Production technologies are important to Canon. These include fully automated production lines that stay up 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, enabling the in-house production of manufacturing equipment and processing equipment, key components that achieve new functionality and lower costs, and other technologies that achieve nano-order processing and measuring.
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Canon has established an automation system for the production of toner used mainly in offices for laser printers and office multifunction devices (MFDs). This system automates everything from parts processing and assembly to inspection, packaging and recycling. By taking full advantage of robots, AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) to achieve both high quality and low costs, Canon aims to establish fully automated production lines1 that run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Canon's manufacturing equipment uses the company's proprietary manufacturing technologies as well as the latest tools--including 3D CAD, analysis simulation and virtual reality--to achieve manufacturing that is based on in-house design linked to product design. Canon uses its proprietary production technologies to provide high-quality printing products that meet customer needs, which are constantly changing. The company is committed to continuing to pursue manufacturing technologies that are on the cutting edge.
Canon's toner cartridges use a unique all-in-one construction (developed in 1982) combining such parts as a photosensitive drum, charging unit, cleaner and developing unit, which determine the quality of printed images. Because they are easy to handle, they lend themselves to simple maintenance and recycling.
・Canon has obtained hundreds of patents for compact and all-in-one toner cartridge technologies.
・The company has collected and recycled used cartridges worldwide since 1990.
All-in-One Toner Cartridges
Components and materials that support the functionality of products are called functional components At Canon, these include components used in MFPs and laser printers, such as fixing members for high image quality, electrostatic-transfer and intermediate-transfer belts, electric-separation-transfer and low-friction blades. Canon performs the detailed analyses of the physical phenomena that take place during each process of a product's operation and, carries out the in-house development and manufacture of materials capable of delivering the required well-balanced functionality after thoroughly assessing the necessary properties.
Specifically, Canon adapts raw materials from basic organic and polymeric materials including plastics and rubbers by applying methods such as chemical reactions, degeneration and blending. These processes are 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 equipment for functional components.
Various Types of Rollers Used in MFDs and Laser Printers
Transfer Belts Used in MFDs and Laser Printers
To realize advances in high-resolution image quality for laser printers and office MFDs, it is necessary to improve machining precision for such key metal components as photosensitive drums, development sleeves, and polygon mirrors. To attain a high level of machining precision, achieving a runout accuracy in the tens of micrometers2 and surface roughness in tens of nanometers,3 Canon has developed high-precision cutting machines that employ air-bearing technology, enabling advanced machining accuracy and cost reductions that cannot be achieved using commercially available systems. The company is also working toward the development of machining processes that ensure more stable machining.
High-Precision Cutting Machine for Polygon Mirrors
Laser Unit Incorporating a Polygon Mirror Machined with High Precision
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-order4 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 equipment (A-Former), Canon developed various proprietary technologies that enable the high-precision control of high-speed cutting tools, including highly rigid air bearings and a high-performance controlling system. The company's free-form measurement equipment (A-Ruler), 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. These include a metrology box with a unique box-shaped structure and a laser interferometer that uses a work guide sandwiched between six mirrors to eliminate contact-probe motion errors. These technologies make measurements with nanometer-order precision possible.
Free-Form Processing Equipment (A-Former)
Free-Form Measurement Equipment (A-Ruler)
The optical elements used for semiconductor lithography equipment, which include lenses and mirrors, demand extremely high levels of aspherical-surface precision. Canon developed IBF (Ion Beam Figuring) processing technology as a state-of-the-art shape-correction processing method to achieve ultra-high processing precision at the atomic level (the radius of a hydrogen atom is approximately 100 pm6).
IBF technology ensures high-precision machining of a shape by using ion beams (IBs) without increasing surface roughness. An adjustable ion-beam-gun aperture also makes it possible efficiently correct shapes in various spatial wavelength regions. In tests using Canon's original IBF equipment, an aspherical optical element with 1,620 pm RMS7 in surface accuracy was successfully corrected to 60 pm RMS, achieving the world's highest level of surface accuracy and demonstrating the equipment's high-precision processing capabilities.
The manufacturing of aspherical lenses and diffractive-optical elements8 (DO lens) , which have microstructures on their surfaces designed to diffract light, is made possible through mold-making technology, the most advanced technology used in lens production, including proprietary Canon technologies.
In photo replication, a UV-curing resin is placed on a spherical lens surface to transfer the mold shape and allowed to harden. After years of research in 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 manufacturing of various lenses.
Plastic molding involves pouring plastic into a finely fabricated mold to form such elements as aspherical lenses. This technology is based on various innovations that ensure precise and stable molding.
The technology is used for a wide range of applications, including the aspherical lens elements used in SLR camera and projector lenses as well as the optical-system parts in office equipment.
Free-Form Mirrors for MFDs
Toric Lenses for Laser Printers and MFDs
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 temperature and dimensional-variation-related 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 such optical parameters as their refractive indeces.
Molds for Manufacturing Aspherical Lenses
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 achieving smaller and lighter products.
SiP (System in Package) technology integrates multiple semiconductors into a single package. PoP (Package on Package) packaging technology involves stacking semiconductor packages in three dimensions via solder balls to reduce the packaging area. 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, to achieve further advances in miniaturization technology.
Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE)9--which is aimed at predicting and solving potential problems that might arise in relation to product prototypes and production processes--is widely used at Canon in R&D, product development, production engineering and prototyping. 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.
The Evolution of CAE Technology
Virtual prototyping relies primarily on three technologies: 3D-Digital Mockup Review (3D-DMR)10 to identify problems in a basic product configuration using 3D data, Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM)11 to automatically generate processing data and CAE.
CAE, the technology at the core of this process, takes full advantage of optimization analysis (CAO: Computer-Aided Optimization), multi-objective optimization analysis and robust optimization analysis for stable functionality and performance. Canon is working to transform virtual prototyping from a means of verifying prototype replacement to a means of proposing improvements in the design phase
Multi-Objective Optimization Analysis for a Zoom Lens Barrel
Major 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 (solutions obtained during multi-objective optimization). From this set, engineers decided on a solution (selected the optimal Pareto solution they preferred) enabling a reduction of the zoom lens drive time to two-thirds while also reducing power consumption.
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Fully Automated OLED Display Manufacturing System
Because the organic material used to manufacture organic LED (OLED) display panels deteriorates easily when brought into contact with moisture or oxygen, it is necessary to deposit RGB emission layers and metallic electrode material into a substrate using vacuum deposition, then seal the organic material without exposing it to air (which means enclosing precision parts in an airtight seal). Canon Tokki Corporation develops and manufactures cluster-type and other OLED display manufacturing equipment for the complete automation of all panel manufacturing processes.
The deposition process is performed with high-precision mask deposition technology using a proprietary mask alignment mechanism. 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 close 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 two to three minutes per substrate for approximately one week, contributing to the mass production of OLED displays.
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