Site: Olympus Optical Co., Ltd.
Tokyo 192, Japan
Date Visited: September 29, 1993
Report Author: R.S. Muller
Yasutake Hirachi General Manager
Kazuhisa Yanagisawa Assistant General Manager
Atsushi Yusa Director, Semiconductor Technology Center
Shu-Ichi Takayama Manager, Endoscope Division
Dr. Atsushi Yusa, Director, Semiconductor Technology Center, gave an overview to the JTEC panel. Olympus Optical Company, founded in 1919, employs 5,300 people. Sales were ¥185.7 billion in 1992, although this figure decreased in 1993. Products and the company's percentage of total business in 1992 were: endoscopes 45.3 percent; cameras, 30.7 percent; clinical devices, 4.5 percent; and the remainder in smaller categories. Research and development expenditures were ¥24.5 billion. The basic expertise areas at Olympus can be divided into: optical engineering, medical engineering, production engineering, semiconductor devices, microoptics, advanced materials, and micromachines.
The endoscope business at Olympus is forty years old, but endoscopes only became the dominant business about fifteen years ago.
Olympus showed the JTEC panel a video describing the uses of endoscopes and presenting ideas for their further development, including removal of polyps and kidney stones; laser cutting; and electric-spark breakdown of kidney stones. The video showed a 12 mm (OD) ultrasound source (rotatable) with scanner and sensor, with rotation achieved using the principle of a speedometer cable.
The company showed the panel a research project for building a snake endoscope and a 2.6 mm (OD) SMA catheter containing an 0.8 mm periscope. The total length of the SMA catheter was ~2 m. Its intended use is for bile-duct investigation. The snake actuation is by segmented shape-memory-alloy elements that are activated by heating. Power and internal heating are problem areas. Other SMA problems include response time and hysteresis actuation by other means. Liquid pressure may provide an alternative to SMA.
Another project is an atomic-force microscope (AFM) using a microfabricated silicon-processed tip made from low-stress silicon nitride in a process learned from work at Stanford University. Olympus reported this project at the 1991 MEMS conference at NARA. Olympus has contracted with Stanford and sent an engineer to acquire this technology by working for two weeks with Professor Quate and researcher Akamine. A new angled tip developed at Olympus is shown in Figure Olympus.1.
The discussion focused on MEMS challenges in the endoscope field. Olympus' view is that high-aspect ratio and larger parts are needed for their work. LIGA, while interesting, is not likely to be of value to them because of the cost and uncertain understanding of LIGA-deposited materials.
Olympus feels that other high-aspect-ratio techniques can and will be applied, such as:
This focus is fairly well shared by other MITI-project companies. A company representative said that "many companies are in silicon technology; therefore it is not desirable to focus the new MITI program on this."
Figure Olympus.1. New angled tip developed at Olympus.