Production Engineering Technologies

Production engineering technologies are as important as those used in product development. These help realize fully automated production lines that stay up 24 hours a day year round, enabling in-house production of key components and processing tools that provide new functionality and lower costs, as well as nano-order processing and measuring technologies.

Toner Cartridge Production System

Fulfilling Advanced Cost, Space, and Reliability Needs

Automating production systems is an extremely effective way to improve production speed and product quality while cutting costs. Aiming to make the company even more competitive, Canon endeavors to establish automated production lines*1 that run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Canon has automated several hundred processes required in the production of toner cartridges for Canon laser printers / laser multifunction printers, from parts processing and assembly to inspection and packaging. One of the technologies enabling this achievement is the Automated Moltopren Sealing Apparatus used to seal the toner. Moltopren, a sealing material formed from sponge and double-sided tape, had been considered difficult to handle in automated procedures due to its susceptibility to deformation caused by fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and tensile force. Drawing on its proprietary technologies, however, Canon completely automated the moltopren sealing process, from the supply procedure to cutting, processing, precision sealing of containers, and inspection. A proprietary high-precision dispenser is also used to apply grease and other fluid substances.
These production systems are uniquely developed and designed by Canon. Employing the latest technologies, including 3-D CAD, analysis simulation, and virtual reality, Canon is working to quickly create new production systems for use in production lines. Targeting the cutting edge of production technology, Canon is actively pursuing the realization of fully automated production lines.

All-in-One Toner Cartridge

Canon's toner cartridges use a unique "all-in-one" construction (developed in 1982) combining a photosensitive drum, a charging unit, a cleaner, and a developing unit.
Because they are easy to handle, they lend themselves to simple maintenance an recycling.

  • Canon has obtained hundreds of patents for compact and all-in-one cartridge technologies
  • Used cartridges have been collected and recycled worldwide since 1990
  • *1
    Automated production line
    Used in the assembly of toner and ink cartridges. These lines achieve a yield (nondefective product rate) of almost 100%. These low-cost, space-saving, highly reliable lines are now in operation in several plants in Japan. Canon also launched such a line in Virginia in the United States in 2010.

Chemical Component Technologies

Materials that Deliver Well-Balanced Functionality

Components and materials that support the functionality of products are called functional components, and at Canon, these include components used in MFDs and laser printers, such as high-image quality fixing materials, electrostatic-transfer and intermediate-transfer belts, electric-separation-transfer and electrical-charging rollers, and low-friction blades. Canon performs detailed analyses of the physical phenomena that take place during each process of a product's operation and, after thoroughly assessing the necessary properties, carries out the in-house development and manufacture of materials capable of delivering the required functions.
Specifically, Canon adapts raw materials from basic organic and polymeric materials, including plastics and rubbers, by applying chemical reactions, degeneration, and blending, followed by additional processing steps that make these materials appropriate for use as components. These technologies are called chemical-component technologies. Canon is also working on the in-house production of processing systems for functional components.

Rollers Used in MFDs and Laser Printers
Transfer Belts Used in MFDs and Laser Printers

High-Precision Metal Cutting Technologies

Developing High-Precision and Low-Cost Machining Systems

To realize advances in high-resolution image quality for copying machines and laser beam printers, it is necessary to improve machining precision for such key metal components as photosensitive drums, development sleeves, and polygon mirrors. To attain high level of machining precision, achieving a runout accuracy of several tens of micrometers*2 and surface roughness of several tens of nanometers.*3 Canon has developed and manufactures in-house high-precision cutting machines that employ air-bearing technology enabling advanced machining accuracy and opening cost reductions that cannot be achieved by commercially available systems. The company is also working toward the development of machining processes that ensure stable machining.

High-Precision Cutting Machine for Polygon Mirrors
Laser Unit Incorporating a High-Precision Machined Polygon Mirror
  • *2
    micrometer (µm): one millionth of a meter.
  • *3
    nanometer (nm): one billionth of a meter.

