TECH Meets BUSINESS

It has been about 20 years since he arrived in Japan from China. Both scientist and businessman, he continued his research in non-contact and non-destructive inspection field using X-rays and lasers. His thoughts are as broad as the continent, which brings us a feeling of generosity.

Mr. Wang Bo

President of Tsukuba Technology Co., Ltd. Before founding his own company, Mr. Wang Bo worked 10 years as a researcher at Japanese research institution in non-contact inspection field mainly focused on the X-rays technology use.
Assisted by AIST in business startup, he started the company in 2005 based on his research results obtained to date.

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My Chinese friends, one after another started their companies. And of course, I also did so.

-- To start with, could you please tell us about when you came to Japan as a researcher, and about your research topics during that time?

Mr. Wang Bo (hereafter Wang):

I entered the world of academia through research and development of radar devices. Once I came to Japan in 1993 I worked at the University of Tsukuba for five and half years on the reconstruction of data obtained by equipment, such as CTs and MRIs, and image processing. My work mainly involved research and development of software, such as algorithms for data processing. After that I moved to the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology (NICT) where I studied fast 3-D medical image reconstruction regarding medical telesurgery for two years.
Even if I moved from radar technology to the medical field, both field share a common feature: is to visualize data obtained by various sensors. After that I joined the Smart Structure Research Center at AIST.

-- What is a smart structure?

Wang:

First, “structures” refer to members and parts. Then, smart structures mean that those parts are “smart,” and to understand the meaning of smart in this case, please imagine “feeling pain like a human.”

-- In other words, are they parts that feel pain?

Wang:

Yes, it is a technology in which self-diagnosis and self-recovery are carried out by embedding a sensor in parts. Originally, it assumed application to the aerospace field. The purpose is to avoid serious risks through self-diagnosis by parts that compose space shuttles and so on.

-- After that, you founded your own company in 2005. Could you tell me details about that?

Wang:

As I was a researcher for 20 years in China and Japan I thought I would further scientific research in the future and become a professor at the university [laughing]. Still, a few years later, after AIST established the Innovation Center for Start-ups, I thought I would like to contribute to society more by returning the longtime research results to the industrial world, and I established Tsukuba Technology Co., Ltd.

-- What influenced your decision to become a businessman instead of remain a researcher?

Wang:

At first, I had no intention of launching a business, but after arriving at AIST I gradually changed my mind. Then, when I traveled to Shenzhen in China, I found that more than half of my friends and classmates who gathered to see me, had already started their own companies and most of those friends had succeeded even though the scales of their companies varied. Encouraged by their success, I finally decided to start a company and contribute to society.

-- Were people around you opposed to your idea?

Wang:

My creed is to pursue the idea once I took a decision. I always try to overcome any difficulties until I attain a desired result.

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Staff at Tsukuba Technology Co., Ltd. From the front left, President Wang, Dr. Takatsubo, and from the second row left, Mr. Suzuki, Ms. Yang, and Mr. Ebihara.

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Non-destructive inspections may be potentially applied to all industrial fields.

-- Let’s talk about the more advanced technology in Tsukuba Technology Co., Ltd. which is nondestructive inspection system using laser ultrasonic waves. First, what are “laser ultrasonic wave”?

Wang:

It is a wave generated by laser which appears on surface of target object. As measuring mechanism, first the pulsed laser is directed to the surface of target object. Then, the irradiated part is heated by the energy of the laser beam and dilate just a little. That local dilatation transmits into the surroundings of the irradiated point and this creates waves that human ears cannot hear called ultrasonic waves. Sensor detects those ultrasonic waves to obtain data and we visualize them by data processing.

-- Is it also possible to use lasers to detect ultrasonic waves?

Wang:

Yes, transmitting and detecting by lasers is a perfectly non-contact inspection method. There are some options; for detection we can use a piezoelectric device attached to the target object surface and for transmission we can choose not to use laser at all. The inspection technique is flexible and can be adapted to differed object.

