Story. 03

Manufacturing at the Work Site Requires Substantial Labor Effort Through the Process of Trial and Error

One can argue that the history of manufacturing is filled with the vigorous application of both innovation and continuous improvement. With the objective of improving operational efficiency and advancing quality standards, engineers in many disciplines make many mistakes and learn from them using a similar trial-and-error process in their respective development fields. More than 250 years have passed since the foundation of modern industry was established, but engineers still need to follow the basic strategy of "design -> prototyping -> test and validation" any number of times, even in this era when products are continually introduced and fielded with unprecedented rapidity. Some trials lead to better products, while some errors lead back to the starting point.

In recent years, industry-leading manufacturers have introduced computer simulation techniques in the "design" phase in order to enhance the speed and efficiency of the product development process. By utilizing CAE (Computer Aided Engineering), which carries out a "design -> prototyping -> test and validation" cycle on computers, continual ingenious attempts can be achieved to substantially accelerate the goal of reduction in the length of the development period and minimization of process costs. A continuous effort is being made to develop advanced CAE software that not only reduces the costly and time-consuming developmental work and improves the quality of products, but also allows engineers to be more creative. This allows them to devote more time to collaboration and conceptualization of solutions to complicated problems and to concentrate on creative work to improve their products.

Ryo Kuramoto - Engineer of SBD Marketing and Sales Department, KKE, has an ambitious aspiration to develop CAE software that would enable its customers in various manufacturing areas to simulate conditions that are currently difficult using state-of-the-art studies from the academic world. Furthermore, Kuramoto aims to extensively collaborate with his colleagues to develop a simulation software with such ease-of-use and so intuitive that product designers without lengthy academic experience or possessing a high degree of expertise in simulation can use it.

Using Simulation at the Basic Design Phase to Reduce Reworking

"'Designer conducting simulation' may sound like rocket science, but these days, professional expertise is not always required for a wide range of product or process simulation. KKE distributes CAE software that is embedded in SOLIDWORKS, one of the global leaders in three-dimensional [3D] CAD software. Our software is used in hundreds of active design work sites as a simulation tool that can be easily applied by individuals with little-to-no prior experience in simulation." (Kuramoto)

KKE has a long history of introducing innovative computer solutions to the world of structural design of architecture, and with its accumulated technology and expertise, the company has been providing CAE software for multiple product designers in the manufacturing sector for 20 years. If designers apply simulation techniques in their work starting from the basic design phase, the amount of reworking can be reduced by identifying and addressing problems in the early stages of development.

Continuing Spread of Simulation Target Fields

Kuramoto has been making frequent visits to Sakai Laboratory at the Resilience Engineering Research Center, University of Tokyo, as a research collaborator after eight months of joining KKE.
Sakai Laboratory is making notable research progress in the field of powder and multiphase flow* simulation and it has been Kuramoto's long-held aspiration to realize CAE software applicable for every designer from the fruits of Sakai Laboratory. Progress toward his professional aspirations is coming into strong focus in the spring of 2017, as Kuramoto is continually testing and improving his innovative software iGRAF, which is compatible with three-phase coupled simulation software.

*Multiphase Flow: A type of flow that involves more than one substance, such as solids, gases and liquids.  These include solid-gas flow (two-phase), solid-liquid flow (two-phase), gas-liquid flow (two-phase) and gas-liquid-solid flow (three-phase).

▲ An example of a simulation of a fluidized bed used for incinerators, drying equipment, etc.
Visualizing the behavior of powder when air flows upward in the powder receptacle interior

iGRAF is a software exclusively developed by KKE based on a leading-edge research achievement made by the prestigious Sakai Laboratory. KKE software has enabled a highly accurate calculation of "solids (powders), gases, and liquids" with three-phase coupled simulation, which has yet to be reproduced by some of the world's top-level researchers. 

"It has long been thought that three-phase, coupled simulation is an incalculable field unless supercomputers are used, due to the limited processing ability of standard computers and limitations on current physics models. However, the introduction of an innovative and highly sophisticated physics model, generated by Sakai Laboratory, made it possible to run the simulation with one conventional computer.  This is one of the great advantages of iGRAF. We anticipate a growing demand for this simulation capability in different industries, such as food manufacturers and medical suppliers that devote considerable resources to studying manufacturing conditions wherein the mixture of powder and liquid is unavoidable. We also anticipate this need in the iron and steel industry and even for architectural material makers." (Kuramoto)

Commercializing the Latest Technology of the Academic World and Contributing to Society

"I envision aggressively expanding the availability of our product into overseas markets in the near future.  I have a profound aspiration to have the software, iGRAF, penetrate manufacturing work sites all over the world." (Kuramoto)

There are numerous challenges in launching a new business and commercializing leading technology developed by universities and research institutes to be deployed for the benefit of society. From the business perspective, extensive elements need to be scrutinized, such as in-depth marketing knowledge to promote the product; physical appearance and usability (interface) that meet the needs of users; and integrated know-how for smooth service operation, etc. In order to stimulate meaningful knowledge and advance technology in this field, Kuramoto and his KKE colleagues are working diligently to bring leading technology to the world, based on accumulated empirical value fostered with numerous designers to date, who have worked tirelessly to overcome theoretical and practical, operational challenges.

"At the beginning of this project to develop iGRAF, there were three-phase coupled simulations that had been used by some researchers. Those simulators were, however, developed for the use of experts with advanced knowledge and insight, a threshold too high for an inexperienced or general designer. Our main focus in iGRAF development was "to realize a simple and user-friendly interface." It makes no sense if designers working at work sites cannot make full use of the simulator, no matter how advanced the software and associated services are. Based on the knowledge and experience KKE has accumulated through numerous interfaces with manufacturing work sites, we have created a user-friendly interface that enables easy access to state-of-the-art simulator for inexperienced designers. Concurrently, we intend to concentrate on comprehensive backup and follow-up services for our client designers. We will create an environment for designers' smooth usage of our proprietary software by providing a solid support system and FAQ support service." (Kuramoto)

The key is to have a high degree of usability for users at all levels of experience at work sites. Kuramoto's unrelenting commitment to continuously think from a designer's perspective is what the company values most - the KKE WAY - an indication of professional commitment.

"CAE software is now used all around the world and was mostly developed and favored by US and European companies. The reality is that Japanese-made software like this one is overwhelmingly scarce. I am filled with ambition to change the global manufacturing sector by introducing industry-leading simulation software from Japan." (Kuramoto)

Changing the manufacturing sector of the world using simulation software from Japan:
Kuramoto's challenge has just begun.