Processing and Measurement System Technologies

Achieving Nanometer-Order Precision in Optical Elements

With advances in design technologies, optical elements like lenses and prisms continue to evolve from spherical to aspherical shapes, and from axisymmetric to free-form surfaces. Optical elements that demand nanometer-order*4 levels of precision require the development of unique processing and measurement systems to process free-form surfaces with large variations in curvature.*5
For its free-form processing machine, Canon developed various proprietary technologies that enable the high-precision control of the high-speed cutting tool, including highly rigid air bearings and a high-performance controlling system. The company's free-form measurement machine, which makes possible the ultra high-precision measurement of the entire surface of an optical element through contact probes that touch the element, also employs a variety of advanced technologies. A metrology box with a unique box-shaped structure provides the system's precision standard, while a laser interferometer comprising a work guide sandwiched between six mirrors is used to cancel contact-probe motion errors, making possible measurements of nanometer-order precision.

Free-Form Processing Machine (A-Former)
Free-Form Measurement Machine (A-Ruler)
  • *4
    Nanometer-order
    A level represented by nanometer units (nm) of 1 nm (one millionth of a millimeter) to 1,000 nm (one thousandth of a millimeter). In this nano world, even the tiniest variations in temperature or pressure can significantly affect precision. Accordingly, equipment must maintain strict precision standards and steps must be taken to cancel all errors for items affected within the system.
  • *5
    Curvature variation
    Curvature is a number indicating the degree of curvature of lines and surfaces. Because the curvature of free-form lenses is not constant and changes greatly, special processing technology is required.

IBF (Ion Beam Figuring) Processing Technology

Fabricating Multi-Layer Mirrors with Atomic Precision

Exposure equipment operating in the EUV*6 wavelength range requires the use of multilayer mirrors that incorporate alternating layers of film made of different materials. These aspherical mirrors demand the most advanced levels of ultra-precision processing in the world, with accuracies at the atomic level (the radius of a hydrogen atom is approximately 0.1 nm*7). Canon is currently working on Ion Beam Figuring (IBF) technologies to refine the shape of mirrors.

Results of Shape-Correction Testing Using a Mirror Material

IBF technology ensures high-precision figuring of the shape by using ion beams (IBs) without increasing surface roughness. Selecting the diameter of the IBs also makes it possible to correct shapes over a wide spatial frequency domain. In tests using Canon's original IBF system, a mirror with 0.36 nm RMS*8 in surface accuracy was successfully corrected to 0.13 nm RMS, achieving the world's highest level of surface accuracy and demonstrating the system's high-precision processing capabilities.
The development of the IBF system was consigned to the Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography System Development Association (EUVA) by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) as a theme in the organization's Extreme Ultraviolet Exposure System Development Project.

  • *6
    EUV : Extreme Ultraviolet
  • *7
    nm (nanometers) : 1 nm = one billionth of a meter
  • *8
    RMS : Root Mean Square. Also referred to as the mean square deviation; indicates the spread of values.

Molding Technologies

Enabling the Mass Production of High-Precision Aspherical Lenses and DO Lenses

The manufacture of aspherical lenses*9 and diffractive-optical elements*10 (DO lens) , which are designed to diffract light on their surfaces, is made possible through mold-making technology, the most advanced technology used in lens production, as well as other proprietary Canon technologies.

  • *9
    Aspherical lens
    A lens that is not spherical, but has a curved surface (a surface with a curvature that continually changes in the direction of the lens diameter). Compared with spherical lenses, aspherical lenses minimize aberrations and can be used in both camera lenses and eyeglasses.
  • *10
    Diffractive-optical element
    A lens that includes both refractive and diffractive optical systems, and combines the two to achieve improved optical performance.

Photo Replication

In photo replication, a UV hardening resin is placed on an aspherical lens surface to transfer the mold shape and allowed to harden. After years of research into mold-making technologies to fabricate finely shaped molds as well as the characteristics and physical properties of resins, Canon has perfected technology that realizes nanometer-level precision in the controlling and transferring of fine shapes, enabling the manufacture of a range of lenses.

Plastic Molding

Plastic molding involves pouring plastic into a finely fabricated aspherical mold to form a lens. This technology, used to produce items such as aspherical lenses for compact cameras, is based on innovations that ensure precise and stable molding.

Large-Diameter Lens for Liquid Crystal Projectors
Roof Prisms for Lens-Shutter Cameras and Digital Cameras
Toric Lenses for Laser Printers and MFDs

Glass Molding

Molds for Manufacturing Aspherical Lenses

Glass molding employs high-precision aspherical molds, which are pressed directly onto glass to shape it into lens elements. Based on studies of glass materials and mold materials, Canon conducted simulations to create molds that ensure consistent and accurate performance even at high temperatures. Glass-molded lenses have found wide application due to the flexibility of their refractive index and other optical parameters.

