joining this exhibition and presenting a paper.

As a result, they are already receiving unexpected requests from new clients: advanced parts evaluation using nanometer precision presses. Currently, they are already working on processing phenomenon investigation for multiple companies including automobile parts makers and major electronic equipment manufacturers. Processing phenomenon analysis is progressing through joint research with the clients using nano and micro precision presses.

Komatsu Seiki’s business has expanded broadly from the usual process of manufacturing products according to the client’s design, to testing contracts for solving difficult processing phenomenon. They have grown into a company that can offers everything from parts processing to testing facilities thanks to their understanding of pre-production fundamentals, and through new encounters with previously unused raw materials and technologies.
Shiratori says, “We get to work together with our clients before they draw their design, and create something that didn’t exist in the world yet. This makes me so happy as a developer.”

New Connections, New Creations

She declares, “The basics are never going to change, and there is no reason to try and change them.” Komatsu Seiki refined their specialty - production technology for high precision parts that are driven by tiny amounts of energy - through experience making wristwatch components. They believe in trying to “Invent the Unknown.” The business that began as an assembly plant for wristwatch components later moved on to producing its own pressed clock parts in-house, and has now expanded to manufacturing electronics and automobile parts, and advanced towards international growth.

Next, they will continue offering standard technologies like press punching, machine processing, and laser processing while expanding into niche technologies like diffusion bonding. This “technology department store” will provide project solutions for clients and make advances in manufacturing and development that covers all stages from design and prototyping to mass production.
“We can discover hints for new technology by making new connections and working with new materials. Anticipating development demand is essential.”

Few companies are working with micro/nanometer processing, and it seems everyone in the industry is struggling with the same issues. Business partnerships and industrial-academia-government collaboration can help achieve technical improvements. Not only will this leads to profits for an individual company, but hopefully the expansion of this technology into society will also contribute to industrial promotion.

Interview Date: February 1, 2019

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We are developing processing technologies which will open the next generation based on the mass production processing technology of micro parts which was cultivated by the production of watch parts and fuel injection parts.

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