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Company in Japan develops machine than can precisely cut any material or object

A small company in Tokyo has developed a precision diamond wire cutting machine that has received a lot of attention in Japan.

There’s almost nothing that can’t be cut with Ryowa’s cutting machine. Glass, metals, rubber, wood, plastics and ceramics are just a few of the types of natural and composite materials that can be precisely cut, safely. The potential applications of Ryowa’s cutting machine in science and industry are endless.

This article was published in the November, 2009 edition of Business Ascii.

English Translation

A cut-away model lets you see the interior of something that you normally could not see. And you may think that the object was cut into two equal parts, but this is often not the case. There are any number of ways to cut an object; for example, by using a circular saw equipped with the latest water jet or a plasma cutter. However, it is very difficult to cleanly cut an object into two exact pieces.

According to Mr. Wada, president of Ryowa, “even though an object was cut in half, the cut may not be clean and cracks may appear. After cutting, it’s impossible to fit both parts back together again. In many cases, if one part breaks and the cross section of the other part remains intact, it’s often made to look like the object was cut into two neat pieces. With our machine both parts will fit together again perfectly. In one cut you can make a cut-away model. Our advanced cutting machine can cut anything except water and air”. Ryowa’s cutting machine can precisely cut anything: from metals, glass and wood to ceramics.

The secret of this machine is the diamond dust that covers the edge of a steel wire on the rotating cutting band. Ryowa’s diamond edged cutting machine can cut anything including easy to break light bulbs, porcelain and cameras that contain various materials and hard lenses. Such cutting technology can be used in any number of areas where you need a cut-away model to clearly see the inner composition of an object.

Suntory ordered a machine while it was still under development. “They   wanted to cut the bottle used for their product: “Suntory Old Whiskey.” Even though the weight of the filled bottles was the same, the amount of whiskey in each bottle was not. This is because the thickness of the bottles varied. In order to check the the thickness, a bottle would first have to be wrapped with cellophane and broken. With Ryowa’s advanced cutting machine, Suntory can now cut a bottle any way they liked.”

Ryowa’s cutting technology is also used in the tire industry. Rubber tires used by jumbo jets and trucks can blow out. To control the quality of their rubber tires, each maker has to keep a sample cross-section of a tire from every lot of rubber tires they produce. With Ryowa’s cutting technology they can have a precise record of their products.

Ryowa is located in Sumida ward. Before WWII, the textile industry was flourishing in that part of Tokyo and Sumida ward was a major production area for dress shirts. A relative of the current president established the company in 1919. The first product the company manufactured was a sewing machine.

Ryowa’s ability to produce unique products was established when the company manufacturing sewing machines. When Wada took over management of the company in 1955, Ryowa manufactured sewing machines that utilized a unique technology to make wigs. That machine was exported to 48 countries around the world and ended up controlling more than 90 percent of the world market.

After the war, Ryowa moved into a new market, cutting machines. In those days, the cloth from 100 dress shirts were stacked up and cut with a knife. However, the length of the cloth on the top and bottom of the pile would be different from the rest of the cloth. Customers were looking for a machine that could precisely cut every piece of the cloth in the pile.

To solve the problem, Ryowa developed a cloth-cutting machine whose blade rotated like a hand razor. Later, the company developed cutting machines for metal and wood. When the company provided miniaturized products to a number of smaller manufacturing companies, more people came to know Ryowa’s name.

A customer of Ryowa, who was using a band saw to cut wood for Japanese-style dressers, asked if a machine could be made that could cut a mirror like it was wood. At that time it was difficult to cut glass precisely. Using a diamond glass cutter would scratch or break the glass. Also it was impossible to cut curves into the glass. Wada thought that, by placing diamond dust on the end of a circular band saw, glass could be cut but this only would work for a short time until the saw’s wheel would break.

Then Wada came up with the idea of only covering the edge of a wire with diamond dust. Along the way, other improvements were made, such as using a special kind of rubber for the wheel itself. Eventually, the company perfected a cutting machine that could cut anything.

“When electrical spark welding began to be used for cutting in metal working, just being able to cut things didn’t have a future. With cutting technology an essential part of manufacturing, Ryowa developed a technology that surpassed anything that currently existed. Though Ryowa is a small company, by trying to be the best in the area of cutting, the way is open for great things,” said Wada.

Even though cutting machines were being improved all the time, there were still materials that could not be cut, such as ceramics. Electrical current cannot pass through ceramics, making it impossible for electrical arc machinery to cut such material. To solve the problem, metal dust was mixed into ceramics, (but then the whole idea of using ceramics was lost.)

After Ryowa developed it’s advanced diamond wire cutting machine, someone in the ceramics industry paid the company a visit to see what the machine could do. Cutting a ceramic object, which used to take three days, now took only five minutes. Glass and ceramics could now be cut.

However, there was still one type of glass that could not be cut: laminated glass. It was nearly impossible to cleanly cut two layers of glass that were laminated with resin. Since laminated glass could not be cut, if the size of the glass was wrong, nothing could be done to correct it.

So cutting multiple layers of glass at the same time, let alone trying to cleanly cut layers of glass strengthened with resin, was nearly an impossible task. After three years had gone by, the chief of manufacturing along with the employees, told Wada that “we shouldn’t be wasting any more time with this project.” At the end of 1994, with the economy getting worse, the president announced that Ryowa was halting the development of a laminated glass cutting machine.

However, during the following year a major event occurred, the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Wada couldn’t take his eyes off the television news and what he noticed was the broken glass. Many people were injured from broken glass from collapsed buildings. He said, “laminated glass would have been cheaper if it was easier to cut. And if it was more widely used, a tragedy could have been avoided.”

So the project was restarted. Every kind of cutting technology was looked into to develop a machine that would cut “laminated glass” and eventually Ryowa succeeded.

“The machine was made small enough so that not only glass manufacturers but local glass shops could use it. The laminated glass industry was delighted with Ryowa’s newest machine. Later, Ryowa received the Small Business Award for new products and technology and for demonstrating its unique creative ability. The company also received an award from Japan’s Science and Technology agency.

Ryowa’s cutting machine does not only cut materials that could not be cut. Their machine is used on the Antarctic exploration ship, “Shirase” to cut ice core samples collected at 3000 meters below the surface of the Antarctic ice cap. According to Wada, “ice core samples have to be precisely cut across their length. If the cut is not smooth, light will not properly reflect off the ice and an accurate analysis cannot be made.”

Ryowa’s technology is also proving to be useful in the search for natural resources such as oil and ore and mine rock samples can now be cut and analyzed for mineral content. “Our mission is to provide the technology that enables people to see the hidden side of things. When it comes to cutting we are the best,” says Wada. Yet, behind the boast, “there is nothing we can not cut,” there is the satisfaction of being able to take on such a challenge.

Real Japanese






















Japanese Language Points

真っ二つ - cut into two equal parts

ウイスキーの“ダルマ”  - The whiskey is called “daruma” because the bottle is shaped like the potbellied founder of Buddhism.

進化していった -  In this case, the more appropriate translation is “develop.”

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