High-Density Packaging Technologies

Creating Smaller and Lighter Products

As semiconductors become smaller, faster, and more functional, digital products can be made smaller and lighter. Semiconductors are arranged on printed circuit boards within products, but as semiconductors become more advanced, they need to be packaged more densely at a smaller pitch. Canon has developed its own packaging technology, successfully making products smaller and lighter.

SiP Concept Employed in Digital Cameras

SiP (System in Package) technology integrates multiple semiconductors into a single package. CSP (Chip Scale Package) packaging technology forms solder balls on bonding pads on the back of the semiconductor package, allowing the chip to be bonded to the substrate by heating it. Canon is currently conducting R&D on simulation-analysis technologies to enhance the reliability of soldering connections between the package and substrate, and on solder-printing technologies, which are essential for high-precision soldering jobs.

Virtual Prototyping Technology

Promoting Prototype-Less Design Based on Optimization Analysis

Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE),*11 aimed at predicting and solving potential problems that may arise in product prototypes and production processes, is widely used in R&D, product development, production engineering, and prototyping at Canon. CAE combines "prototype-less core technology" with actual product analysis and measurement technologies to help speed up development cycles, reduce costs, and enhance product performance, functionality, and quality.

Progress of CAE Technology

Virtual prototyping relies primarily on three technologies: 3D-Digital Mockup Review (3D-DMR)*12 to identify problems in a basic product configuration using 3-D data, Computer- Aided Manufacturing (CAM)*13 to automatically generate processing data, and CAE.
For CAE, the core technology, Canon is working to transform virtual prototyping from a means of verifying prototype replacement to a means of proposing improvements in the design phase, which takes full advantage of optimization analysis (CAO: Computer-Aided Optimization), multi-objective optimization analysis, and robust optimization analysis for stable functionality and performance.

Multi-Objective Optimization Analysis for a Zoom Lens Barrel

Examples of virtual prototyping at Canon include optimization analysis for the zoom lens barrels in compact cameras. To ensure ease of assembly and disassembly, usability, safety, and drivability at the product-design stage, Canon uses CAE to perform multi-objective optimization analyses of the drive mechanisms for the entire product to simultaneously optimize multiple design goals.
For the compact camera zoom lens barrel pictured here, Canon performed multi-objective optimization analyses targeting two parameters — zoom lens drive time and power consumption, which have a tradeoff relationship — and derived a set of optimal Pareto solutions. From this set, engineers decided on a solution enabling a reduction of the zoom lens drive time by two-thirds while also reducing power consumption.

  • *11
    CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering)
    Systems for using computers to support design and development. In addition to aiding the design of products, it includes analysis of strength and safety, and simulations of functions and performance.
  • *12
    3D-DMR (3D-Digital Mockup Review) : Virtual assembly technology
  • *13
    CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing)
    Systems for using computers to support manufacturing.

Group Company Technology ——— Canon Tokki Corporation

OLED Manufacturing Device Technology

Fully Automated OLED Display Manufacturing System

Because the organic material used to manufacture OLED display panels easily deteriorates when brought into contact with moisture or oxygen, it is necessary to coat RGB emission layers and metallic electrode material in a vacuum using vacuum deposition, then seal the organic material without exposing it to air. Canon Tokki Corporation develops and manufactures cluster-type and other OLED panel manufacturing equipment for the complete automation of all panel manufacturing processes.
The coating process is performed with high-precision mask deposition technology using a proprietary mask alignment mechanism that employs a CCD camera. The organic material is deposited through evaporation, and the film thickness is optimally controlled by an evaporation-rate control system. Because high temperatures of around 1,000℃ are necessary for the deposition of metallic electrode material, a high-temperature cell evaporation source is used.
In the encapsulation process, a low-humidity, low-vacuum pressure chamber near to atmospheric pressure is filled with nitrogen gas and adhesive is applied.
This fully automated manufacturing system can maintain constant operation with a cycle time of 2-3 minutes per substrate for approximately one week, contributing to the mass production of OLED displays.