Great ideas and research findings have given new strength to the region
Iwate University is at the top level in the number of joint research projects with local private companies or public offices in Japan. The Faculty of Science and Engineering has collaborated a variety of projects with industry, academia, and government. We utilize our knowledge, technology, and research capabilities to tackle the region’s problems and needs. Great ideas and research findings from specialized research in various fields have given new strength to the region.
1.We aim to be Japan’s “casting mecca”, the capital of casting
Creating a base for advanced research and development of casting technology
The Research Center for Casting Technology is one of three research branches of the Research Center for Manufacturing Technology. Through the research and development of casting technology, the Center plays an important role in the promotion of regional industrial development related to manufacturing.
“Casting” is a method to make products by pouring molten metal into molds. Nambu ironware, a traditional craft of Iwate, is a typical example of casting.
Cast iron is often used in parts of industrial products. The research and development of cast iron have many opportunities to collaborate with automakers and parts manufacturers.
In the national “Strategic Core Technology Advancement Support Project”, we research on the higher-performing cast iron and its application in automotive brake disks and engine parts by collaboration with casting companies in Iwate. We are focusing on research of “thin high strength cast iron”. We can make the parts thinner and lighter by making cast iron stronger. This technology reduces vehicle weight and improves fuel efficiency.
The factory of the Research Center for Casting Technology is also open to local industry as a manufacturing research facility. Furthermore, we offer practical sessions for high school students to try casting in order to foster the next generation of manufacturing workers.
2.Traditional Nambu ironware rustproofing techniques were applied to industrial rustproofing
Iron does not exist in nature as a pure metal. Iron sand is also an oxide. In nature, surrounded by water and air, iron exists as oxides and hydroxides, more commonly known as rust. The process of becoming rusty is called “corrosion” and its prevention is called “corrosion protection”. In many cases, corrosion protection is achieved by a protective film on the surface of the metal.
The principles of casting appear simple, but in the traditional Nambu ironware process had so many steps which are affected by the skill of the craftsman. As an anti-rust treatment, a method called “Kamayaki (kiln firing)” has been adopted in these traditional processes. However, there was a difficulty in forming a uniform oxide film. What is the best way to make a stable oxide film? To respond there requirements, we collaborated with local companies. We developed a technology for manufacturing highly corrosion-resistant cast iron products through a highly controlled thermal oxidation treatment. We successfully gave the products a fine, uniform oxide film without using Teflon or enamel coating. Without spoiling the texture of Nambu ironware, we were able to obtain a highly corrosion-resistant surface. “Naked Pan” is commercialized with this technology and is gaining popularity.
You know, corrosion is the rusting of metal. On the other hand, lithium batteries, which are the main target of research in the electrochemical field, skillfully extract the electricity that flows when the metal dissolves and use it effectively. Both corrosion and electrochemistry are chemical reactions when metal dissolves. In our laboratory, we apply the knowledge and experience acquired in our corrosion research into various fields and expand our research fields. To meet the needs of the region is the local contribution. I believe that is the mission of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.
3.Matching specialized research with the needs of regional society
Recently, interaction engineering is one of the hot research fields in media technology. One of the goals of interaction engineering is building better relationships between humans and computers. In interaction engineering, designing a system’s appropriate responses against users’ operations is called “interaction design”.
Especially, computer vision, which uses image information from a camera, is an essential technology for interaction design. It is fundamental technology for artificial intelligence, evolutionary computing, human sensing and visual information processing.
“ A tablet device app to show the customer’s ideal hairstyle” was born from a matchup between regional needs and specialized research of interaction engineering. A facial-sensing technology is applied by using a kind of artificial intelligence called evolutionary computation. With a tablet, the customer and the hairstylist can share images of what they want while the stylist makes some suggestions. We integrated the researchers’ long years of accumulated technology and company’s experience and knowledge. This is the joint research to commercialize the software that can be used onsite at hair salons.
I think that, as same as basic research, there is also academic pleasure in practical research of computer vision and interaction engineering. At the Faculty of Science and Engineering, we offer regional contributions in various fields such as the above example. We respond to the needs of regional businesses with the seeds of basic research that we have cultivated.