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The specialists in vibration control

Interview - March 18, 2023

Tokkyokiki Corporation is a manufacturer specializing in vibration, and pursues cutting-edge technologies to realize the optimum vibration environment for its customers’ business spaces.

KENJI GOTO, PRESIDENT OF TOKKYOKIKI CORPORATION
KENJI GOTO | PRESIDENT OF TOKKYOKIKI CORPORATION

Can you give us a brief introduction to your company?

Tokkyokiki Corporation was founded in 1969 with the corporate mission of contributing to the industrial society with appropriate vibration control technologies and products by making full use of our total solution technologies in order to solve multi-layered vibration problems.

In those days, we had developed an OS-type vibration isolator for building equipment, which was widely accepted at construction sites. We then developed a technology that could measure and quantitatively simulate many types of equipment in buildings as the vibration sources.

In the 1980s, when the construction of semiconductor factories in Japan was just beginning to flourish, it was impossible to achieve the vibration environment requirement for semiconductor factories without studying vibration from various aspects, such as ground vibration conditions of the proposed construction site, vibration response characteristics of the building, vibration excitation of the equipment, and more.

While engineers and researchers in the construction and semiconductor industries have been looking at the vibration industry very carefully, we have continued to anticipate "Moore's Law" and work on research and development to further deepen our understanding of the vibration problem.

In the late 1980s, we succeeded in developing the world's first vibration isolation system with "pneumatically controlled active technology". While the requirement for micro-vibration environments has become further sophisticated, the world's first "ground motion feedforward," which simultaneously predicts the transmission of ground vibration and offsets the input on the vibration isolation table, has been successfully developed to improve vibration isolation performance drastically.Active control technology is applied to the control of magnetic fields and the vibration control (the suppression control) of structures.

As Tokkyokiki Group, our head office is located in Amagasaki-city, Hyogo. We have four sales facilities, three in Japan (Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka) and the other is Shanghai in China, and we also have three factories, two in Osaka and the other is in Dalian in China. There are about 500 employees in total. The company name ‘’Tokkyokiki’’ means, ‘’Tokkyo’’: direct translation is “patent”, but we intend for Invention, Discovery and Creation, while ‘’kiki’’ means machinery.

As a "manufacturer specializing in vibration" that solves numerous vibration problems, we are aiming to "deliver vibration control to the world".

 

Over the past 25-30 years, we have seen the rise of manufacturers in East Asia who can replicate certain manufacturing processes from Japan at a cheaper cost, pushing Japan out of mass industrial markets. However, we still see that many Japanese firms are leaders when it comes to niche B2B fields. How have Japanese firms been able to maintain their leadership despite the stiff price competition?

Japanese companies that have maintained a high share of the global market and a strong competitive edge in the B2B market and niche fields are characterized first of all by their "advanced expertise" and "customer focus'' (thinking from the customer's point of view). They have also understood and maintained a ‘’thoughtful attitude’’ in each process of their work and operations.

We started our business in the construction industry in 1969 as a "specialized vibration manufacturer" developing vibration isolators for building equipment. We have worked hard to have our product specifications recognized as standard specifications in the construction industry.

We then became involved in the construction of semiconductor plants, from which we began to develop vibration isolation systems in the field of micro-vibration control, and were able to expand our business horizontally. In the late 1980s, we developed the first in the world active vibration isolation system controlled by the pneumatic. Through continuous product development and improvement, we have been expanding our business not only in Japan but also worldwide.

Looking back, as a manufacturer specializing in vibration, I believe that we are here now because we have pursued cutting-edge vibration technologies while maintaining a sincere behavior (from the customer's perspective and orientation) of realizing the optimum vibration environment in the customers business space.

 

Japan is the oldest society in the world with a rapidly shrinking population, presenting two challenges for Japanese firms: the first is a labor crisis and the second is a shrinking domestic market. What are some of the challenges and opportunities this demographic shift is presenting for Tokkyokiki?

We are taking measures against the labor shortage caused by the declining population as a social issue and to ensure our survival.

