Case Study: Aoi Seiki Co., Ltd.

Automation of cutter mark removal and polishing of vacuum equipment parts

Straightforward requests led to polishing time cut to 1/3

Reasons for success by implementation

  • Aoi Seiki used to spend several hours to polish a single unit of their vacuum equipment parts. They implemented XEBEC Brush (formerly known as Cutting Fiber) to solve this problem.
  • They made straightforward requests based on samples, and together we made adjustments for better specifications.
  • After implementation, they were able to shorten the time required for polishing work and also reduce the burden on workers. XEBEC Brush is now one of Aoi Seiki’s cherished technologies.

New fiber technology resolved the long brooded trouble of polishing

Aoi Seiki specializes in the manufacturing of vacuum equipment parts used for manufacturing semiconductor devices. Since a few years ago, they started having an increased amount of manual polishing work of cut aluminum surface, which had turned into a source of trouble for workers on site. To solve this issue, they implemented XEBEC Brush. Based on their wish to “reduce manual work and achieve labor-saving”, they started using this product.

In this interview, we welcome Yukihiro Ozawa, manager of Aoi Seiki’s Odasakae Plant who initially came up with the idea of implementing XEBEC Brush, and Masakazu Miyanaga, an on-site worker, interviewed by XEBEC sales representative, Tomokazu Akao, to discuss topics such as the circumstances that led up to the implementation, as well as changes that they have seen as a result.

Akao (XEBEC): What kind of circumstances led to your implementation of XEBEC Brush?

Ozawa (Aoi Seiki): Our plant manufactures vacuum equipment parts, which are used for creating IC chips inside semiconductor devices. During that process, there are fine line markings that are inevitably left on the surface after cutting aluminum. To remove these markings and make the surface smooth, we need to conduct manual polishing work, and this work was increasing steadily.

Yukihiro Ozawa, Manager, Odasakae Plant, Business Division No. 2, Aoi Seiki Co., Ltd.

Miyanaga (Aoi Seiki): IC chips are an important part of semiconductor devices, said to be the “heart” of such devices. Even the slightest misalignment is unacceptable, so polishing work is critical. And that’s precisely why there is great burden on the workers conducting the polishing work on site. In some cases it took 6 hours to polish a single unit of an equipment part. If we were to draw up the delivery schedule based on calculations of the time required for polishing, the lead- time would have been ridiculous.

Masakazu Miyanaga, Manufacturing Group No. 1, Odasakae Plant, Business Division No. 2, Aoi Seiki Co., Ltd.

Ozawa: It’s quite tough for the people doing the polishing work, too. These people had to continue polishing ardently while new parts were relentlessly being piled to be polished. That’s a considerable amount of stress on them, and we’ve always been truly wanting to somehow automate this operation with a machine.

Akao: I see. It must have been a great deal of stress for on-site workers doing the polishing manually.

Taking a hunch that it might be interesting and calling for consultation

Ozawa: Since 10 years ago, it has been my personal goal to realize “labor-saving”. I think that we should let machines do as much work as possible and let workers get off at 5:00p.m. When I shared my thoughts with you, Mr. Akao, on a later date, it really seemed to strike a chord with you, and soon you became my devoted follower (laughter).

Akao: Yes, I was very impressed by your talk, Mr. Ozawa (laughter). I was strongly impressed by your passion for labor-saving and automation.

Miyanaga: I had also been hoping to somehow automate operation while working on site. In particular, the work that was troubling me the most was the polishing process.

Akao: So, these circumstances led Aoi Seiki to implement XEBEC Brush. I recall that it is already 5 to 6 years ago when our partnership began.

Ozawa: Yes, you’re right. I was at an industrial trade show and I spotted XEBEC Brush by chance. That was when I first learned of this product, and I intuitively felt that it might be interesting. I usually make decisions based on gut feeling (laughter). But XEBEC Brush back then wasn’t made for surface polishing; instead, it was designed to remove burr (*something like a hangnail) that occurs when machining metal. Nonetheless, I immediately consulted XEBEC regarding whether the product can somehow be applied to our polishing work.

