Site: Seiko Instruments, Inc.
Takatsuka Unit
563, Takatsuka-Shinden, Matsudo-shi
Chiba 271, Japan

Date Visited: September 29, 1993

Report Author: H. Guckel

ATTENDEES

JTEC:

H. Guckel
K. Wise

HOSTS:

Chuzo Takahata Director, Corporate R&D, SII
Tatsuaki Ataka General Manager, Research Laboratory for Advanced Technology, SII
Hideo Hirama General Manager, Precision Instruments Department, Consumer Problems Division, SII
Masayuki Suda Research Laboratory for Advanced Technology, SII
Sadazumi Shiraishi Manager, Corporate R&D Planning Department, SII
Kazuyoshi Furuta Supervisor, Device Development Section Device Development, Department No. 2, SII

BACKGROUND

The meeting at Seiko began with an explanation of the Seiko Group by Mr. Chuzo Takahata. He explained the corporate structure of the Seiko Group, which consists of four companies: Seiko Corporation, Seiko Instruments, Inc., Seiko Epson Corporation, and Seikosha Co., Ltd. The four companies are independently operated, but function as a unit in the design, production, and marketing of Seiko time pieces. The Seiko Corporation markets the watches produced by Seiko Instruments, Inc. and Seiko Epson, and the clocks produced by Seikosha. Sixty percent of net sales originate from this business. Other business activities are handled independently by the four companies.

The JTEC panel's visit was with Seiko Instruments, Inc., or SII. This company is in four major product areas:

  1. Consumer products 46 percent of sales
  2. Information devices and systems 19 percent of sales
  3. Electronic components 26 percent of sales
  4. Production equipment 9 percent of sales

SII employs 5,900 people with 1993 sales of roughly $1.5 billion.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES

Mr. Tatsuaki Ataka explained the product lines in some detail. He stated that SII was an early contributor to CMOS technology, and produces many integrated circuits, liquid crystal displays, and thermal print heads. SII also markets these devices, a very sophisticated ULSI design system, electronic design automation systems, and a mechanical CAE/CAD/CAM system. These software-oriented systems are supported by plotters, digitizers, and color-image scanners. Remote communication systems are used for products such as personal pagers and restaurant-ordering systems.

The production equipment area extends from spectrophotometers to X-ray fluorescent equipment to CNC automatic grinders to magnetically levitated turbopumps to focused ion beam repair systems. SII produces its own scanning probe microscope system, which includes probe, signal, and graphics processing.

In the materials area, SII markets microbatteries, rare earth magnets, and micromotors. In this last category are several AC, DC and ultrasonic motors with reduction gears. Very impressive is a three-phase stepping motor with a 60 stepping angle with a maximum pull-in frequency of 1,300 pps. The device has a diameter of 2.8 mm, is 5 mm long, and can be connected to a 1:23 reduction gear via a 0.5 mm output shaft. Output torque can be as high as 12 mg-cm at low frequency. Mr. Hideo Hirama explained that the cost of the motor would be near $1,000. A related device is a microsolenoid, with an outer diameter of 2 mm, a maximum stroke of 0.6 mm, and an output force of 1.5 g force.

SII makes several sensors. A glucose and liquid flow sensor use quartz resonators, in which SII is very experienced. The company produces capacitive pressure transducers and cantilevers for atomic force microscopes. SII's engineers are involved in squids for magnetic sensors that they will leverage into a system. In micromechanics, SII works on micromotors and microgrippers. The company has worked with Microparts in Germany to produce gears via LIGA processing. Discussions with the SII Group indicated that its interest in LIGA persists.

SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION

Mr. Ataka stated that SII has no specific target for MEMS. The possibility of using MEMS for a processing tool by, for instance, developing better focused ion beam sources, was discussed briefly. This was followed by an interesting discussion of an SII concept that was called Dr. Chip. In this concept, a watch-like structure is used to monitor the medical disposition of the watch wearer. The information is communicated to a remote doctor who reacts to the measured data. This type of system perfectly matches SII skills and interests, and could become a major project in Japan, where health care costs, according to the Japan Times, can exceed $3,000.00 per year per patient.

REFERENCES

A full description of SII is available in brochure form.

Specifications in the form of product bulletins are available for the MEMS devices.


Published: September 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian