Vol. 79, No. 1, January 2024

Special Reports

Evolution and Development of Manufacturing Technologies

AKIYAMA Yasuhiro


Manufacturing demands are growing more advanced and complex amongst a changing social environment dealing with a dwindling and aging working population, diversification of customer needs, and environmental issues. To solve these problems, there is a need for smart manufacturing technologies that work autonomously, connected technologies that create greater value, and evolving technologies that can quickly adapt to our changing world.

The Toshiba Group is working on developing smart, connected, evolving manufacturing technologies for practical use in tackling these challenges. They include intelligent robots that help with automation and labor saving at factories and warehouses, processing technologies that contribute to measures against global warming, tools that streamline digitizing on-site information, risk assessment tools for implementing new technologies, and overall smart factory transformation technologies.

SAKAI Risa / GOTO Makoto

In the initial stages of product development, it is necessary to identify whether new technology can be developed at an appropriate cost. Conventionally, development costs have been estimated based on the results of past projects, however, oversight of development items in new technologies can result in additional development steps and going back to previous steps, resulting in a cost that diverges from initial estimates.

With this in mind, Toshiba Corporation has developed a cost estimation method that precisely calculates the development cost of new technologies by comprehensively visualizing development items to assess their mutual impact using "CHISHIKI BARASHI", a method that converts and describes the knowledge of experienced individuals into explicit knowledge. By applying this estimation method to the development of new, large-format infrastructure equipment technology, we have confirmed that it offers high-precision predictions with an error rate of approximately 20%.


An accurate understanding of production capacity is necessary to produce and ship products according to plan in the manufacturing industry. Generally, production capacity is calculated from cycle and operating times. However, because input items and formulas differ depending on the manufacturing method, it can be difficult to calculate the overall production line capacity for multiple, mixed manufacturing methods.

With this in mind, the Toshiba Group has developed a production capacity evaluation tool that enables highly accurate calculations in a short period of time thanks to a unified calculation method for production lines with multiple, mixed manufacturing methods. Using the tool, we have established a framework for analyzing factors that cause deviations in actual results from planned production capacity values, enabling operational improvements in a short period of time.

TOGAWA Ryuichi / KIKAWADA Masakazu

To reduce environmental impact, more highly conductive materials, lightweight materials, and easily recyclable materials are being used in products, and challenges include developing techniques for joining precision components without causing thermal damage, as well as separation technologies to improve recyclability.

The Toshiba Group is currently using the properties of laser processing technologies that minimize thermal impact and can be used for precision processing to weld highly conductive copper and aluminum die-cast material made from secondary alloys, and for removal and separation techniques. In welding, optimizing the laser wavelength and pulse irradiation conditions, and applying processing point monitoring have resulted in greater stability and productivity, which have been taken advantage of in the hard disk drive (HDD) manufacturing process. In laser cleaning, we are working on applying techniques to remove resin stuck on products in the manufacturing process without resulting in damage.

HIRATSUKA Daisuke / HOSHINO Tomoka / IOKA Kumiko

The amount of energy consumed in heat treatment processing, such as metal and ceramic sintering and resin hardening, is the highest in the manufacturing industry, accounting for 25% of all energy. In many cases, heat treatment conditions are established with large margins for temperature and processing times based on empirical rules, requiring technology that optimizes such variables to reduce power consumption.

To address this issue, Toshiba Corporation has developed heat treatment process optimization technology. Using a master curve (MSC) that formulates the progress of chemical reactions allows them to be visualized, and furthermore, linked to thermo-fluid analysis to derive appropriate conditions. When applied to silicon nitride (Si3N4) bearing ball  products, we successfully reduced heat treatment time by 32% and power consumption by 25%.

SAWA Kazuhide / OKA Yoshifumi / KOMODA Kazuma

In recent years, the logistics sector has faced ever more complex challenges in line with growing use of e-commerce (electronic commerce) and dealing with lightening the increasing workload of laborers due to manpower shortages. Despite the growing need for automated picking tasks, several factors hinder widespread adoption in this regard, such as demand for greater speed and the need for systems to be able to handle a wide range of changing items.

The Toshiba Group has developed an intelligent robot control system that automates picking tasks by linking to the warehouse execution system (WES), a high-level information technology (IT) system that manages and controls devices in the warehouse. In a test, we confirmed that the system was able to assign instructions to robots and peripheral devices into hierarchical control loops depending on the necessity for speed and complex processing to achieve high throughput and long-term continuous operation for picking a wide variety of items.

KUWAMURA Otoharu / OSHIMA Hirotomo / SAKURAI Yuki

To deal with a dwindling workforce and bolster basic earning capacity, demand for work process innovation using digital technologies is growing in areas of production, installation, and maintenance.