Our business is characterized by "providing the optimum vibration environment for our customers to conduct their business.” In order to achieve this, many human resources are required at each stage, from planning to manufacturing, installation, and tuning.

Since the labor shortage is a social phenomenon, it is expected that the labor shortage is serious in the industry to which we belong, and that the business structure of the industry itself will change. I believe it is very important for us to anticipate and respond to these changes.

Vibration properties vary by site, so our engineer must be on site to install and tune our system for optimal product adjustment. We will use the Web to make remote tunings with engineers from overseas distributors and customers, and by working on automatic tuning of our systems in order to reduce engineering resources.

In the "Production Site," investments in automated facilities with robots have been considered and are being implemented in order.

In ‘’Product Design’’, if we keep doing the same way, it will be difficult to deliver products on time and manually install and tune our system, both of which were previously taken for granted.

Products have tended to be large and heavy so far, but in the future, it will be necessary to change the product design concept itself fundamentally, for example, by making products lighter and more unitized, and we are working on these changes.

 

Your vibration control technology is used for a variety of applications. Plant, semiconductor factory laboratories, complexes, high-rise detached buildings and earthquake countermeasures. Is there a specific application that you are currently focusing on, and which do you believe has the most potential for future growth?

Currently, we are focusing on the field of micro-vibration control. In particular, capital investment in the semiconductor industry is flourishing, and competition is intensifying for advanced technologies that pursue microfabrication and short-time production of semiconductors, which in turn is driving the enhancement of vibration isolation and the suppression performance required of micro-vibration control technology. While these are the basic performance requirements for active vibration isolation systems, we are also conducting R&D to further refine vibration isolation and suppression.

The semiconductor industry is currently booming in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, where earthquakes occur frequently, and we believe collaboration between technology of micro-vibration control and seismic isolation has to be necessary, and we intend to focus our efforts in this area as well.



Two years ago, the president of Tokyo Electron predicted that the semiconductor market would grow to be worth 1 trillion U.S. dollars by the year 2030. However, many things have happened in the last two years. We have seen the COVID pandemic as well as the subsequent semiconductor chip shortages, and because of this, regional leaders are beginning to push for the expansion of domestic semiconductor production capacity. What opportunities are these regional pushes presenting for your firm?

Although it is not yet clear how much semiconductor production will grow and increase again in Japan, we expect it will contribute to the expansion of our market.

It is a great stimulus for the Japanese semiconductor industry for the entry of Taiwanese manufacturing to Kumamoto, which can be considered as the first move, and by doing business with Taiwanese world’s big players, we would like to work to increase our recognition on a global basis.

Meanwhile, regardless of the domestic or overseas market for semiconductors in the future, we suppose our micro-vibration control technology requirement will be more and more sophisticated due to competition in advanced technology among microfabrication and short time production of the semiconductor. As a technology company, Tokkyokiki would like to put effort into technological development.

 

In the technological research and manufacturing field, contaminants can be the difference between success or failure. Today, noise and vibration are viewed as contaminants, becoming more important to control as a result. Tokkyokiki developed the world’s first active vibration isolation system and it has been able to eliminate micro vibrations that could not be resolved with previous passive vibration isolation technology. How were you able to overcome this micro vibration challenge when developing the active anti-vibration device?

Passive vibration isolation technology cannot prevent the amplification of vibration near the resonance point in the low frequency range, and the area where vibration can be reduced is limited.

Therefore, we considered a technology to reduce the vibration of the isolation table by actively controlling the vibration while accurately measuring the vibration of the isolation table. What we chose here was to control and eliminate this micro-vibration by using air, which no one had thought of at the time.

Nowadays, it has gained a lot of support as the most excellent actuator for micro-vibration control. The air can softly levitate any heavy and/or large equipment if it is given the necessary pressure and surface area to support it. Inherently, softness of the air has the ability to isolate vibration. By utilizing control technology and these characteristics, we were able to develop the world's first practical vibration control device that can easily and precisely apply complex control forces to suppress harmful vibrations in precision equipment.

