Communicating the value of our next-generation technologies

2022.6.30Design Work

Giving shape to technology, freshness to value

One of Nikon's key current goals is to provide new solutions that utilize our cultivated technologies. Here, we introduce some of the challenges our creative designers and development engineers have dedicated themselves to overcoming as they work to deliver Nikon's new solutions including robot vision and riblet processing, their technologies and values to as many people as possible.

A public debut

Nikon is dedicated to supporting manufacturing and research in plants and laboratories. From microscopes, semiconductors, FPD lithography and industrial equipment to optical processing machines, all of these products pursue ease of use, reliability, and performance, just as Nikon cameras have always done. The end goal is to contribute to a broad spectrum of business expansion opportunities as well as providing solutions to different social issues.

The latest initiatives by the company include dynamic robot vision that goes beyond that of the human eye, and riblet processing that applies microscopic processing inspired by shark skin to a surface for a variety of applications. Both technologies effectively save manpower during the manufacturing process while reducing energy consumption, and are now being developed for mass production.

In-development technologies that were created for business opportunities: these are things you don't normally hear about unless you're a staff member. However, we had been presented with an opportunity to unveil them to the world, so the question "How can we communicate Nikon's technologies and initiatives at this unique event?" became the start of our creative designers' journey on this unprecedented mission.

To explain the unprecedented

Nikon's robot vision is a technology that performs its tasks by capturing fast-moving objects and recognizing their shape and material accurately with dynamic vision that is beyond the human eye. Meanwhile, our riblet processing reduces air friction produced on wind turbines and aircraft wings with microscopic surface structures, taking advantage of Nikon's optical and precision technologies. Both of these are now under development for practical use.

The slogan the team in charge of developing these cutting-edge technologies adopted is "The real value lies in technology that's really necessary" — not only do they develop advanced technologies, but they also dedicate themselves to making such technologies practical and easy to use.

Our creative designers' mission is to share these development engineers' passion and refine the pure technology and value to something that has broad public appeal. At this time, we needed to provide surprise, expectations, dreams and movement — a feeling of "Wow, we can do all these kinds of things with these new technologies", or "I could use this technology in this way" — that attracts not only the robot and metal processing experts, but also anyone else visiting the exhibition.

An attractive shape and surprising motion

Robot vision, which is designed to be employed at a variety of manufacturing sites for such processes as selection, welding and assembly, is a prototype but pursues the same level of perfection as a mass-produced product. The pure white exterior with its organic form that would fit as comfortably in a home as well as a factory, also incorporates advanced technology such as LED light-emitting elements.

We chose domino toppling to demonstrate robot vision at the exhibition. Although we have all probably played this game at least once, it is difficult for a conventional robot to distinguish small dominoes that fall randomly, pick them up accurately, and rearrange them all on their own. We believed this was the best way to express the new possibilities of our robot vision.

However, it was not easy to make the prototype technology move in a way that differed from its original intended use, and errors were unavoidable. We overcame this problem by working speedily as a team, with the creative designers adjusting the shape and creating new movements right next to the development engineers as they were programming. After overcoming numerous problems, the domino toppling was well-received, with many people stopping to watch the fascinating performance.

In the case of riblet processing, our goal was to make a dynamic impact. An object resembling a wind turbine blade towers above the visitors, and at its feet stands a mobile riblet processing robot that will eventually be able to run autonomously while applying surface processing. We placed this huge object and innovative look of the mobile riblet processing machine at the entrance of the Nikon booth to stimulate the imagination of visitors about the society that this technology will bring about.

The very first step to disseminating these new technologies to the world and solving the social issues they address is to let as many people know about their existence in the first place. In this, Nikon's challenge will continue.

Our ongoing challenge to spread the technology

ID Group
Mitsuo Nakajima

I was very proud to see the new technology Nikon had developed and wanted to share this excitement with others. This form, as well as the domino toppling demonstration, is filled with the excitement and amazement we felt during the development process. As a creative designer, I strongly hope to continue being a bridge to convey technology and value to others.

ID Group
Yuki Kobayashi

Giving form and shape to new technologies: it was a project that gave me more freedom and challenge than any work I have ever undertaken. This project is still in the development stage, but its true potential is much higher. I would like to continue to do my best to make the exhibit even more attractive when it is fully complete.

Experience Design Group
Sumito Watanabe

It was a real pleasure to see the value being created in a still-developing technology from up close, and to be involved in that process as a creative designer. Development for mass production is underway, but I would like to continue my efforts to convey value while thinking about the customers who will actually use the product.

Communication Design Group
Mei Nishiya

Development for mass production, prototype design and the exhibition — I had an honor to accept the baton that had been passed down by many people in the process and committed myself in communicating the technology and its value to all people more easily and more appealingly in the very last stage. I will continue to utilize my design perspective to communicate Nikon's challenges.

2nd Development Section, 2nd Development Department, Next Generation Project Division
Satoshi Hasegawa

The aim of this project was to present robots that will work in the factories of the future to the general public. However, I think the importance of conveying new value with something fresh is just as important as when presenting them to the robot engineers. I want to continue thinking of different ways to stimulate the inspiration of the users.

3rd Development Department, Engineering Solution Division
Takeshi Kobayashi

In the development of semiconductor lithography and other equipment that I have been involved with in the past, the procedures were all well-established. On the other hand, everything was free in this project. Although there were some difficulties, it was a valuable opportunity for me to experience the excitement of purely controlling a robot. Even for productization, I would like to convey this technology's value by utilizing the power of design.

ID Group
Haruki Miwa

I believe riblet processing occupies a slightly different position from past technologies — as a B to B product that may be seen by many people. It is a new technology that has the potential to change the way we live. I want to keep taking on new challenges designing products that will allow people to feel the value of this new technology.

Business Development Section, Business Development Department, Next Generation Project Division
Yuta Goto

Our challenge is to create new value together with our customers by carefully listening to what they are currently struggling with and the breakthroughs they need. In order to do this, the power of design that embodies value and empathy is indispensable. With both technology and design, we hope to develop new technologies that are needed and valued by both our own customers and the whole of society.

Business Development Section, Business Development Department, Next Generation Project Division
Mutsuki Nakayama

I'm currently involved in utilizing riblet processing in the development of racing cars. In this field, many people work hard every day to shave off even one tenth of a second from lap times. If our technology can help them win, I believe it will create great new value in the form of excitement. Not only contributing to businesses, but I would also like to take on the challenge of using new technologies to move people's hearts and minds.