Saturday, August 31, 2013

No. 763: Does your POS system need bar-codes? (August 31, 2013)

Toshiba Tec is conducting the substantiative experiment of its new POS system that does not need bar-codes for product scanning. The new POS system identifies products by reading their colors and figures instead of by scanning their bar-codes. It can tell even the difference between species of apple. It is scheduled to be put on the market within 2013. The price is not decided at present.
The new POS system reads the figure, color, surface pattern of a product and identifies it with reference to stored data. It can read these pieces of information as fast as the existing POS system scans the bar-code. Toshiba Tec is developing this POS system with the help of the image recognition technology developed by Toshiba Research and Development Center. The company is world’s leading maker of POS system with 30% share in the world market. 

You no longer need bar-codes.

Friday, August 30, 2013

No. 762: Vehicle safety technology is growing more sophisticated (3/3) (August 30, 2013)

It is not too much to emphasize the importance of seatbelt and air bag for the safety of driver and passenger. Takata, one of Japan’s leading makers of vehicle safety devices, developed an air bag in collaboration with GM of the U.S. to prevent a collision between the heads of driver and passenger. The new air bag inflates to create a partition between the driver and passenger when the vehicle is hit by the side. GM adopted this air bag, saying that it decreases the fatal accident due to side crash by 30%. 

 The front center airbag Takata developed with GM

Takata developed a new air bag that plays the roles of an air bag and a seatbelt simultaneously. Named airbelt, Takata’s new product inflates the air bags built in the seatbelt around the shoulder and chest when the vehicle is hit. It enlarges the area between the seatbelt and the wearer to diffuse the impact on the chest. Vehicle safety technology is developing on a daily basis.

 Takata's airbet

GM First Center Air Bag

Thursday, August 29, 2013

No. 761: Vehicle safety technology is growing more sophisticated (2/3) (August 29, 2013)

Mazda's new Atenza
The technology to prevent an accident attracts a wide attention today. At the same time, demand for the technology to protect pedestrians is growing rapidly. Automakers are exerting lots of energy to develop a technology to absorb the impact for the protection of pedestrians. Mazda Atenza has a bumper that the company improved for the safety of pedestrians. The company increased the strength of the lower part of a bumper to prevent a pedestrian from being caught under the autobody when it collides with him. The idea is to throw a pedestrian onto the hood instead of catching him under the autobody.

Toyoda introduced the pop-up hood technology to its new Crown Hybrid. The sensor installed on the reverse side the bumper detects a collision and puts the hood to create empty space between the windshield side of the hood and the autobody to absorb the impact created by the collision. The company wishes to increase the precision the system and introduce it to other models.  

Toyota's pop-up hood technology

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No. 760: Vehicle safety technology is growing more sophisticated (1/3) (August 28, 2013)

Honda Hybrid Accord
Honda new Hybrid Accord is selling very fast, recording sales of 7,000 units in about one month after it was put on the market in June this year. More than 60% of the 7,000 units are the upmarket model priced at 3,900,000 yen. The high popularity of this model is attributable to the driving support system on the express highway. Honda introduced its lane keeping assist system (LKAS) to this upmarket model. The high performance camera installed on the windshield monitors the position of the while line showing the lane on the express highway while the vehicle is traveling. When the vehicle runs off the lane, a force is applied to the steering wheel automatically to get the vehicle back to the lane. 

Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS)
Because this system always fine-tunes the position of the vehicle, it reduces the fatigue of the driver. Honda says, “About 90% of the drivers traveling with an IT-assisted automatic control system are happy with the reduced fatigue.” The development guidelines for IT-assisted vehicle control systems published by the government stipulate that the LKAS should be activated at higher than 65 km/h because false recognition caused by the camera supposedly hardly occurs. In June, the government reduced the target speed to 50 km/h with a view to applying the LKAS to vehicles travelling on the local street. 