Akao: That was when I first met you, Mr. Ozawa, and I recall you shared us the various requirements you had. We conducted polishing tests inside our company while referring to these requirements until we were eventually able to prepare a demo unit and send it to you for testing.

XEBEC Brush shelved together with cutting tools

A solid relationship that allows Aoi Seiki to make even unreasonable demands

Ozawa: At first, I said to you, “It doesn’t need to be 100% or the best. It just needs to be better than how we do it now”. I didn’t expect XEBEC Brush to perform all of the polishing work. I simply wanted to shorten the time required for manual work even by a little. When sharing this thought with you, Mr. Akao, you were so persuaded that you sent us a demo unit in haste (laughter).

Miyanaga: After we received the demo unit, I used it in actual operations and collected the data of the post-machining finish. We then asked your help for detailed adjustments of the machining conditions, and finally we were able to implement the tool in a way that was suitable for the polishing work that our company required.

Akao: I remember we were frequently in contact around that time. We were also learning a lot from this exchange.

Miyanaga: I’m sure it was a great hassle at that time, because I was making many unreasonable demands (laughter). Even still, XEBEC had always responded to me very positively. For example, the holder portion of the XEBEC Brush was made of metal until then, but because we are dealing with aluminum parts, this metal holder would cause scratches on the surface if by chance the holder and parts were to collide. I therefore requested to “make the holder from resin”.... XEBEC responded to this request thoroughly, and it was very helpful.

Akao: The holders made of resin, which were still in preparation for sales back then, are now sold on the market. We were very happy to be able to respond to the needs of our customer in a timely manner.

Ozawa: We felt XEBEC’s sincerity in “striving to be of help to their customer” through these series of exchanges. Indeed, in a sales-oriented business, the people are always important. XEBEC’s excellent service has left a strong impression.

Miyanaga: There’s something about XEBEC that encourages me to make unreasonable demands (laughter). We were very grateful that XEBEC responded to such demands back then.

XEBEC shall continue to be an expert we can always reach by phone.

Akao: There were several weeks of preparatory period like this until the full-fledged implementation of the tool. What kind of changes did you see after actually using it?

Miyanaga: The time spent on polishing work was cut to 1/3. The parts that took six hours could be finished in two hours or less. Manually polishing the parts is a very rigorous work that requires continuous attention and effort, so the tool has been very helpful for the on- site workers. Ever since then, we are increasingly using XEBEC Brush for parts other than the machining parts that we initially implemented it for, and now the tool is indispensable to us.

Yukihiro Ozawa, Manager, Odasakae Plant, Business Division No. 2, Aoi Seiki Co., Ltd.

Ozawa: The polishing precision had improved so much that some of our customers were even bewildered. XEBEC Brush has definitely become a part of Aoi Seiki’s important technologies.

Miyanaga: The time required for polishing has been shortened, so this has also accelerated the cycle leading up to the delivery date. Thanks to this, the number of parts we are able to deliver has increased. But that means we are still busy after all, but I guess that’s a shriek of delight (laughter).

Akao: Thank you very much. We are very happy to hear that. We hope to continue to be of assistance.

Ozawa: Thank you. I believe what’s important in work is “how many experts you can associate with who will help you just by a single phone call”. I hope XEBEC will continue to be this kind of partner.

Miyanaga: We’re always making unreasonable demands, but I believe that the fact that we are improving together through trial-and-error while tackling those demands is a sign that it’s a positive relationship. I hope you don’t mind that we continue making even more tough requests.

Akao: Yes, we are more than happy to hear your requests just as usual (laughter). We look forward to continuing to work with you in the future!

Mr.Ozawa and Mr.Miyanaga, Aoi Seiki Co., Ltd. , Mr.Akao, Xebec Technology Co., Ltd.

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