Thursday, November 22, 2018

No. 895: Tires are entering into the stage of IoT (November 22, 2018)

Bridgestone will put more management resources to business involved in automated driving and car sharing to survive in the days of IoT where everything is connected on the Internet. The future automobile industry is said to be featured by CASE that stands for connected, automated, sharing, and electric. World automobile sales are estimated at 100 million units in 2023, about 2 million units, or 2%, of which will be for car sharing thereafter because of the shift from owning to utilizing. Thanks to the shift, the world tire market is expected to grow by 2% per year from about 4,000 billion yen in 2017 to 4,700 billion yen in 2025. The shift increases automobile utilization rate, and increased automobile utilization rate increases exchange frequency of tires.

To be ready for the shift, data analysis is crucial. A sensor is attached to a tire to collect data on travel distance and operational status. These data are helpful to know the timing of inspection and service in advance. Bridgestone has been accumulating the know-how to collect such data using mining vehicles. Michelin of France is monitoring the air pressure and inside temperature of a tire using the sensor attached to a tire. It informs the tire administrator of the current status when data go down below the standard values.

Komatsu installs its remote control monitoring system named Komtrax all its construction machines operating in the world for preventive maintenance and energy-saving operation. Hitachi that concluded a nearly 30 years’ maintenance contract with the high-speed railway of Great Britain installs about 40,000 sensors installed on each railway car, through which it collects data for efficient maintenance. Competition in the sales of vehicles and machines in the construction business has already entered into a new stage that asks manufacturers to realize added-value with the help of 5G, the next-generation communication standard.

The truth about Bridgestone Tires

Komatsu’s Komtrax service

24 Hours at Hitachi’s Ashford Train Maintenance Center

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

No. 894: A new organization to make space travel a reality is set up in Japan (November 21, 2018)

Market trend:

A total of six companies including ANAHoldings, Marubeni Corporation, Airbus Japan, Sky Perfect JSAT Corporation, and Mitsui Fudosan have establish an organization to open a base with a runway necessary for landing and takeoff of space ship to realize space travel by the private sector. Naoko Yamazaki, an astronaut, will be the representative director of this organization. The new organization named Space Port Japan plans to open a base with a 3,000-meter-long runway to allow an airplane-type space ship to depart to and return from space toward 2021.

ANA Holdings is actively strengthening and expanding space-related business through investing in venture companies developing space ships. There are currently about 10 commercial space ports in the U.S., and European countries including Great Britain, Italy, and Spain have a plan to construct a space port. It plans to construct the first space port in Asia in 2021 to take initiative in the space business.

The world’s first space port in the State of New Mexico, the U.S.

Space travel channel by Club Tourism

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

No. 893: Earth observation satellite that can travel at a low altitude for shooting (August 30, 2017)

The Japanese government is scheduled to launch a testing model of earth observation satellite that travels low over the ground within 2017. While most existing earth observation satellites travel at 600-800 km above the ground, the testing model can travel at 180-300 km above the ground. Because a satellite has 1,000 times more air resistance at a low altitude than it has in space, it goes down unless some measures are taken. The testing model keeps its altitude by emitting a highly efficient ion propulsion engine, and its airframe is modified to reduce air resistance. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is scheduled to launch the testing model using the H2A rocket within 2017. Because it travels low over the ground, it can take clear photos using a low performance sensor. It is nicknamed “Tsubame (Swallow).” In addition to the ability to take clear photos for conventional earth observation, it can hopefully be used for security.

Tsubame (Swallow) earth observation satellite

Monday, August 28, 2017

No. 892: New titanium material that is three times as strong as existing titanium material (August 29, 2017)

Katsuyoshi Kondo, professor at Osaka University, developed a new titanium material, which is three times as strong as the existing titanium material jointly with Takefu Special Steel in Fukui Prefecture and Charmant that is one of Japan’s leading glassframe makers in Fukui Prefecture. They consolidated oxidized titanium at high temperature and high pressure, and successfully increased the strength of the existing titanium material by three times. They plan to translate the new technology into practical application for medical apparatus and aircraft materials in three years.

