Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Shape Of Things To Come From Japan

By Rahul Chopra

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NEPCON Japan is a good bet if you want to catch a glimpse of what’s new in electronics. While NEPCON focuses on electronics manufacturing equipment, its co-located shows, which are related to electronics too, provide the holistic picture of what’s hot and what’s not. Rahul Chopra, Editor, Electronics For You, happened to visit the show and could not stop himself from sharing some key trends that stand out

Automotive electronics

The expo space devoted to automotive electronics in NEPCON Japan been growing over the years. I remember seeing it occupy a fraction of a hall a few years ago. Now, automotive electronics was spread across three halls!

Electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids are driving this market for sure. The latest sensors, power management ICs, connectors, etc used in such vehicles were all being showcased.

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This year’s highlight at NEPCON Japan, at least for me, was the presence of a couple of large booths of Indian firms. Two that stood out were of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Asti Electronics. Both were professionally designed large booths—not the ones you get with government subsidy. Both of them had staff members who spoke Japanese language fluently. I have been visiting NEPCON Japan since 2017, but this was the first time I got to see such booths from India, which was of course a matter of pride!

 

The TCS booth
The TCS booth

But what stood out was the Software Defined Automotive section, where one could see the typical IT-type brands exhibit their wares in an ‘electronics’ show. Microsoft and AMD-Xilinx were there in a big way, and so was India’s IT giant, TCS. The conference on the same theme made you realise how ‘digital twins’ and the related concepts were going to define the future of automotives.

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Soldering irons’ incarnation

A major surprise for me was to find soldering irons displayed in the expo, which I thought had become a boring item by now. But the soldering irons displayed there turned out to be ‘hotter’ than I could ever imagine.

The B.iron: Soldering iron with battery
The B.iron: Soldering iron with battery

JBC brand was the first to catch my eyes with their wireless soldering iron (B.iRON) that runs on a battery. A further surprise was its super cool stand, where you could place the iron and simultaneously charge it. To me it looked like a must-have item for electronics enthusiasts. Whether such soldering irons would become popular on shopfloors too is anyone’s guess for now.

The Senpujin: Soldering iron stands with air-cleaners
The Senpujin: Soldering iron stands with air-cleaners

The next one that caught my attention was a Japanese offering called Senpujin. Launched by Shoritsu Electric, the soldering station has an air-suction cleaning system. Since the need to rub the soldering tip has been eliminated here, it promises a much longer life for the soldering tips. Plus, the cleaning is ultra-fast, which could result in a higher productivity for your team. They don’t have any distributors in India, yet.

Vertical stacking robots
Vertical stacking robots

Autonomous robots

Whenever the words ‘electric vehicles’ or ‘autonomous vehicles’ were uttered, I would imagine these were related to cars, two-wheelers, or trucks. But the co-located shows on Smart Logistics and Smart Factory made me realise that the smart robots managing the warehouses and factories are the real growth market for such tech—at least currently.

Packet sorting robots
Packet sorting robots

Smart robots are the vehicles that are electric, autonomous, and becoming super-smart. They are being developed and deployed in all shapes and sizes. There are 30cm tall robots that sort and place packets with ease. There are bigger ones that pick components from the storehouse and place them in the machines that consume them to manufacture products.

Visitors’ registration area
Visitors’ registration area

There are also those that go up and down the warehouse storage racks, pick the right container, and bring it down to pass on to another guy (again a robot), who takes it to the right destination. And, then there are the strong ones that can pick the whole rack (filled with inventory) and move the entire rack from one place to another. Phew! Just seeing them all work together was mind-boggling.

I can go on with the wonderful new tech I saw at NEPCON, but these three trends were the ones that stood out.


Rahul Chopra is Editor of Electronics For You and Open Source For You magazines and Managing Director of the EFY Group

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