With this in mind, Toshiba Corporation has developed work information digitization technology that digitizes real-world events and accumulates and uses data for production, installation, and maintenance site tasks, applying it within the Toshiba Group. Image recognition technology automatically detects the location and movement of people as well as the location and shape of objects to track work progress in real time. Voice recognition technology allows workers to record product status and inspection results in existing forms without using their hands. Application of this work information digitization technology will streamline and accelerate work information from various sites by digitizing, collecting, and analyzing information for improved quality and work process innovation.

SHIRASU Yoshinori / YAMADA Wataru / ISHIKAWA Tadashi

The Toshiba Group is promoting smart factory transformation to achieve production frameworks appropriate to cyber-physical system (CPS) companies. After establishing a roadmap to achieve goals for the business overall, we formulated effective scenarios, systematized smart factory construction methods that crystalize digitization strategies from the viewpoint of revolutionizing business processes, then applied them at production sites. Additionally, development methods and knowledge are compiled in procedural manuals, collections of case studies, and tool catalogs which are being introduced in combination with the manufacturing internet of things (IoT) solution Meister Factory series to accelerate the realization of smart factories.

Feature Articles

HARADA Yasuhiro / YAMASHITA Yasunobu / ASAMI Yoshiaki

Part of efforts toward carbon neutrality require the electrification of commercial vehicles which are used frequently under demanding conditions. Toshiba Corporation offers a quick charging and discharging, highly safe, long-life SCiB™ rechargeable lithium-ion battery, however, greater capacity and ultra-quick charging batteries are required for large commercial vehicle applications.

With this in mind, we have developed a titanium niobium oxide (TNO) anode that delivers double the volumetric capacity of conventional graphite-based anodes and enables ultra-quick charging and discharging. Toward practical use of this technology, we have developed a TNO anode using low-cost niobium and applied it to a prototype large-sized battery with a high nominal capacity of 55 Ah. We have also confirmed that the prototype battery delivers high energy density equivalent to lithium iron phosphate batteries, ultra-quick charging capabilities allowing the battery to charge to 80% in 10 minutes, and the ability to maintain over 95% capacity in 4 000 repeated quick charge and discharge cycles for a long life and high level of safety.

KATO Masakazu / OGISHIMA Takuya

The popularity of smart shopping carts equipped with point-of-sale information management (POS) functionality is beginning to grow at mass retailers, and Toshiba Tec Corporation now offers carts with such features as POS and product recommendations (hereafter “cartPOS”). However, the cumbersome task of charging POS cart batteries has become a hindrance due to the prevalence of manpower shortages.

We have developed a 20 W-class magnetic field coupling wireless power transfer system with unique specifications that enables charging simply by bringing the shopping cart to the return area. A high-efficiency half-wave voltage resonance circuit  that operates at 145 kHz is used for the power transmission circuit. We devised a guide rail mechanism that accurately positions each cart and maintains a high level of power supply efficiency, enabling 20 W power supply at a rate of over 75% in practical environments.

YOSHIOKA Takayuki / SUGIMOTO Yuuichi / YOKOTA Shunsuke

Lifestyle changes such as increasing internet shopping and remote work have resulted in less reliance on public transportation, and consequentially, dwindling use of dining, retail, entertainment services, etc.

With this in mind, Toshiba Infrastructure Systems & Solutions Corporation has developed a digital transportation and ticket platform (hereafter ticket platform) that can be embedded in various applications and websites for social services using its digital ticketing technologies. A field test of the system from April to June 2023 helped to verify the concept and identify issues. The system will allow service providers to autonomously make plans and execute sales promotion activities using tickets, driving service usage and transportation to increase public transportation patronage and stimulate economic activities along transportation lines.

SANO Yuma / NODA Reiko / HAMAMUKI Kousei

Inspection staff are responsible for a large burden of tasks including making rounds of and maintaining infrastructure, photographing facilities and equipment, recording the location they were photographed, etc.

The Toshiba Group has developed an inspection information management artificial intelligence (AI) system to help automate and introduce labor saving processes in maintenance and inspection tasks. The system uses location recognition AI which matches images from general-purpose cameras with locations on drawings in combination with unspecified anomaly detection AI which detects anomalies and locations linked to anomalies with a high level of precision. It then collectively manages images, the shooting location, and anomalies such as cracks. The inspection information management AI demonstration environment is cloud based, making it easy to confirm its efficacy in a variety of real-world sites. 

Frontiers of Research & Development

Meteorological Disaster Prevention and Mitigation System Using Wind Resource Analysis

*Company, product, and service names appearing in each paper include those that are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.