Engaging frontline operators in the projectReviewing a design’s energy efficiencyProduction Facilities for the Next-Generation Friction MaterialsManufacturing processes for brake pads and other friction materialsuse heat in each formation process, including pressing andheating. In July 2012, Akebono Brake Yamagata Manufacturing Co.,Ltd. introduced a next-generation production facility that cuts energyuse by 50% through revolutionary improvements in manufacturingprocesses.Conventional friction material production lines are designed toprocess fixed batches. The energy consumed remains the same nomatter what size the batch is because the process itself does notchange. In contrast, this next-generation facility has a minimumbatch size of just one unit, reducing the amount of energy wasted.Moreover, by making molds and jigs lighter and reducing the numberof jigs, we have been able to not only save energy, but also makemanufacturing more flexible, facilitating the small-lot production ofvarious friction materials.We are incorporating the requests of frontline operators in orderto advance the development of next-generation facilities, which isvital to the future of Akebono. The facilities are designed in a crossfunctionalmanner with an eye on minimizing brake dust and noxiousvapors. We will continue to adopt such next-generation facilities andfurther improve the energy efficiency of facilities to reduce manufacturingcosts.Interview with a DesignerTOPICS■Karakuri ProjectThe Karakuri Project aims to save energy and reduce equipment failureby creating a facility that requires no input energy (uses little orno energy) and enables concurrent motion (multiple motions poweredby a single driver). Karakuri is a traditional handicraft in Japaninvolving the creation of mechanically driven (clockwork) automata,such as tea-serving dolls and tools.Production engineering is a field that requires combinations ofdifferent areas of specialization. It is necessary to understand theparticular qualities and characteristics of each type of facility whenconsidering design, such as raw materials in the case of compoundingfacilities or coating materials in the case of coating facilities.By applying a karakuri approach, powering multiple movementswith one driving force, manufacturing facilities can be made truly forward-thinking and ground-breaking. The difficulty of the karakuriapproach is its complexity and the wide variety of similar componentsinvolved. The standardization of components is key to addressingthis problem as is the standardization and streamlining of processingoperations.Going forward, Akebono will implement energy-saving facilitiesutilizing karakuri technology first in Japan, then globally.“Realizing large energy savings by reducingprocesses to the absolute minimum”Toji FujitaProduction Engineering Division,Application Engineering ProductionEngineering Department, Karakuri ProjectSince the launch of the Karakuri Project in March 2012, we’ve beenimproving our prototypes little by little, but there are still manyflaws to be addressed before karakuri mechanisms can beemployed at actual worksites. The first flaw we need to overcome isthat when one function stops because of some irregularity, theother parts also stop mid-motion, and it can take a long time torestore operations.If we manage to run an entire process with just one actuator, itmay be possible to greatly reduce energy use. The need for centralcontrol of many mechanisms would be eliminated, and processescould be reduced and simplified. C&S play a part in realizing thesegoals, and it is essential to carefully examine each operation tosee just how many steps can be omitted. It’s also necessary tokeep the ease of set-up in mind from the product design and developmentstage onward.From that perspective, we’re continuing to research and developprototypes to first build up a track record at production sites inJapan, and then expand to sites overseas.Environmental ManagementInitiatives at the Production StageThrough the improvement of both production processes and productionequipment, we seek to achieve a significant reduction in energy usage.