-- As non-destructive inspection method, what is the mechanism of the inspection to see the inner structure?

Wang:

Ultrasonic waves generated by laser irradiation not only propagate into the surface but also inside of the inspection object. If there is a defect inside, waves are reflected and received by sensor. Detected ultrasonic waves produce complex data and can be visualized by various data and image processing techniques.

-- Does this mean that software is more important than detection devices?

Wang:

The development of algorithms for detected data is very important. For example, when there is a hole, foreign material, crack or degraded part in inspection object we perform an experiment to determine what wave forms are detected in each case and we collect many samples. Then, based on those data we develop an algorithm and software for image processing. In the future, we will elaborate the software in order to display image data in three dimensions.

-- In Tsukuba Technology Co., Ltd, other than laser ultrasonic inspection instruments, X-ray inspection instruments are also developed?

Wang:

Yes, in the development of X-ray instruments, emphasis is placed on the real-time detection, portability and safety.
Currently, developed X-ray inspection devices are small enough and convenient to be placed on a desk. Using such a compact inspection device allows easy infrastructure inspection like pipes in narrow and difficult to reach places. In addition, we expect the portable X-ray inspection system to be used as home or emergency medical care.

-- Where these non-destructive inspection instruments are actively used?

Wang:

I think this inspection technique can be applied in all industrial fields. Of course it is commonly used in manufacturing quality control and non-destructive testing, but also can help in regular inspection of infrastructure such as buildings or aircraft where failures in safety-critical components cannot be tolerated. In the future, for example, during the tunnel inspection and the inner walls strength test we can easily perform non-destructive test by driving a car equipped with a compact measurement instrument.

Laser Ultrasonic Visualizing Inspector “LUVI.” Software installed in a laptop computer visualizes data.

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Our goal is to reach the top of non-destructive inspection field.

-- As non-destructive testing technique continues to evolve, how do you plan to upgrade your product in the future?

Wang:

Our research focuses on “miniaturization”, “visualization”, “wireless communication” and “smart system.” I have already mentioned small size, portability of our instruments and real-time visualization by image processing. Regarding “wireless communication” and “smart system”, in the future we plan to apply this technology to the field where the direct inspection of target object is not possible, like high located equipment. That’s why is important to introduce wireless communication and self-acting system. We call it “smart” because like as human the machine would be able to take a decision, analyze and communicate obtained data.

-- It seems that demand for non-destructive inspection instruments increase in the world, what kind of sales activities are you undertaking now?

Wang:

Mainly we promote our products at exhibitions in Japan and also in China, the US and European countries. As you know many experts attend these kinds of events and it make easier to make a name for ourselves. In addition, we promote our devices through website written in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. Since we receive inquiries about non-destructive inspection instruments from other countries, we actively hire people from overseas to respond to that demand and extend our market.

-- As a conclusion how do you see the future of Tsukuba Technology?

Wang:

Currently we are a small startup company with about 20 employees, but in the future I would like to expand the company. Perhaps not as large as Softbank is [laughing]. I plan to develop the network by establishing branch offices not only in Japan, but also in countries all over the world. Right now we are considering seeking venture capital support, and then we plan to become a public company within several years. I don’t know how far we can go, but at least we would like to become the top in the non-destructive inspection field. We would also like to expand into the medical field.

Control unit of LUVI. The essence of the state-of-the-art technology is condensed into this compact chassis.

Example of visualization by a laser ultrasonic instrument. When there is a slit in an inspection object, vortices are generated when ultrasonic waves are propagated.

* The contents of this article are based on information as of May 31, 2014

Tsukuba Technology Co., Ltd.
1-14-11 Sengen, Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki 305-0047, Japan
Mail. info@tsukubatech.co.jp
http://www.tsukubatech.co.jp/index1.php

*Application field
- Quality inspection of products prior to shipment
- Safety inspection of large machinery such as aircraft
- Safety inspection of infrastructure
- Application of X-ray instruments to home care
- Other than those, advanced data reconstruction and visualization

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