Automotive Revolution in 100 years
Shimadzu's Role in Achieving Safe Mobility

Series: Shimadzu's Heritage

Today, the automotive industry is facing its most drastic change in 100 years. What role did Shimadzu play and will continue to play in the effort for safe mobility?

Solving Social Challenges – The Key of Automotive Evolution

Since its birth in the 19th century, the automobile has been a good partner for people. The development of society has been driven by the creation of an efficient transportation method.  It has brought about enormous changes in our daily lives, logistics, and industry.

The top priority of the early motorization period was better productivity and affordability for people. However, the impressive growth produced some negative side effects, such as traffic accidents and air pollution.

To minimize these negative effects, engineers have strived to deliver safer, more comfortable cars that have a smaller impact on the environment. These efforts to adapt to societal changes and redefine the automotive industry continue in the 21st century.

Support Motorization through Material Analysis and Testing Technology

Shimadzu has grown along with the history of technological innovation since the dawn of motorization. The most significant contribution was the development of material testing machines for evaluating the safety of parts. Its first delivery to automobile manufacturers was in 1913. It became a more essential device with the growth of the Japanese economy and the widespread adoption of the automobile in the 1950s as durability and safety became priorities.

Photo courtesy of GS Yuasa Corporation

The electric car "Detroit" was used as a company car by Genzo Shimadzu Jr., the son of Shimadzu Corporation’s founder. Genzo, who had been promoting sustainable energy instead of limited petroleum energy at the time, imported it in 1917 from the United States and drove it with storage batteries that he made himself. The restored Detroit is currently on display in the lobby of GS Yuasa Corporation, a company Genzo Shimadzu Jr. helped establish. (Photo courtesy of GS Yuasa Corporation)

A material testing machine can measure the strength and elasticity of materials while pulling or compressing them. Tens of thousands of parts, including frames, car bodies and other metals, as well as interior materials used in dashboards, seats, tires and small bolts, are tested repeatedly by the machine to ensure safe, quality products.

The types and the materials of parts continually get better as cars become more sophisticated. For example, the material of the body used to be mostly iron, but with technological advancements, they have been partly replaced by lighter aluminum and resin materials such as CFRP/GFRP.

In addition, even when using the same metal, different performance attributes are required, such as in the frame part as the skeleton and the panel part of the exterior. While reducing weight is necessary to enhance fuel efficiency, rigidity is essential from the viewpoint of safety.

In recent years, manufacturers have made progress in response to these challenges, such as making crash-prone areas to soften the impact of accidents and lessen personal injury.

As parts, materials, and performance features have changed dramatically over the decades, materials testing machines have matured, but the challenges to automotive durability and safety remain.

To create an automobile for longer driving distances, the battery became larger and the total weight of the automobile got heavier. At the same time, the demand for lighter car bodies has escalated. This challenge continues to highlight the necessity of materials testing machines to test and identify rigid yet lightweight materials, such as materials for protecting batteries.

Since the speed for developing a new model has increased, the preliminary step in the production of a prototype with a simulator has become increasingly important. In particular, it is essential to obtain data that show the characteristics of materials using a material testing machine. For this purpose, a method has been developed that combines a material testing machine and a DIC (Digital Image Correlation) analysis method to analyze the strain of metals.

By identifying the characteristics of a material with greater accuracy, researchers can simulate in detail before a crash test how the material would break if it crashed under specified conditions, such as how fast the vechicle was moving or the weight of people on board.

Shimadzu's various technologies have also contributed to the overall safety and security of automobiles and have supported the history of the automotive industry. For example, to control the exhaust gas emissions, gas chromatographs which can analyze the gas components are used for the analysis and evaluation of fuel and catalysts. Also, spectrophotometers and industrial X-ray CT systems help with the quality control and quality assurance of paint and parts.

Looking ahead to the next 100 years

The automotive industry is now in the midst of a revolutionary change related to CASE, which stands for "Connected," "Autonomous/Automated," "Shared," and "Electric." It is said that CASE will significantly change both automobiles and human society.

For instance, it has become possible to drive a car whenever you want or need one, even if you don’t own it, via car sharing services. 

In addition, the future world depicted in cartoons may be realized. Drivers can be supported automatically according to their driving data. For instance, air conditioning in a person’s house can be activated after receiving data from her car.

Various other factors are also playing a role in the dynamic changes taking place in the automotive industry. These include the increased importance of safety to reduce traffic accidents and driving burdens, the integration of IoT in the social infrastructure, and global warming.

One of the biggest trends is autonomous driving. In Japan, the number of deaths in traffic accidents, which peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, had been decreasing sharply until recent years but is now bottoming out.

The ideal way of driving is shifting from passive safety, which minimizes accident damage, to active safety, which prevents accidents before they happen. Here, autonomous driving is essential. With the support of driving technology through autonomous driving, driving can become a safer, more enjoyable activity.

Shimadzu's near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)  system, which visualizes brain activity in real time based on changes in blood flow in the brain, has been drawing attention. Since the 1990s, manufacturers have been utilizing NIRS at laboratories based on the idea that automobiles are required to live up to human senses. For example, NIRS has been used to determine how the car should react to a person’s behavior while driving. NIRS is also being used to explore the next level of comfort.

The needs required by society have continuously changed with the times, and the automobile has made steady progress in response. Now that we have entered a period of change that is said to occur once every 100 years, the speed required to solve these problems is incomparably faster than what has been experienced in the past.

But no matter how much automotive technology and the environment changes, durability, safety and comfort remain important. Shimadzu Corporation, which has helped solved these problems since the dawn of the industry, will continue to support each evolution in the automotive industry with its wide range of technological capabilities.

 

To learn more about Shimadzu's analytical and testing technologies for the automotive industry, please visit the following websites.

Shimadzu Automotive Solutions
Shimadzu Automotive Online Exhibition

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