TechShop to Host Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo, a Workshop to Improve Next-Generation Engineers' Manufacturing Power

[The Power to Create the Future Vol. 4 (Part I)]

For young people, a manufacturing site is becoming a "black box."

Engineers of Fujitsu Advanced Engineering (FAE) who had a sense of crisis about the current status launched a project named "Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo (manufacturing mechatronics training ground)" to develop young people's manufacturing capabilities from the ground up.
The workshop is held at TechShop Tokyo (hereinafter "TechShop"), a membership-based, open-access DIY workshop, that helps members to freely give form to their ideas. What kind of project is it? The Fujitsu Journal team interviewed representative project members, Tomomatsu, Yoshiwara, and Wakasugi.

Engineers are Treated as Guests at Outsourcing Factories and Cannot Talk with Craftsmen on Equal Footing

Nobuyuki Tomomatsu (left), Masato Yoshiwara (center), and Ryosuke Wakasugi (right), talk about the Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo project

― Could you please tell us what inspired you to start Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo?

Tomomatsu: Our business unit engages in developing systems mainly for the fields of production and logistics. In particular, our group is working on mechanical design and development. As a so-called "fabless" company that does not have its our own factories, FAE is characterized by its flexibility in manufacturing, such as choosing the best factory according to the specifications or using state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. In my generation, I felt no barrier to factories. Craftsmen often called us to their factories, saying, "Try scraping it by yourself" or "We cannot make it from this drawing." They also taught us appropriate design plans that fit each processing method. We have developed our skills through these experiences. However, in recent years, we are not allowed to enter the actual machining site for reasons of safety, security, trade secrets, etc., so we cannot see what kinds of machines and processes are used to create parts that we designed ourselves. Now young employees are treated as guests when they visit outsourcing factories, and asked to wait in a reception room until parts are completed.

Yoshiwara: The fact is that factories as manufacturing sites are becoming a "black box" for us. After placing an order, we only have to check completed parts. Because we do not have knowledge of or experience in manufacturing, we cannot think about manufacturing together with craftsmen. I had always thought that I needed to do something about it.

Tomomatsu: While discussing if there is any good way to train young employees' manufacturing capabilities, we came up with the idea of using TechShop.

Excited about an Extensive Line-Up of Machine Tools and Wide Open Space

TechShop Tokyo, Fujitsu's membership-based, open-access DIY workshop

― Ontenna, a device for enabling deaf people to feel sounds through their hair, previously introduced in this series, was also mainly developed at TechShop. I heard that engineers from FAE engaged in the circuit design of Ontenna. Have you had a connection with TechShop?

Tomomatsu: No, we visited TechShop for the first time with this project. As I was familiar with all of the tools in factories, there was nothing novel or impressive to me, but the reaction of young people was totally different. Both Yoshiwara and Wakasugi were excited, saying, "Tomomatsu-san, this is great, isn't it?" with a glimmer in their eyes.

Yoshiwara: I was surprised because it was my first time to see 50 different machine tools on one floor. While listening to the staff explain each machine, I welled up feelings of wanting to make something by myself. "I will develop my manufacturing skills here!": Based on this motivation, I named the project "Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo."

Wakasugi: The atmosphere is also very good. Just being in such an open place encourages creativity. I had a feeling that good ideas seem to come out that I could not have thought of when I locked up myself in a closed office.

Figuring out the Answer to "What is an Engineer?"

Project members of the Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo project

― How are the members organized in the project?

Tomomatsu: The project members consist of two experienced employees as technical advisors and five young employees. Even if we say training of young people, it does not mean one-on-one tutorial guidance. Rather than inheriting the skills taught by seniors as they are, I want young people to keep brushing up their skills through manufacturing by using their own hands and heads, and at the same time, I want them to figure out the answer as to what engineers should be. That is the major theme of Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo.

The More Trial and Error, the Greater the Love for the Product

The autonomous mobile robot ROBOKEN collects data in the logistics warehouse with a camera installed in the upper dome.

― And the first work in the project is this autonomous mobile robot ROBOKEN, right?

Yoshiwara: This robot is used to collect various data at logistics sites or retail stores. We plan to focus on robot manufacturing going forward. So we needed a concept movie for promoting our robot business, and decided to create a mock-up of the robot that will appear in the movie at Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo.

Wakasugi: We started from the design stage. Members discussed various ideas, saying, "I wish I had something like this" and "If it moves in a logistics warehouse, this style would be appropriate." Finally, we determined the design by a majority vote. It was my first time to design a robot, so it was a lot of fun for me.

Initial design plans of ROBOKEN show members' imaginative ideas

Yoshiwara: Because we produced ideas from scratch and struggled to give shape to the ideas through trial and error, we feel an even greater attachment to the robot. When we moved it in a demonstration, I found myself calling out, "Come on, move smoothly!" or "Well done, good job!" (laugh).

Tomomatsu: Love for products is the original point of manufacturing. It was good for them to know that they noticed this point.

We Have Designs, Machines are Available, But We Have No Idea How to Make It

Parts of ROBOKEN. The white part looks like resin when viewed from the outside, but when viewed from the back side, wooden parts are layered to reduce costs.

― What challenges did you face in creating a mock-up of the robot?

Yoshiwara: We thought, "Now we created designs and many professional machine tools are available at TechShop. Let's make it!" But here we encountered a big problem. Nobody, including Tomomatsu, knew how to make a mock-up (wry smile). So, I first went to a craftsman at an outsourcing factory to learn how to make a basic mock-up. Based on what I learned there, we made dozens of wooden parts using a machine called "ShopBot" at TechShop, and hammered the parts one by one to assemble them into this form.

Tomomatsu and Yoshiwara cutting out wooden parts using the wood processing machine ShopBot

Tomomatsu: I had observed manufacturing sites for a long time, and thought that it would be okay if I only imitate what craftsmen do, but with machines in front of me, I didn't know where to start. I was at a loss. For example, even when setting a board on a machine, it was not a matter of just putting it on the machine. I learned for the first time at TechShop that there were various procedures to move a machine. I seriously reflected on the boastful things I said as their senior colleague, and changed my mind to work together with the younger employees to develop my manufacturing skills from scratch.

Wakasugi: TechShop offers classes called SBU (Safety and Basic Use) where we can learn how to use machine tools for a couple of hours and are required to be taken before each machine can be used. We learned basic machine operations intensively, experienced trial and error for ourselves, and mastered how to use the machines one by one. As the development process takes time and in order to save money in the case a product fails, an idea came to mind naturally that we would make a one-third scale miniature of the robot for verification.

The story will be continued in Part II of the interview, where they will talk about what they learned through Monozukuri Mechatro Dojo, future prospects, and tips for generating innovations.

Nobuyuki Tomomatsu, Technical Adviser
Advanced Technology Center, Digital Engineering Unit
Fujitsu Advanced Engineering Limited
Born in 1958, in Gunma Prefecture. After graduating from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Institute of Technology, Gunma College where he majored in thermodynamics and learned welding and machining technology, he joined Fujitsu Limited in 1979.
After being dispatched to Fuji Facom Corporation (current FAE), he has worked on the planning and mechanism design for terminals installed in special environments, such as production control terminals, aircraft terminals, and car terminals, in the Technology Division for many years.
After that, he worked as System Integration Manager of the Engineering Division of the company, and is currently working as Technical Advisor at the Advanced Technology Center to train next-generation young engineers.

Masato Yoshiwara, Innovation Promotion Office
Advanced Technology Center, Digital Engineering Unit
Fujitsu Advanced Engineering Limited
Born in 1988, in Ibaraki Prefecture. After graduating from Department of Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering, Shibaura Institute of Technology, he joined FAE in 2012.
As a hardware engineer, he was involved in a variety of system integration projects both in the private and public sectors. Then he engaged in hardware development, including special cameras using device-embedding technology and drones for specific operations.
He currently works on planning and developing robots for industrial and distribution sites in the Innovation Promotion Office of FAE.

Ryosuke Wakasugi, Innovation Promotion Office
Advanced Technology Center, Digital Engineering Unit
Fujitsu Advanced Engineering Limited
Born in 1988, in Kanagawa Prefecture. After graduating from the master's course of Mathematical Information Engineering, Graduate School of Industrial Technology, Nihon University, he joined FAE in 2013.
He worked as a hardware engineer in charge of a university class support system and agricultural monitoring system using sensor technology.
He currently works on planning and developing new businesses using AI and image recognition technology in the Innovation Promotion Office of FAE.