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Clockwork precision from Hayashi Repic

Interview - July 3, 2023

For over 90 years, HAYASHI-REPIC has developed precision processing and assembly technology cultivated through its experience in watch manufacturing.


Could you give us an overview of your company, and describe how the development of some of your key product offerings came about?

To give you a brief history of our company, we originated as a collaborating company of a major watch manufacturer, and we first assembled wrist watches. Then we eventually began to manufacture parts for wrist watches, and we have over 90 years of history as a collaborating company, since our establishment in 1930.

We developed the lighting system for the microscope and the electric screwdriver out of needs arising in the watch assembly process. When we look at the precise assembly of the wrist watch, conventionally it was the craftsman fastening the screws by hand, but with mass production, there is a need for higher efficiency, and with that, by using the Swiss-made high precision motors, we have incorporated these motors in the electric screwdriver that we developed by ourselves.

Speaking of our other product, for the mass automatic assembly of fine parts with various movements and shapes, our “parts feeder” is installed in an automatic production system. We have done from design of fine parts feeding function to production. Certainly, the driver is used and mounted in an automatic screwing machine. The electric driver and the lighting system have actually become one of the pillars of our current businesses. For this business, the development and designing are done at the Sanuki factory in Chiba and the production is done at Hinai factory in Akita.


Why do you believe that Japanese firms like yourselves are able to be leaders in providing high-quality products?

The Japanese are very precise in character. Our Hi-Matic electric driver was developed for wrist watch assembly and launched to the market in 1971. At that time, we needed an automatic screwdriver that could fasten precise and miniaturized screws. We were then able to sell the driver itself, eventually to various watch manufacturers. After that, the screwdriver has also been used for hard disk drive manufacturing. The uniqueness of our screwdriver is that our product uses an electrical current control system, whereas other screwdrivers use a mechanical clutch system. By using this electrical current control, you can replicate the torque to a precise level. It is appropriate for small and repetitive motions required in precise work, and that has given us an advantage in sales when it comes to the electric driver as one of the core pillars of our business.


Are you also looking to introduce the Hi-Matic to overseas markets?

Currently, our products are used in the precision equipment manufacturing industry, not only in wrist watches but also in HDD, mobile terminal devices, and electric and electronic equipment. We are actively looking to further explore the overseas market. However, as our screw drivers require the maintenance service customized to each end user, we have to find a distributor who can provide this type of service. Finding the right partner is difficult but it is a good opportunity for us to expand.


The Luminar Ace is a highly functioning lighting system used in semiconductor manufacturing, as well as liquid crystal manufacturing equipment and automatic inspection equipment in the medical and bio industries. Could you go into more detail about the Luminar Ace, and which one of its applications do you see having the most potential for future growth?

There are different types of light sources, for example, the LED lamp and also the conventional lamp (halogen, metal halide, xenon, etc.). Recently, there has also been the development of the laser diode lamp. By selecting the best choice for each application, we do not directly use the luminous lighting lamp, but we transfer the light through bundled fibers, meaning that it is not direct. This fiber light guide (L/G) luminescence could be made into a different shape, for example, a slit type, a ring shape or a strip type, according to the needs. That is the uniqueness that we have, and currently, our major application is in semiconductor manufacturing devices. For silicon and ceramic wafers, in some cases you need to use infrared light or ultraviolet light to do the inspection of the wafer. That is how our lights are used. You can change the fiber (L/G) and light source combination into different types.


We know that you offer semiconductor assembly services, which include performing mounting assembly and inspection. Can you tell us more about this service?

We have two factories in Chiba Prefecture. Our Tateyama factory takes care of the back-end processes of semiconductor production. The size has somewhat shrunk, but we still assemble semiconductors with up-to-date assembly devices and through highly skilled manual work. Our main role in the semiconductor industry is creating the prototypes of semiconductors.

Our other Sanuki factory handles the press work of precision and extremely thin parts by creating its own dies, and makes the parts feeder and automation assembly machine from its design to production. The factory also designs, produces and sells the cooling devices for use in the Peltier Module system which can accurately control the temperature for cooling and heating.

What do you believe are the strengths and the competitive advantages of your firm?

The strength of our company is in the precision. Our strength is that the employees are diligent and tenacious, in a good way. That has led to the strength of this precision technology, as well as the attitude towards product evolution. Since the founder of our company (the president’s father), we have been working together with a major watch manufacturer for over 90 years now. Our Hinai factory in Akita takes care of watch works. We are able to grow together with one of the world’s best watchmakers and are able to attain this precision. In semiconductor processing in our Tateyama factory, Chiba, we have an integrated system of dye bonding and wire bonding into the ceramic package.

When we do the assembling, we have an assembly mounting robot that does that work. We have a nitrogen gas implementer, as well as a vacuum machine, so we can complete the manufacturing of semiconductor assembly. Our size is relatively small, so when we work together with major companies, we make prototypes for them or receive a small lot for high variation products that could not be done in their main mass production line. This type of semiconductor is a highly specialized product. As for its usage, it could be used in ultra-high-speed communications for infrastructure and measurement equipment. Those are some of the ways and some of the applications in which our semiconductors are used.


You work with particle beams which detect and measure the number of trajectories of particles, and they are used in physical experiments with elementary particles, as well as atomic and nuclear. We know Hayashi Repic is working on the development and manufacture of wire chambers for particle beam detector applications. Could you tell us a little bit more about this project?

First, let me explain why we started this project. Our Division Four has a business where we import coaxial cables and connectors from Switzerland, and we were selling this product to KEK, which is a National Research Institute on high-energy physics and particle research, which is in Tsukuba City. It is one of the most Advanced National Institutes in Japan. I don't remember the details, but a professor at KEK approached us about manufacturing a detector. We did not have any experience working in the particle beam field, but working together with the professors of the Institute, we could design a custom-made detector for each requirement of the professor. It was for research usage and we were able to accumulate a lot of experience. However, this project is not constant, each time we ran into a new problem, and we solved the problem with the help of the professors.

For example, the multi-wire chamber that we produce on a yearly basis is actually done by the hands of technical workers. The wires are micro-level, thinner than a human hair.

Each wire must be stretched with the same tension, so extreme caution is required.

This high specialty, high expertise work is required. Also, there are so many specifications such as, the gas must not extrude out of the material, or specific materials that need to be used. We have about 40 years of history in producing these types of devices, but it's always a series of challenges.

The development of this device is a long-term project, and you have to go through so many meetings until the specifications are decided. We think it is a valuable job to contribute to the research in elementary particle and nuclear science, and we want to continue doing it.


Moving forward, what other countries or regions have you identified for further expansion into?

We have our local companies in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China and they interact with Asian countries as well as mainland China.We have also worked in the Philippines and Taiwan for the assembly process. We are interested in expanding our sales business in Southeast Asia and China, and searching for more business partners in Europe to handle imports of our products.

Interview conducted by Karune Walker & Sasha Lauture