What are some of the special features of the RA-4300FG+ you developed?
In addition to the conventional models such as the RA-4500 and RA-4300 we also developed the RA-4300FG+ in order to fulfill the needs of foreign customers that wished to utilize atomic fluorescence mercury analyzers.
The new model has an enclosed structure and active carbon filters in order to avoid any influence from the measurement environment.
With the new model, we utilized the same exterior body as that of the conventional models but re-enforced the framing and packing to prevent as much contact with the external air as possible.
There is a large demand for this model overseas rather than in Japan because of the official method that it utilizes to make the measurements.
What gave you the most satisfaction with regard to the RA-4300FG+ you helped develop?
The parts that may be frequently replaced were designed to be positioned in the front panel section in thereby improving its maintainability. Determining the optimal layout was a real challenge in ensuring those parts could be properly housed, but I am really very satisfied with the resulting front panel zone.
We also had to maintain the same appearance as that of the conventional models. And the project was not a case of starting from scratch. The consequential design of the exterior body posed various restrictions, but I’m proud that we eventually realized the design of a really practical model.
What challenges did you have to overcome in the commercial production of the RA-4300FG+?
I acted as both a designer and coordinator in the development of the RA-4300FG+ and I would have to say that this model is an outcome of the effort we put into it.
There is an official method specified in US environmental standards, namely USEPA1631, which requires measurements to be made in low concentration conditions and is very sensitive to the influence of the measurement environment, and which thus can be said to be a very strict mercury analysis method.
Usually those types of measurements are made in a clean room, but we were needed to produce a model that allows for measurements to be made outside a clean room if certain measurement environments could be ensured.
To this end, we had to “shut off external air access,” which was something that required a tremendous amount of effort.
What processes do you use when producing mercury analyzers?
Every model has different developmental conditions, which also applies to the production processes, but some of the typical processes would include:
- determination of the specifications by the development team with consideration given to the needs of the Sales Department and the customer,
- review of the specifications by both the Sales and Service Departments,
- actual design,
- review of the design,
- production of a prototype,
- verification of the prototype,
- review of the design, and
- final release.
During a certain period of time immediately after a new product has been released, the design engineer in charge of the product always visits the customer to deliver or install it.
The engineer asks the customer for feedback, which is then reported to the Service Department. This system allows for direct communication with customers and also valuable suggestions for improvements.
I think it is essential for design engineers to be in direct contact with customers and thus be able to listen to their comments on or evaluation of products they have been in involved in making.
Could you tell us about some major incidents in relation to the development of mercury analyzers?
The MA-3000 is a model with which I engaged in the development and design of for the first time, and thus, the most memorable to me.
We faced various challenges in relation to the development of this model, for example “improved performance,” “significant cost reduction from previous models” and “product stability.” We put a lot of effort into solving them, which has proven very worthwhile because the model is now one of our major products.
I always get rather excited every time a new product development project commences.
It is great to see an idea in my head gradually taking shape, and can feel very proud when it is eventually realized as a product and the users praise it from the viewpoint of “being very easy to use.”
What is your motto when you are at work?
I am determined to produce products that are easy-to-use for customers.
I am always thinking about which layout would be the easiest to use, which structure would be the easiest to assemble, what would be the easiest processes to use, and so on.
To save time, end-users typically like to remove one screw rather than two, and of course the risk of dropping or losing one screw by accident is less than the risk of losing one of two screws.
I constantly keep both “Usability” and “Cost Performance” in mind.
Sometimes I utilize CAD software in my work, and sometimes I search for parts made of “materials that are heat-tolerant and have low compatibility with mercury” for use in mercury analyzers or research information on new materials through websites in Japan and other countries.
Except for those purchases, our original parts, such as piping materials, glass parts, joints, and rubber parts, account for 80% of all parts.
We must maintain a supply of those original parts for use in repairs or maintenance, and thus I always try to maintain compatibility between parts by using existing parts in different models as much as possible, which of course also leads to reducing the cost of the end products.
What do you do to relax?
I do have the slight problem that I often feel stressed rather than relaxed in my private time (laughs).
I help with the baseball team my child belongs to. However, I am often very busy worrying about the weather, contacting other people when necessary, listening to other people’s opinions, and planning the schedule of games. Actually, the truth is, I often feel more relaxed when I am at engineering work!
My role as a caregiver is stressful but I still consider it to be relaxing because I can at least enjoy watching my child grow up.