Site: Toyota Central R&D Laboratory
41-1 Aza Yokomichi
Aichi 480-11, Japan
Date Visited: October 1, 1993
Report Author: J. Giachino
Dr. Osami Kamigaito President and Chief Operating Officer
Dr. Isemi Igarashi Research Scientist
Hiroshi Nagase Device Div., Division Staff, LSI Design Lab Laboratory Manager
Susumu Sugiyama Senior Researcher, Laboratory Manager, Device Development Lab.
Dr. Masaharu Takeuchi Senior Researcher, Manager Physical Sensor Lab.
Dr. Osamu Tabata Silicon Sensor Group, Group Leader
Ryouji Asahi Surface Science Group
Toru Koyam Senior Engineer, Section Manager, Research Administration
Junko Nakashima Research Administration
Toyota showed a video tape that described the company and the work being done at the Central Research Laboratory. There are 990 employees at the laboratory, 75% of whom are scientists and engineers. The research funding is 50% for the needs of the stock holding companies and 50% to explore new ideas, with an average research time (concept to out of research) of three years. The normal research group is three to seven people. Approximately 10 researchers are working on silicon physical sensors and 10 researchers on gas sensors. The research is mainly for automotive sensors.
A group to develop medical sensors was started in June 1993 under Dr. Igarashi. The target is to develop silicon based sensors for in vitro. The Physical and Chemical Research Institute is funding this work, not the Central Research Laboratory.
MEMS research at Toyota Central R&D Laboratories is focused on silicon microsensors.
Researchers at Toyota Central R&D are studying magnetic materials and pyroelectric materials. The major area of this materials research is sensors. They are also doing work on surface micromachining processes using thin films as the construction material (because of the compatibility with LSI and small size). The thrust is toward integrated sensors. Their main IC process is CMOS, and they want to minimize any changes to the process. They have been using silicon nitride thin films for structures.
The mechanical engineers are still concerned about the reliability of polysilicon. They are looking for a new material which can be of structural use for automotive sensors. They think that SiC is a possible replacement for silicon nitride and/or polysilicon. In their view, the barriers to new sensor materials are the photolithography (etching), temperature needs and potential contamination of the IC process.
Sensor packaging is a major concern; Toyota is looking for on-chip packaging such as a vacuum seal.
In addition to physical sensors, researchers are working on chemical sensors based on fine particle and thin film.
Toyota Central R&D Laboratories is not doing much work on microactuators. Research personnel there believe that the first application of a microactuator will be in a closed loop system with a sensor. They are concerned about assembly problems with LIGA fabricated parts.
Toyota is not involved in the MITI project. Even though Nippondenso and Aichi -- companies with which they have close ties -- are in the program, information is withheld from Toyota Central R&D Laboratories.