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A manufacturing approach for a low-carbon future

The Nikon Group formulated the “Nikon Long-term Environmental Vision” and aims to “realize a low-carbon future” as one of its three goals. We will work to make a 26% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. To meet this goal, we must make continuous efforts to promote energy conservation in our workplaces and improve the energy efficiency of production facilities. We must also take additional steps to reduce the environmental load by utilizing our technological capabilities.
The Nikon Group has focused on developing technologies for emission reduction in the manufacturing process of lenses, one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions.

Technology designed for CO2 reductions

CO2 emission ratio of Lens Manufacturing within the Nikon Group (t-CO2):Lens Manufacturing 24%, Others 76%
  • The calculation is based on the figures of the Nikon Corporation and 16 Group companies in Japan as well as 5 Group manufacturing companies outside Japan.
  • About coefficient for calculation:
    Fixed coefficient for managing the action plan is used for the amount of CO2 emissions of Environmental Action Plan and related Nikon Corporation and Group companies in Japan.

“Opto-electronics” is one of Nikon’s core technologies, utilized for the manufacturing of “lenses” which are our mainstay products. Nikon lenses enjoy wide applications, incorporated in various devices and equipment ranging from microscopes, binoculars, medical equipment, semiconductor lithography systems to custom-made space-related equipment. Nikon lenses are synonymous with high performance and high quality.

We conducted research on the environmental load of our manufacturing processes for our wide-ranging products. The results indicate that a large amount of energy is consumed through lens manufacturing. As Nikon manufactures from the basic materials, the amount of CO2 emissions from lens manufacturing accounts for nearly a quarter of Group-wide emissions. Since we identified that a streamlined process from the development to the manufacturing of lenses is key to reduce CO2 emissions, various initiatives are underway.

Further analysis of the environmental load of lens manufacturing identified that the manufacturing process for our raw materials “synthetic silica glass” and “optical glass” posed a challenge in reducing CO2 emissions. We have taken measures to address this challenge. Some details are set out below.

New manufacturing methods
reduce synthetic silica glass trials

Silica glass is composed of pure silicon dioxide and has superior transparency and excellent resistance to heat and chemicals. This special glass is ideally suited for lenses incorporated in semiconductor and Flat Panel Display (FPD) lithography systems that require marginal precision and durability. Silica glass is manufactured by melting the raw materials at an extremely high temperature for a chemical reaction to occur and then cast into a one-ton rod-shaped glass called an ingot for a period of a month.

In order to reduce the energy consumption and waste discharge from manufacturing an ingot, it is of critical importance to reduce raw material loss and avoid impurities by streamlining the manufacturing process. To test manufacture just one ingot would take a lot of time and energy, not to mention streamlining its manufacturing process. To meet this challenge the Glass Business Unit has introduced Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) combined with quality engineering in order to conduct experiments on ingot manufacturing through simulation. It requires superior technical capabilities to build a model for simulation, because we must take into account an array of conditions, including fluid dynamics and chemical reactions. Thanks to our technical aptitude acquired over many years, the Nikon Group, inspired by our extensive experience, has succeeded in overcoming such obstacles and conducted a simulation to verify new ideas. We have taken a major step forward to streamline the ingot manufacturing process.

By conducting a simulation with a heating furnace, we found that we could reduce electricity consumption by nearly 52,000kWh, equivalent to 26.3 tons of CO2, as compared to conducting the experiment with a prototype. We will continue our efforts to promote the use of quality engineering and CAE to further reduce the environmental load as well as to propel development and mass production in a timely manner.

Environmental Impact: Reduction in CO2 Emissions −26.3 ton

To make maximum use of CAE’s potential

I engage in reviewing the manufacturing process and upgrading the equipment to improve efficiency of glass production in my daily operation. I am convinced that we can make an enormous contribution towards reducing CO2 emissions through simulation based on CAE. It is effective in reducing the energy consumption of our manufacturing processes. By cutting back on the production of prototypes we will require less raw materials and generate less waste, extend the lifetime of manufacturing equipment, further speed up the development process and importantly satisfy our customers. We will strive to enhance the effective utilization of CAE which holds immense potential.

Naoki Takemura
1st Production Department
Glass Business Unit
Nikon Corporation

Optimising processes for CO2 reductions

Optical glass is used as a lens incorporated in devices we find in our daily life, including cameras, microscopes and precision optical equipment such as measuring instruments.

Lenses are round in shape but actual production starts by cutting out a square glass lump, pressing it with a metallic mold with a spherical surface and then polishing the pressed product. There are over 100 types of unprocessed glass lumps and a number of metallic molds which result in a limitless combination of lenses. We have long depended on the experience of our skilled workers to decide the best conditions for pressing. As a result pressed products varied in shape and size and therefore we had a routine of leaving a wider grinding allowance than the designated shape. To solve this problem, Hikari Glass Co., Ltd. worked to optimize the pressing process through quality engineering. We succeeded in reducing the variation by 40%, this ensures more efficient processing.

By optimizing the pressing process, we achieved a 10% reduction in the weight of glass per single processed unit. As we applied this optimization to the existing 16 products, we succeeded in reducing 36.8 tons of CO2 emissions per year by using less raw materials. In addition the narrower grinding allowance resulted in shorter grinding hours as well as a 10% reduction in waste.

Environmental Impact: Reduction in CO2 Emissions −36.8 ton / year

To contribute to energy-savings of the entire production system

I engaged in R&D to optimize the pressing process. The Nikon Group had previously taken different measures to reduce environmental load, such as sorting out waste glass for recycling. In addition, we think it is highly effective to prevent defective products at the initial manufacturing phase in reducing the environmental load. Upgrading our pressing process is one successful example that contributes to reducing CO2 emissions and waste material. We will take a comprehensive approach to streamline other manufacturing processes to achieve energy-savings of the entire production system.

Hiroyuki Takahashi
Group Leader
3rd Group Engineering Department
Production Division
Hikari Glass Co., Ltd.

Nikon’s vision for the next century
unlocks a brighter future

The Nikon Group holds in-house presentation sessions on a regular-basis to share technologies developed at our manufacturing sites and reward innovative ideas. The CAE-based simulation detailed in this report was presented at one of the sharing sessions. By sharing information and expertise on new technologies among different departments, the Nikon Group has promoted technological improvements across the Group, which has brought about significant achievements.

The Nikon Group celebrated its centennial anniversary in July 2017. Over the past 100 years, we have overcome a number of challenges by utilizing our technological capabilities. And in that time, we have expanded our business beyond imaging products like cameras and Binoculars to include, the manufacture of precision equipment like semiconductor lithography systems; measuring and microscope instruments and medical solutions among others.

As the entire world grapples with pressing environmental issues, the Nikon Group is resolved to address these challenges by tapping into our superior and reliable technological capabilities. Besides streamlining our manufacturing processes as shown in this report, we will take a holistic approach that includes the development of high-quality sustainable products to be used by our customers over many years.

We shall take steady steps to build sustainable societies with a brighter future, based on our timeless philosophy of “Trustworthiness and Creativity” and our solid and reliable technological capabilities.

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