Gaining Market Share by using JMAG to Support Customers
The Nidec Sankyo Corporation handles a wide range of products from robots to micro stepping motors. The Nidec Sankyo Corporation’s products hold a share in the aggressive world market by providing products quickly to customers from the first contact of the sales team to the delivery of the product. JMAG, simulation technology for electromechanical design, supports the speed as well as the development and design of their products. Kiyoshi Miyazaki, Vice President of the Research & Development Headquarters, Tsuneo Sato, Assistant Manager of Research & Development, and Toshifumi Tsuruta, Assistant Manager of Research & Development, discuss their strategies for gaining a larger share of the world market, the merits of implementing JMAG, and the ways they utilize JMAG analyses.
Securing a Share of the Dynamic Motor Market
Our company handles a wide range of products with a keyword of motion. Within that scope, we are focused on actuators. We work with a lot of electromagnetic systems such as the design, development, and manufacturing of very tiny actuators that move camera lenses. Magnetic simulations play a crucial role in supporting this product development.
Currently, the fluctuations in the market are intense and a lot is changing, but the ratio of our entire revenue is roughly 30% of products related to system devices and 70% parts and units. We are quickly gaining a larger share for lens actuators of digital cameras and cell phones, and we are proud to hold 60% of the market share for actuators utilized in video camera lenses. When we decide to expand the range of our products, we don’t aim for a small portion of the market share, we aim for the top.
When a customer comes to us about something they need, we provide a product that exceeds their expectations faster than our competitors can. We receive 80% to 90% of our custome’s orders by aiming to meet their demands more quickly than our competitors.
We also maintain our market share by striving to be the best in our area of expertise. The entire Nidec Sankyo Corporation is especially focused on themes for all of our products. One is energy conservation. Energy conservation and ecology, such as liquid crystals and solar energy, are fundamental to all our products, even our white goods and utilities. Second is miniaturization. We focus on smaller and lighter products that can generate added-value. Reducing the amount of materials used for a product is related to energy conservation, which in turn increases the value of our products. Third is half the price. We reduce the current price of the product by half. These three themes are incorporated in all our new markets and products to help us meet the needs of our customers.
JMAG at the Core of Simulations
Many of our products utilize electromagnetics. Electromagnetic field analyses are at the core of our design process, supporting us through product development. One of the reason we implemented CAE was to measure the characteristics of products through analyses so that we wouldn’t need to build as many prototypes. That is at least the simple explanation. Especially in today’s market, it has become very difficult to measure the characteristics of products based simply on our experience, because the products that we handle are getting smaller and smaller. Even when we think we can estimate these characteristics based on experience, we find we can’t. That is when we realized that without CAE we could not continue to advance innovation. If a mistake is made, we can’t just simply fix it. An optimal design is required to provide the fastest and most appropriate solutions to our customers’ requests. We have had this point of view since implementing CAE in the 1980’s. We are able to offer our customers solutions within a week when it only requires simulation.
Our theme of miniaturization cannot be achieved without solutions that push the limits of designs. We selected and implemented JMAG from a variety of software options that are available, because it analyzes the characteristics of motors, which are the main products we handle. We can create a model in JMAG that rotates by simply specifying the slide mesh option and amount of displacement. This has allowed us to drastically reduced that amount of time required to create analysis models and it is one of the greatest benefits when using JMAG.
First, let me outline our organization. Electromagnetic simulation and analysis of materials takes place at our Nagano Technical Laboratory by our development team. There are other members of the organization that perform analyses in other locations, but Mr. Tsuruta and I are the two who specialize in analyses. We mainly perform complicated analyses that cannot be handled at the other facilities as well as provide CAE training.
We have a long history with magnetic field analysis that started by begging college professors to teach the finite element method and programming in the 1980’s. At that time, workstations and software were very expensive, and at one point, we did a lot of the programming in-house. At the beginning, the analysis results were sometimes good, sometimes bad, with a level of accuracy at about 80%.
After that, there was a period when we used software besides JMAG, but none of the software we were using provided functions to account for motion. We implemented JMAG in 1998. We decided to use JMAG because it offered enhanced functions for analyses and the models that we could create easily could completely accounted for motion. This allowed us to drastically increase the frequency we used magnetic field analyses. JMAG was then developed to handle free mesh, 3D CAD models, and now our designers are even starting to use JMAG. The hurdle to start using magnetic field analyses is much higher than structural analyses, but through training, our designers can now carry out the same calculations that the analysis specialists are performing. JMAG has become such a vital tool, that without it, we would have trouble even talking with our customers.
There are about 10 employees that use JMAG frequently. I have created an instruction manual that focuses on our products like motors and actuators, and I train the designers that need to be able to perform analysis. Only the methods necessary to calculate the characteristics of our products are included in the manual, so for a quick learner, they are able to calculate the characteristics of a product by themselves using the manual after some instruction. The manual only describes how to “use this value for the nonlinear and iteration settings as well as the convergence settings,” and then, if they want to know the logic behind these settings, I teach them. But our primary goal is to have them use JMAG as a tool, and then teach them the logic behind it. This allows us to estimate the time it takes for a calculation, and although it is not perfect, we can provide results to our customers without losing the accuracy or quality of an analysis.