 

You have also achieved other innovations such as the original 3D shaking table, used in engineering and research facilities. Can you tell us a little bit more about your R&D strategy, and are there any technologies that you are currently working on that you would like to showcase to our international readers?

In terms of strategy, we would like to gradually reduce the ratio of hardware. To this aim, we would like to focus our efforts on the fields of diagnosis, measurement, and analysis. For example, we believe that the field of diagnosis using a 3D micro-vibration excitation table will be promising.

We also believe that in the future we must work to develop technologies and products that mutually combine the control technologies we have been working on in each of these areas. These are areas such as the collaboration of vibration isolation and seismic isolation technologies as explained before.

In addition to vibration, we are also working on "improving the ability of magnetic field cancellers" to remove the influences of magnetic field fluctuations. This is because magnetic field fluctuations become an obstacle to the performance of precision equipment using electron beams. We have received inquiries from overseas customers, and our supply record is growing.

 

Magnetic field fluctuations adversely affect electron beam applications such as electron microscopes. You have developed the AMC 331, which is a system that detects magnetic field fluctuations and cancels them by generating an anti-phase magnetic field using a Helmholtz coil, which is one-tenth of the cost of magnetic shield countermeasures. How were you able to reduce costs without compromising quality when it comes to the AMC 331?

Magnetic shield rooms are very expensive. This is because the alloy is called Permalloy, which is considered effective for shielding, but expensive. In contrast, the magnetic field canceller we have developed is a simple system that uses a simple Helmholtz coil to generate a magnetic field that eliminates fluctuations in the magnetic field.

We were able to create a simple, high-performance system using active control technology cultivated in the field of vibration. Of course, a high-performance sensor and a controller to drive the coil are needed, but this is all that is required to achieve a cutoff performance of -60 dB.

This is, of course, a successful application of active control technology. In the field of advanced technology, the use of electron beam lithography and high-performance electron microscopes is expected to increase, requiring more sophisticated and high-performance magnetic field cancellers, and we are putting effort into the development of new technologies.

 

What role does collaboration and co-creation play in your business model, and are you currently looking for any co-creation partners in overseas markets?

In our view, the role of collaboration has been to "improve elemental technologies" and "expand sales channels and engineering follow-up to customers". In addition, we believe that "technological innovation in vibration control technology" is a major proposition that we should consider.

We have been working not only with companies, but also research institutes and university research institutes. We also recognize that it is important for us to develop co-creation partners.

We have opened exhibition facilities called StudyPort in Osaka, Tokyo, and Taiwan as a place where we can become aware of various issues caused by vibration together with our customers and trigger joint development.

It was an opportunity to conduct joint research and development with European precision equipment manufacturers. In terms of sales channel expansion and engineering follow-up, we are not simply positioning ourselves as a partner to sell products, but rather to establish the relationships with customers through sales and technical engineering to understand their needs and apply them to technology and product development.

 

Moving forward, are there any countries or regions that you have identified for further expansion into, and what strategies are you looking to employ?

In 2007, we established a sales and production facility in Shanghai. The reason for Shanghai was because it was the economic center of China and had advantages in terms of sales expansion and product logistics. In 2018, due to business expansion, we moved the production to Dalian, China.

Recently, we have been engaged in sales and engineering activities in Shanghai. Through engineering activities in particular, we have had the trust of our customers and have succeeded in acquiring new customers.

In East Asia other than China, although we sell through "agency", they are not merely agencies, but rather partners in understanding the needs of our customers and connecting them to our technological development.  We plan to expand to Southeast Asia, EU, and North America in the future.

 

Let's say we come back to interview you again in seven years' time. What would you like to have achieved by then?

Everything that exists is vibrating. We have taken over our founder's dream "to become a world-class company" as a "specialized company in vibration control" based on our corporate mission of "everything exists is vibrating" and are working hard to "realize a company that delivers vibration control technologies and solutions to the world’’.

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