Enjoy driving a Honda Hybrid Accord

Monday, August 26, 2013

No. 759: Extracting biofuel from algae efficiently (August 27, 2013)

Producing biofuel from algae
A research team led by Hideki Kanda of Nagoya University developed a technology to extract biofuel of algae by a half amount of energy needed by the existing technology. The new technology eliminates the process to dry and smash algae. At present, it is necessary to dry algae and smash cells using chemicals in order to extract fuel from them. Because the two processes cost much, the new technology has overcome another problem for practical application.

The new technology adds dimethyl ether to the culture solution of algae, while applying pressure on it. Dimethyl ether enters into algal cells, combines with biofuel, and goes out of them. Biofuel can be separated easily from dimethyl ether by drying the dimethyl ether containing biofuel at several tens of degrees of centigrade using waste heat from plants. The dimethyl ether can be used repeatedly for the extraction of biofuel by liquefying it. The research team confirmed that the new technology can be applied to various kinds of algae. It plans to ally with companies for practical application.

The bright future algae build

No. 758: Recovering rare earthes with the help of DNA (August 26, 2013)

Hiroshima University and Aisin Cosmos R and D, which is a subsidiary of Aisin Seiki, jointly developed a technology to recover rare earthes contained in waste high-tech products using biotic DNAs. They made the DNAs of salmon and trout adsorb rare earthes and inpoured an acid aqueous solution to them, and successfully recovered such rare earthes as neodymium and dysprosium to higher than 90% purity.

The research team focused attention on the fact that the phosphate group contained in DNA adsorbs rare earthes. In the experiments, research members filled a plastic cylinder with cellulose combined with DNAs and inpoured a solution containing various kinds of rare earthes, and subsequently inpoured low-concentrated hydrochloric acid. This method allowed them to recover neodymium, dysprosium, and cerium independently.    

Recovering rare earthes using salmon milts

Sunday, August 25, 2013

No. 757: A rare-earth-free motor for hybrid vehicles (August 25, 2013)

A research team led by Akira Chiba of Tokyo Institute of Technology developed a new rare-earth-free motor for hybrid vehicles. Powerful motors exclusively for hybrid vehicles need rare earths like neodymium for their permanent magnets. Because it is hard to establish stable procurement of rare earths, technology to reduce the consumption of rare earths has been strongly desired.

Prof. Chiba and his research members improved materials of the magnet core and their arrangements. They successfully increased the output by about 60%. The new motor has an output of 100 kW and more torque as compared with a motor of the same size that has an output of 60 kW. Several companies including Hitachi already developed rare-earth-free motors for industrial purposes, but no rare-earth-free motor is currently available for hybrid vehicles. The research team plans to put the motor into practical use in alliance with partner companies of the joint research. 

A rare-earth-free magnet motor

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

No. 756: World’s thinnest speaker for flat-screen TVs from Kyocera (August 21, 2013)

Kyocera's world thinnest speaker
Kyocera developed the world’s thinnest speaker for flat-screen TVs. It is as thin as 1 mm. It is 3.5 cm deep and 6.5 cm wide, and weighs 7 g. It is less than twentieth as thin as the existing speaker for flat-screen TVs. It is hundredth in volume and twentieth in weight as compared with the exiting speaker for flat-screen TVs. LG Electronics of Korea employed the Kyocera’s new product for its 4 mm-thick 55-inch flat-screen TVs and its organic EL TVs. Kyocera ships its samples for 2,000-3,000 yen apiece. 

Kyocera employed ceramic piezoelectric elements instead of magnet coils for its world’s thinnest speaker. A speaker that utilizes piezoelectric elements cannot be used for audiovisual devices because of the narrow range and low output. The company piled up thin films of piezoelectric element in six-eight layers to increase the output, and covered them with a specially-developed soft resin film to amplify sound. Although the existing the coil speaker is built in downward, Kyocera’s new speaker can be built in in the front face and gives listeners clear sound even in a distant place. Demand for thin speakers is expected to grow as the business of organic EL TVs and 4K TVs is scheduled to gain momentum in 2014.  

  Kyocera's displays