Synergistic effects of Technology and Creativity
Challenge to Find the "Third Pillar"
Somic Ishikawa celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. The celebration was a critical juncture for the company. We have formed a new business development team in-house that comprise of eight members with expertise from various sections, such as product development, sales, and production. Their primary goal is to analyze and get a grasp of the manufacturing industry going forward.
We have taken all technological and developmental capabilities that we have accumulated over the years as an automobile parts maker. We continue to focus on the research and development of our two main products, ball joints and dampers while researching and developing what may become our "third pillar" ( product) that will be "useful to people." Product of third pillar need not be anything that Somic has dealt with up to now. We are exploring entirely new manufacturing concepts that could be useful to society. Company name, Somic, derives from three words "creation", "future", and "challenge", and we should stay true to these words by challenging ourselves with new business models over the next 100 years,
The "Go Anywhere (Mobile?) Wheelchair"
What new products should we create? What new business ventures should we explore? These were the questions that the new product task force had to ask themselves. After many discussions, they came to the consensus that it should be "vehicle." Next, based on the concept of what could be useful to the world, they came up with "robots," that the automotive industry uses for electric operations, which we use them also in our factories. A decision was made to go for a product in "mechatronics." Discussions continued and ideas were floated to determine a specific direction. The product had to be one that represent and manifest the keywords, "dream," "future," "social contributions," "aging society," "welfare," "environmentally friendly," and the ideology that we had fostered up until now, "worry-free driving through safe movement." The product at the heart of all of these was the "wheelchair."
Through our market research, we soon found that there were "few wheelchairs with proper suspension mechanisms." An additional problem of conventional wheelchairs was "not being able to traverse many kinds of terrains." We realized that Somic Ishikawa's, vast knowledge on ball joints and suspension mechanisms, would be perfect for tackling these problems. Our goal was set to make a wheelchair that could go up a mountain if the user wanted, but also offer safe travel over level ground as well. A superior wheelchair in "cool" design, in addition, must stands out in the market. The first year, we created a skeleton model and tested its safety and movement capabilities of the prototype model was completed after two years. The final product grants the user safe and worry-free personal mobility, the "Go Anywhere Wheelchair."
"The Go Anywhere Wheelchair" is packed with Somic Ishikawa's ideas and know-how. It includes both 4WD and 4WS. It can move both in reverse and diagonally, and takes tight turns. Automobiles equipped each of the four wheels with independent suspension provide comfortable ride, however, all-terrain capabilities were a focal point with our wheelchair and we adopted a rigid type axle suspension. This made it stable enough to go anywhere; however, we still had to cover the safety aspect and decided to use a laser sensor. This sensor rotates in accordance with the direction to move, sounds a warning when an obstacle is approaching, and forces the wheelchair to decelerate when the surface level changes. Furthermore, in order to alleviate the feeling of uneasiness of users when their bodies recline backward while going up a slope, the seat is designed to move in all directions to remain level. Accordingly, the grip of the front wheels never decreases even on slopes by keeping its center of gravity always stable, thus provides a comfortable ride for the user.