BreakThrough Interview

Combining the company’s own and other companies' technologies to create assistance robotsPiezo Sonic Corp

<Part 2 (2 Parts in Series)>


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Since its founding, “Piezo Sonic Corp” has created two new innovations in less than three years. One is the “Piezo Sonic Motor,” whose life is twice as long as conventional ultrasonic motors. The other is “Mighty,” an autonomous mobile robot for transport that can travel over steps. What drove the company to develop these products?

Devoted himself to research on ultrasonic motors for many years: A research theme that breaks researchers’ hearts

Friction is the key to the longer life of ultrasonic motors. Since researchers must tackle the friction issue, the research on ultrasonic motors is said to be "a theme that breaks the hearts of researchers and development engineers.”

“Friction is a field that is still poorly understood. The coefficient of friction is only a matter of results, and you can't predict the coefficient of friction between materials before you try. Besides, the results vary depending on the environment, such as temperature and humidity. To study friction, you can't avoid repeated trials and errors.”

While many researchers have changed their themes or quit their companies due to the difficulty of this area, Mr. Tada has been working on this theme for more than 20 years since he was a student. What drove him into this study was the desire for an assistance robot.

“Before my grandfather passed away, I saw his mind became more and more depressed as his body became more and more disabled. Through this experience, I have come to have a burning desire to realize a world where people can live positively, even if they are elderly or infirm. For example, you hesitate to ask someone, even if he/she is your immediate family member, for restroom assistance; however, with a robot, you won't have to worry about it. I thought that an ultrasonic motor would be absolutely necessary for such a robot, and decided to pursue this research myself.

Supplementing lacking technologies through industry-academia-government collaboration

The model #2 of the "Mighty" autonomous mobile robot for transportation has been developed in collaboration with Chuo University and seven private companies. It is scheduled to be tested at high-rise condominiums to evaluate its delivery performance in 2021 or later.

In 2018, the following year of its founding, a robot development project at the company's initiative started in collaboration with Chuo University and seven private companies. The Ota Ward in Tokyo subsidized the project.

"There are three necessary elements for a robot: "action/movement," "measurement," and "recognition/judgment." Since it is impossible for us to work on all of these elements, we should use other companies' technologies for the above elements other than "action/movement."

"We used "Piezo Sonic Motor" in the steering mechanism of the "Mighty" autonomous traveling robot for transport. Also, my company designed the mechanism for traveling over steps and developed the software. On the other hand, we took advantage of the partner companies’ technologies for the roles of "measurement" and "recognition/judgment,” such as sensors and image recognition. This is how "Mighty" was developed. The company has already received some orders for “Mighty.” Besides that. “Mighty” will be tested at high-rise condominiums to evaluate its delivery performance in 2021 or later, in cooperation with a package delivery company. Mr. Tada is steadily getting closer to his goal.

Building up understanding of each other’s stance

What is the key to the success of an industry-academia-government collaboration project that involves many companies, universities, and government organizations?

“The circumstances of the participants of the project are different. Research institutions have limited areas of interest, government organizations have to prepare documents properly under all circumstances, and manufacturers can't move forward until specifications are fixed, etc. I think it's important to understand such differences.”

The company's role is to always stand neutral between them to keep the project proceeding.

"My concept is to talk with each participant carefully and build components up one by one, rather than trying to lead everyone. However, there is a time limit on the project. If a decision cannot be reached, my company will make all the decisions. We are prepared to move the project forward forcibly."

The company may continue to see many opportunities for collaboration in manufacturing in the future.

"Our final goal is assistance robots; however, there are still many steps on the way to get there. For example, it would be great if we could develop a product applying "Piezo Sonic Motor" with gearhead, transfer equipment, and custom robot manufacturers, combining each other’s strengths."

Series Combining the company’s own and other companies' technologies to create assistance robots

Series 1 Developing long-life ultrasonic motors and a robot that can travel over steps
Series 2 Combining the company’s own and other companies' technologies to create assistance robots

Company information

Piezo Sonic Corp

Kohei Tada, President

After working for an ultrasonic motor manufacturer, President Tada founded the company in 2017. The company is a fabless manufacturer that develops, manufactures, and sells Piezo Sonic Motors, autonomous mobile robots, and IoT devices. Based on the knowledge of these products, the company also provides consulting services for developing new services.

Coverage date October 30, 2020

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