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December  1, 1999
Microfactory Prototype
The Olympus microfactory project brings another dimension to an assembly system for micro-optical products and a teleoperation system for minuscule components
Assembly System for Micro-Optical Products Microparts Teleoperation System
Assembly System for Micro-Optical Products Microparts Teleoperation System
Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. is pleased to announce a prototype of a microfactory*. including an assembly system for micro-optical products and a teleoperation system for microparts.
R&D on the microassembly system has been assisted by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). The teleoperation system project is part of the Micromachine Center's Research and Development of Micromachine Technology program supported by NEDO.
KEYED TO THE TIMES
Responding to the accelerating need for downsized production systems, Olympus researchers have been working since 1991 to develop basic micromachine technologies for industry. A major incentive has been the shift away from mass production - the cornerstone of high economic growth in an earlier era. Today the priorities are small-lot manufacture of wide-ranging products and energy-efficient processing.
A longstanding leader in ultracompact high-precision products, Olympus launched the microfactory project as a participant in the Micromachine Center's initiative. The results already include prototypes that bring a new degree of miniaturization to processing and assembly. And these advances will lead to others as the Olympus team presses ahead with an eye on the microfactory of the future.
Assembly System for Micro-Optical Products
To add optical capabilities to micromachines, Olympus researchers have drawn on the company's wealth of expertise in high-precision parts, lens production and automated assembly. The result is a new microsystem that can assemble a lens with a 1 mm external diameter, a CCD and a lens frame - a very difficult task with conventional automatic assembly equipment. With a footprint of only 500 x 350 mm, the desktop system has the space efficiency and flexibility essential to matching an assembly line layout to production volume.
Key Features
Olympus' exclusive lens handling technologies and image processing capabilities offer sure manipulation of microlenses. Backed by these capabilities, the system brings automation and greater accuracy to inserting a microlens and attaching it to a micro-CCD and lens frame.
  The system's miniaturization is suited to installation on a clean bench. Since it is resistant to changes in the ambient temperature, positioning is precise and stable.
  The new microassembly system is much more cost-efficient than conventional equipment for the same tasks.
  Productivity is boosted since the transport distance between processing steps is shorter.
Microparts Teleoperation System
The microparts teleoperation system has been developed for intricate assembly of minuscule parts under a microscope. Its primary applications lie in areas requiring some manual assistance, such as microwelding and inspection.
The system has three principal components - a deep-focus microscope, parallel-link micromanipulator and parallel-link stage. The operator manipulates the parts while viewing a magnified image. Current development is focusing on this kind of microassembly system which Olympus describes as a "manually assisted microfactory."
Key Features
A video microscope with a bifocal optical system is used to achieve the deep focus required for viewing magnified images of minuscule parts. Even at high magnifications, it delivers sharp, lifelike results in full color.
  The parallel-link micromanipulator has a miniaturized ultrasonic linear motor and an elastic hinge with bending deformation. Combining high resolution and a broad working range, it can handle exceedingly intricate tasks formerly left to human operators.
  The parallel-link stage has six links driven by an ultrasonic linear motor that is an original Olympus innovation. It features six degrees of freedom - three degrees for X, Y and Z movement and three degrees for rotation on each axis. With this flexibility, microassembly can be handled from many different angles since the operator can move the subject into any position.
LOOKING AHEAD
Olympus R&D has targeted other elements of a microfactory as well, including grinders and ultracompact composite-processing equipment for microlenses and frames. The researchers also plan to pursue development of technologies such as microparts feeders and microwelding devices - indispensable systems for microassembly. These innovations will mark further progress in reaching the overall goal of a comprehensive microfactory system requiring less energy, space and resources.
* Following the Micromachine Center's definition, "microfactory" refers to a desktop production system.
Specifications
Assembly System for Micro-Optical Products
Microlens diameter 1 mm and larger
Footprint 500 x 350 mm
Streamlined wiring system DISCOT
Microparts Teleoperation System
Observation Deep-focus microscope
Parallel-link micromanipulator
Max. Z-axis stroke   +/- 5 mm
X- and Y-axis rotation   +/- 30degrees
Min. drive step   10 nm
Parallel-link stage
Movement   6 degrees of freedom
Dimensions
Base diameter   180 mm
Height   100 mm
Top diameter   52 mm
*Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. was changed to OLYMPUS CORPORATION as of October 1, 2003.
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