Using refined skill, automation, and AI technology to support all types of ultra-fine processingimpact Co.,Ltd
"From a plant capable of mass producing ultra-fine parts: From a single unit to 10 billion units per month"—this is the catchphrase of Impact Inc. Impact Inc. possesses processing technology for ultra-fine parts that are nearly invisible to the naked eye. The company automates this processing technology for mass production. We dicussed the details of technology and future prospects with President Atsushi Tairabune of Impact Inc. Tairabune has received the 100 Next Generation Craftsman award from Ota Ward and the Tokyo Meister award.
Manufactures automated machinery for mass producting craftsmanship
World-class "Japanese brands" are supported by the technical skills of craftsmen. However, mass production becomes more difficult as craftsmanship becomes even more refined. Impact's greatest strength is the ability to solve this problem. The company supports all stages from prototypes production for parts using ultra-fine processing.
"After producing prototypes using ultra-fine processing technology, our company then optimizes the construction method and manufuactures automated machinery for mass production by combining grinding, cutting, plastic deformation, ultrasonic waves, welding, electric discharge, laser, and other processes. Originally, I specialized in these kinds of automated machinery. Thanks to my skill, I started accepting contract work for parts processing. I began working on ultra-fine processing in 2005. "
Tairafune continued to pursue this ultra-fine processing technology. He received the 100 Next Generation Craftsman award from Ota Ward in 2009 and the Tokyo Meister award in 2014. Now, what are the smallest parts which can be processed?
"Our most intricate work to date was cutting 3 µm (1 µm = 0.001 mm) diameter metal wires into 1 µm lengths. Such dimensions are so small that the work is no longer visible to the naked eye. However, we performed the work by hand under a microscope to maintain accuracy and leave no burrs on the cut surface. "
The technological capability of Impact has reached a level which no one has even attempted. It seems that the tools to achieve such ultra-fine processing are not easily procured.
"Right now, we are trying to drill a 1 μm hole. Unfortunately, such a fine drill is not available anywhere. It is our style to make our own tools for processing."
Equipping automated machinery with AI technology for image recognition
In recent years, AI technology has been added to automated machinery for ultra-fine processing to realize even more advanced technology.
"Our automated machinery with AI learn the images of hundreds of prototypes. This enables us to ascertain the shape of parts being automatically machined in real time. Even if grinding were to be out of position, we can send instructions for adjusting parameters to the control system of the automated machinery and proceed with processing while making corrections."
Impact's automation is not limited to just automated machinery for mass production.
"At our company, we already control equipment such as ceiling lights in the company with Alexa*1 and Raspberry Pi*2. Eventually, I want to organically connect all devices and data. "
*1: AI assistant voice service developed by Amazon
*2: Single board computer developed for education in computer programming. This technology is attracting strong attention for use in IoT applications such as logistics, production machinery, nursing care monitoring, etc.
Machine manufactured by Tairafune. Equipped with image recognition technology.
Targetting the medical field, which is highly compatible with ultra-fine processing
About 50% of the company's work is related to semiconductors. Recently, Impact is focusing on the medical field. In 2017, the company obtained approval for the medical device manufacturing industry. It supplies related components overseas.
"Ultra-fine processing is highly compatible with medical devices such as needles and catheters. There is a high level of need for our technology. Moreover, products that are useful for medical care benefit all of us—Impact, doctors, and patients. Our company will continue to actively work in the medical field in the future."
Impact's focus for the future is to "go beyond parts and materials to manufacture original finished products." What new ideas will Impact conceive during this process? Using imagination will undoubtedly create outstanding opportunities for expanding into new markets.
Atsushi Tairabune, President
The company was established in 1975. In 1995, the company relocated to Ota Ward, Tokyo, a district which has about 3,500 factories and is known as a manufacturing neighborhood. Impact provides ultra-fine processing technology in various fields with a focus on semiconductors. The company is currently focusing on the medical field, an area in which the company has an extensive track record of processing cell harvesting needles, corneal resection instruments, glaucoma surgery instruments, catheters, and more.
Coverage date: January 21, 2020
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