01 Sustainability inspired
by shark skin

Mobile Riblet Processing
Riblet processing
Nature is a great source of wisdom that we learn from to make breakthrough engineering technology. Through the evolution of life, shark skin has formed a microscopic structure with a pattern of detailed grooves called "riblets". This adaptation has enabled modern sharks to become powerful swimmers who expend little energy. If we apply these benefits to man-made products, riblet technology can make a significant contribution to world sustainability. For example, when applied to aircraft and gas turbines, the technology helps reduce friction resistance with fluids, improving fuel efficiency and leading to reduced CO2 emissions. Riblets can also be applied to wind turbines to more efficiently convert the abundant natural resource of wind energy into electricity. With riblets applied, a drone would be able to carry heavier payloads to more distant destinations. Unlike conventional machine manufacturing that demands skilled and experienced labor, Nikon uses laser beams both for measurement and machining for automated high-precision material processing, delivering riblet processing in a variety of applications to make positive impacts for society.
What is a riblet?
A microscopic surface structure with a pattern of detailed
grooves that simulate shark skin
Riblets improves energy efficiency, by reducing friction
resistance against fluids such as air and water.
Benefits:
Improved fluid efficiency
Improved thrust/airflow
Improved fuel efficiency
Reduced CO2 emission
Reduced electricity consumption
Mobile riblet processing on a large wing
Nikon is combining riblet processing technology and mobility to make it available where it's most needed. By incorporating a camera as the eyes and laser as the main tool in a mobile robot, it applies the laser accurately to the target position while capturing the object with the camera, generating riblets even over a huge structure such as a windmill's blade. A camera and a laser can also be incorporated in a drone to operate riblet processing on a target situated high up. Autonomous control is possible by using the results supplemented by the eyes for pre-prediction and post-confirmation, and these are performed fully automatically. With these technologies, Nikon envisions a future when riblets can be applied to wind turbines that are constructed in harsh environments such as in the mountains or offshore sites.
Engineer's voice
Kaneyuki Naito
1st Development Section, 2nd Development Department, Next Generation Project Division
Kenichiro Murata
Business Development Section, Business Development Department, Next Generation Project Division

"No matter how complex the shape, we can create appropriate riblet patterns with the desired depth, width, and direction. While development of underlying technologies to engrave riblets on large structures like aircraft has almost been completed, we are also considering the feasibility of developing a drone-mounted processing machine. I believe that Nikon's optical processing technology has the power to change the world."

Read the engineer's full interview at The Wall Street Journal