Lens actuators for cell phones
Improving Sales using JMAG
Because we work with a lot of very small products such as actuators and stepping motors used in cell phone cameras, we use JMAG to analyze the torque and thrust force that will satisfy the required specifications.
In the past, we could build a prototype of a product, but now, customers ask us to provide evidence when we make a proposal. If we do not go to them with specific information telling them “these are the characteristics we evaluated through a simulation, and even with the margin of error, it will work,” the customer won’t ask us to make a prototype. If they are not sure the product will work, they won’t invest any money into it. In the past, it was standard to say, “we didn’t get the characteristics we expected, lets try again.” Today, the speed of a proposal is so important, that we have to use our cumulative experience and the analysis results to get it right the first time without building multiple prototypes.
We take a proposal to a customer with the evidence calculated in JMAG and tell them, “We can do this,” and then they ask us to build a prototype. This means that the prototype is no longer necessary to investigate the performance of a product, but rather to investigate the way a product should be built. The prototype always performs as expected, and getting the proposed performance has become standard. We usually only have three months from the time the customer makes a request to the time we provide a prototype. This means there is not enough time to build more than one prototype. We can no longer tell the customer “we will try again,” if the characteristics we have carefully calculate are not achieved in the prototype. Of coarse, we build some simple prototypes, but this is to verify operation. We use prototypes now for the fine tuning of the device. Some of our customers tell us that they don’t want us to propose anything that hasn’t been simulated.
Sometimes our customers ask what software we are using, and of coarse, I tell them JMAG. Many of our customers are very familiar with JMAG. We compare the results between the prototype when it is finished and the results of the simulation, and then if there is a difference, we improve the accuracy of our analyses by correcting that difference. More specifically, we adjust the material properties slightly. Through these methods, we have never had inaccurate results or received any claims from any of our customers.
External diagram of a lens actuator
for cell phone cameras
Magnetic analysis 1/4 symmetrical model
It is difficult to give you a specific figure for the cost-effectiveness of implementing JMAG, but the cost of building one prototype is quite expensive. Normally, we would have to build several prototypes to develop a product, but, by using JMAG, we only need to build one.We have been able to reduce at least the cost required to build several prototypes.
Even with the cost-effectiveness, as the world advances, our customers will no longer consider any proposal that has not been investigated thoroughly through simulation. In other words, you can’t even step into the ring without using these simulations. The cost-effectiveness is important, but without this technology a sale can’t be made. We wouldn’t be able to proposal any type of product to our customers. For that reason, CAE is becoming a standardized tool. For instance, we can either approach a customer in a week with a prototype for a proposal, or we can approach them with our experience and a proposal that has been simulated. But, a prototype cannot be built in a week and even if we were able to build one in a month, by the time we took it to the customer, they would have already placed an order with the competitor that proposed a product in that first week. There would be no way to compete. The computer won’t design the product for you, so the engineers use their cumulative experience and JMAG as a tool, and then those results are provided to the customer.
Magnetic flux density distribution
Electromagnetic force of the stroke for the rotor
Rotor stroke versus coil current
Future Expectations for JMAG and New Innovation by the Nidec Sankyo Corporation
From a designers point of view, JMAG is complicated. The designer could perform an analysis without stepping away from the design process if very little knowledge about the mesh was required, if they could specify a few parameters, and then let JMAG do the rest.
Our customers also frequently ask our designers to meet their requests in a week, even the next day. Because calculating an analysis with the finite element method sometimes takes longer than one night, I would like a fast tool that would give me an estimate of the results.
For analysis specialist, it then comes down to coupled analyses. Designers are really starting to do a lot of simple analyses, and in the future, the main simulations requiring an analysis specialists will probably be coupled analysis. With all of the JMAG modules, the loss, heat, vibrations, and noise can be analyzed. I believe you can also analyze the control of a circuit. I would like to also have a fluid analysis. It would give us the advantage of being able to simulate the heat generated in a motor, and then investigate how flowing water would cool that motor.
With the ongoing miniaturization of digital devices, we have just announced our “HB series” optic image stabilization unit that uses a tilt module for high-level digital cameras and video cameras for cell phones. We are striving to gain 60% of the world market share and increase our revenue to ¥1.5 billion by 2012. The optic image stabilizer unit can be placed on the handlebars of a bicycle without the picture becoming blurred. The HB series is optimal for live sports and movies. I am sure you have seen footage filmed from a helicopter. Those images are captured using a camera platform with a vibration absorption device. This lens actuator uses the same system. The designer developed the HB series in 3 months by comparing simulations of 500 different patterns in JMAG without the help of an analysis specialist. The instruction manual created by the analysis specialist allows this kind of development process. But, the needs of this new type of development would not have been possible without JMAG. That is how valuable of a tool JMAG has become.
HB Series optical image stabilizer unit (prototype)
Vice President and
Research & Development HQ
Research & Development
Nagano Technical Laboratory
Research & Development
Nagano Technical Laboratory
[JMAG Newsletter November, 2009]