Site: Matsushita Research Institute Tokyo Inc.
3-10-1 Higashimita, Tama-ku
Kawasaki 214, Japan

Date Visited: September 28, 1993

Report Author: G. B. Hocker

ATTENDEES

JTEC:

J. Giachino
G. B. Hocker
G. Holdridge

HOSTS:

Dr. Tsutomu Yano Director, Member of the Board
Koichi Kawata Statutory Auditor, Member of the Board
Takeo Sato Senior Engineer
Yoshikazu Kawauchi Senior Engineer
Hiroshi Ogura Engineer

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES AND DISCUSSIONS

Matsushita is a large electronics and consumer products company founded in 1918, with sales of $47 billion annually, with 43 Divisions and over 200 subsidiary companies worldwide. Its products include televisions, VCRs, and many home appliances sold under familiar brand names such as Panasonic, Technics, and Quasar. Its research facilities include a Central Research Laboratory and Research Centers for Audio Video, Semiconductors, and Living Systems (appliances).

The panel visited the Matsushita Research Institute Tokyo, located in Kawasaki. The institute was founded in 1963 and has 236 employees; 193 are researchers and 22 have doctorate degrees. The institute consists of four laboratories for advanced materials, image processing, human interface, and optoelectromechanics research. The Matsushita corporate level provides 70 percent of the funding for feasibility studies; 20 percent of the funding comes from divisions for specific contract research projects, and 10 percent comes from government-funded research. The latter includes participation in the MITI micromachine program. Eleven to fifteen researchers are working on MEMS technology, depending on one's definition of the field.

The targets of the efforts discussed were fundamental technologies for future micromachines. The work at Matsushita Research Institute on the (MITI) micromachine program involves ultrasonic sensors and rotating wobble motor actuators for the inspection capsule. The main internal efforts at Matsushita in MEMS are in micro electro-discharge machining (EDM). EDM was first developed for metals, and then applied to silicon and other semiconductors. It is viewed as a technique that can join semiconductor processing with conventional machining, providing 3-dimensionality and cylindrical geometry, for example.

Matsushita makes and sells EDM machines commercially. An early machine won an IR100 award in 1985, and the latest ED71 machine with Si micromachining capability won a design award from MITI. This machine, which was developed in conjunction with the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo, can form parts with dimensions as small as 5 mm and with 0.1 mm resolution, and sells for about $250,000. Complex shaped parts can be machined; an example was a microturbine of 1 mm diameter with a 0.3 mm shaft.

The EDM machines were shown on a laboratory tour, which also included an STM microscope built in-house and used for materials studies. The institute also described micromolding of parts from a mold fabricated by EDM, along with a shape memory alloy actuator for a hard drive head for noncontact start and stop.

The Central Research Laboratory is looking at materials for magnetic, piezoelectric, and electrostatic actuators for MEMS, including ultrasonic motors. In addition, many sensors are being developed at the Living Systems Research Laboratory. Matsushita would like to replace many conventional sensors with semiconductor-based devices; the major issues are cost and reliability.

Four possible stages of MEMS development were proposed: Sensors comprise the first stage, while the second could be devices that move but are not coupled to the outside world. A third stage would develop actuators coupled to the outside; torques > 1 gm-cm are believed required to be useful. The final stage would involve complete MEM systems. Matsushita researchers believe it is most important now to clarify what systems applications are best suited to MEMS. Molding is seen as key to addressing high-volume applications, perhaps using molds formed by micro electro-discharge machining; parts assembly is another critical need of MEMS technology. The institute is also interested in future LIGA experiments with SORTEC. Some believe that MEMS may represent a series of gradual improvements in making tiny mechanical parts. The benefits may appear in a long, evolutionary rather than revolutionary, fashion.

REFERENCES

Masaki, T. 1990. "Micro Electro-discharge Machining and its Applications." Paper presented at Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, 11-14 February. Napa, CA.

Panasonic Micro Electro-discharge Machine MG-ED07 and MG-ED05 product literature.

Uchida, T., et al. "Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Nanometer-level Cutting."


Published: September 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian