Revolutionize manufacturing by material processing,
measurement, and inspection technologies

Digital Manufacturing — Revolutionizing manufacturing through material processing, measurement,
and inspection technologies

Nikon's precision processing technologies can easily perform a variety of material processing with high precision using lasers for riblet processing, additive manufacturing, and subtractive processing. With a wide range of potential applications for these technologies, we also offer highly recognized measurement and inspection technologies such as laser radar, X-ray, and CT inspection systems to provide innovative solutions that realize the full value and potential of digital manufacturing.

Riblet processing

Riblet processing creates microscopic periodic grooves on the surface of a material to reduce frictional resistance when the material moves through water or air. Research into this technology began in the late 1970s by taking a hint from the riblet pattern found on sharkskin and has even been incorporated into swimwear.

The surface of sharkskin is covered with microscopic scales invisible to the eye. Scientists believe it is the shape and arrangement of these scales in a riblet-like pattern that reduces the effect of turbulence, allowing sharks to swim with great speed and efficiency. Riblet processing can therefore be called a biomimetic technology as it mimics nature by creating a similar structure on the surface of man-made materials.

Nikon's riblet processing machines can handle a wide variety of materials, including metals, resins, and fiber-reinforced plastics. Equally important, they can create riblets on complex three-dimensional curved surfaces. No matter how complex the shape, we can create appropriate riblet patterns with the desired depth, width, and direction.

Riblet processing has already been employed to improve the performance and fuel efficiency of racing sailboats and various aircraft. Its use is expected to be expanded to cargo aircraft in the future. The propulsive force of ships and aircraft is significantly impacted by the frictional resistance of their body surfaces in the water and air through which they travel, so the introduction of technology that effectively reduces it is increasingly attracting attention.

As a case study, one of the major airlines in Japan, ANA, has installed Nikon's unique riblet film on two ANA Green Jet specially painted airliners for testing, that started operation from October 5, 2022. This coating reduces air resistance and is expected to improve fuel efficiency by about 2%, for savings of approximately 8 billion Japanese yen, equivalent to USD 55 million (November 10, 2022 exchange rate).

Improving fuel efficiency not only lowers costs, but also helps reduce CO2 emissions. The ANA Group has set an environmental target of "Net-zero CO2 emissions from aircraft operation by the 2050 fiscal year" and is expected to reduce such emissions by 300,000 tons annually.

Now that realization of carbon neutrality has become an important social issue, riblet processing is attracting great interest as a key technology to achieve this.

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.

Additive manufacturing

Employs the laser metal deposition (LMD) method that builds up layers by melting the metal and depositing metal powder onto that part. With its ability to add new functionality to existing parts and performing precise repairs, additive processing has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing.

Find out more about additive

Precision subtractive processing

Consists of irradiating the object to be processed with an ultra-short pulse laser and precise surface processing can be performed on shapes that were previously difficult to make. Conventional processes can now be performed by one machine to achieve the desired precision and will radically change the design performed at manufacturing sites.

Find out more about precision
subtractive processing

Engineer's voice

Sustainable Technology Inspired by Sharkskin

Nikon's riblet processing technology uses a laser to create micron-level grooves on the surface of objects,
reducing frictional resistance to conserve energy and improve performance.

*Written by The Wall Street Journal Custom Studios. 2021-2022.

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

Light As a Tool; a New Era in Manufacturing

Nikon is world-famous for its cameras and semiconductor lithography systems.
And now it is using its opto-electronic and precision technologies to revolutionize the field of digital manufacturing.

*Written by The Wall Street Journal Custom Studios. 2021-2022.

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

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