For the development, they adopted the method of power metallurgy that consolidates power materials. They mixed titanium and powder of oxidized titanium at 1,000 degrees centigrade and consolidated them at 60-80 pressure. The new material has tensile strength of 1250 mega, which is three times as high as that of the existing titanium material. Professor Kondo told that because the new titanium material is free from rare earths, it is low-priced and as safe as a kitten. He eyes the possibility of applying it to parts of aircraft engine and apparatus for brain surgery. 

Subaru Impreza: Sound through 
an exhaust pipe made of titanium 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

No. 891: Bendable organic electroluminescence for vehicle lighting is developed by Pioneer (August 28, 2017)

Pioneer developed bendable electroluminescence device applicable to vehicle lighting unit, allowing automakers to develop highly-designed lighting units that can be tailored to vehicle shape. The company successfully opened the way for the practical use by doubling the product life to 10 years, while meeting the requirements of automakers, such as color and brightness. Practical applications are scheduled for 2020. Pioneer has already started marketing the new technology to automakers both at home and abroad. It focuses on the application for tail lamps of luxury cars and self-driving cars because bendable organic electroluminescence allows automakers to pursue originality in car design.

The existing organic electroluminescence is hardly bendable because it made of glass substrate. Pioneer has been developing bendable electroluminescence made of resin substrate. Water makes inroads into resin more easily than into glass, makes resin deteriorate fast. The company reduced the influence of water by improving the constituent materials like luminous elements and resin substrate. Pioneer established Konica MinoltaPioneer OLED last June by integrating the organic EL lighting business of Pioneer and Konica Minolta on an equal basis.

Bendable organic electroluminescence developed by Pioneer

Flexible 4K organic EL display developed by 

Friday, December 23, 2016

No. 890: Lithium-ion battery that allows travel distance of 400 km per charge (December 23, 2016)

Hitachi developed a technology of lithium-ion battery that allows an EV to travel about 400 km per charge. The new lithium-ion battery has two times higher capacity than the existing lithium-ion battery and increases the travel distance per charge of an EV by about 40%. Nissan’s Leaf can travel 280 km per charge that is currently the longest travel distance per charge. Hitachi aims to achieve energy density of 320 watts per kg that is about two times higher than the current level.   

Nissan's Leaf
It can travel 280 km per charge

The newly developed battery uses an anode composed mainly of nickel that is two times as thicker than the existing anode. The cathode is composed mainly of silicone instead of carbon-based materials. Hitachi’s research team covered the anode with an oxidized material and added a fluorinated additive to the electrolyte to reduce the generation of membranes. It successfully kept the capacity of the lithium-ion battery at 90% of the initial level even after repeating charge and discharge for more than 100 times. Furthermore, it estimates that the cost of the new lithium-ion battery will not increase greatly.   

New Energy and IndustrialTechnology Development Organization (NEDO) that supports the development activities estimates that the new lithium-ion battery will be put into practical used in 2020. Because the performance of a lithium-ion battery is approaching the limit, NEDO is currently developing a totally new type battery to realize a longer travel distance per charge with a view to translating it into practical applications in 2030.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

No. 889: Hokkaido Shinkansen is inaugurated on March 26, 2016 (March 26, 2016)

The long-cherished Hokkaido Shinkansen (Bullet train) was inaugurated on March 26, 2016. It travels 149 km between Aomori in Honshu and Hakodate in Hokkaido in about one hour through the tunnel under the Tsugaru Straits. Now you can travel from Tokyo to Hakodate in four hours and two minutes. The Hokkaido Shinkansen is scheduled to be extended up to Sapporo, the largest and prefectural capital of Hokkaido, by the end of 2018. With the extension, you can travel from Tokyo to Sapporo in about five hours. 

 The 149 km from Hakodate to Aomori, 
in most of which the train travels under the water.

Various highly sophisticated technologies have been developed to make the Hokkaido Shinkansen a reality. For example, it uses the existing line for the first time as a Shinkansen Line. That is, a Shinkansen train and a freight train go by each other on the existing line as shown in the following video. 

A Shinkansen train and a freight train go by each other on the existing line.

Now you can visit Hokkaido aboard a Shinkansen train and enjoy wonderful cuisines in Hokkaido without being worried about flying above the ground. Japan wishes people from every part of the world to enjoy Tokyo and Hokkaido during their stay in Japan. 

Can you believe this? A bar in Tokyo has a miniature Hokkaido Shinkansen to 
entertain customers. This is typically Japanese hospitality.