High-Precision Machining Technology and five-axis machining Center

Imahashi Co., Ltd.  View Company Info
A tropical arowana by high-precision aluminium machining

Imahashi is the only company to call from metal prototypes. Masamori Imahashi, the company CEO stands behind that claim! Imahashi Co., Ltd. is a fast growing machining company that meets clients’ complex needs to the fullest, by offering them the best of craftsmanship and computer generated design. “Any design we can create through CAD we can also do by hand,” says the company’s CEO Masamori Imahashi. The company specializes in precision aluminium machining, but also excels at producing pieces in complex forms and out of materials that traditionally considered difficult to cut such as titanium. Mr. Imahashi told our reporter, “We can produce ultra-thin machined parts to dimensions of 30 μ (SUS304), which gives us a large number of design options and helps us to realize our clients wildest design ideas.” Imahashi is also experienced in working with metals especially designed for heat and corrosion resistance including incolnel and hastelloy. In addition, they are skilled at engineering components out of existing parts and can develop new components from scratch according to the clients’ needs. Imahashi provides parts for the energy, medical, aeronautics, and automobile sectors, among others. One of Imahashi’s strengths in the market is that it is poised to offer an integrated approach to metal machining, going beyond thin machining and including finishing and polishing treatments.

Glorify them or Vilify Them, They Are At The Cutting Edge of Technology and Economic Reform

Awesome Design Department, Exceptional Metals Handling

Imahashi serves a diverse number of clients including energy companies in the thermal, hydraulic, wind, and nuclear industries, medical device manufacturers, aeronautical device manufacturers, automotive companies, robot developers, manufacturers of lighting and semiconductor equipment, as well as research bodies and universities. Imahashi’s proactive approach to design has won clients’ trust, and the company continues to receive more and more machining work.

The machining of complex forms is an area where 3D modeling is used alongside conventional machining to craft challenging and three-dimensional shapes. The company uses the latest equipment, such as the MAZAK 5-axis Machining Center. Complex work includes, for example, creating components for use in power plants and cutting-edge medical devices, where the slightest variance in the finished form can have a drastic impact on its use. Imahashi can also machine SUS304 to super-thin dimensions of 30 μ, meeting today’s needs for lightweight parts.

Working with difficult-to-cut materials like Inconel, Hastelloy, Monel, and Tantalum. Imahashi also regularly works with specialized metal materials like titanium alloy 64, pure chrome and molybdenum. The company has been involved in machining parts for nuclear reactors for many years, and it deploys the knowledge gained therein to other areas, achieving new successes in the machining and manipulation of specialty metals.

In terms of precision aluminum machining, Imahashi performs ultra-thin machining and surface treatments for items that require a unique finish and design. The CEO Masamori Imahashi explained that the company could rise to any design challenge and gave an example. Some years back, the company was approached by a major Japanese automobile manufacturer to craft ultra-thin and sharp door parts to resemble the traditional forms of Japanese swords. The CEO explained, “we searched for the best machining methods for this three-dimensional piece,” he added, “and even worked through the New Year holiday until we created a part that was thin and lightweight, yet strong like a Samurai sword.” Working through the New Year is almost unheard of in Japan, but Mr. Imahashi explained that his company’s dedication to customer service takes precedence over formalities like holidays. “Our hard work that year allowed us to have many prosperous years ahead, and that piece is still one of our best sellers.”

 

Imahashi Presents Factory as Manufacturing Place and Creative Space

When working with aluminum, the company aims to achieve not just thin designs, but also beautiful forms. “Smart phone design has informed car design, believe it or not,” commented Mr. Imahashi. The smartphone is thin and attractive and the cases for the phone have to be the same to preserve the underlying design of the phone. We accept those design challenges and we have become known as one of the manufacturing firms “most loved by designers.” Designers come to Imahashi from throughout Japan, a designer who chose to remain nameless said, “in my company I have to be a designer among engineers, and nobody speaks my language, at Imahashi I feel like a designer among designers, but the staff are top notch engineers, it’s really a remarkable place to explore and create.”

The result is that a machining firm that has in in-house capabilities of a major design house. The factory has on its walls futuristic metal masks and life like renderings of moving fish. The CEO explained, “I give my employees time to create their own pieces and to have fun with all of the technology and materials available at the facility, and some of them really go to town. Five of my employees have set up their own artistic studios in the factory and I let them explore and create on company time and using our materials. If they want to design using titanium I say go ahead.” The CEO remarked, “the more they play the better they become at design and the more their expertise with the metals expands.”

Imahashi’s staff can produce mind blowing art as easily as they can highly precise machined parts. Mr. Imahashi reflected on the corporate culture he’s cultivated and connected it to a long tradition of Japanese craftsmanship. Mr. Imahashi explained, “In the Edo period, when Japan was cut off from the rest of the world there was no word for engineer, there were only artists.” Even if someone was producing parts for industrial use only they were also producing what would be considered artistic pieces, but from the craftsman’s perspective both were expressions of his “art”. During that time according to the CEO the craftsmen created aesthetic pieces and functional pieces with the same focus and discipline and that all were created to develop and hone his skill as an “artist”. “Even today in Japan industries call upon traditional craftsmen to create parts for industry,” the CEO added. There are countless examples of the confluence of traditional Japanese crafts and industrial engineering in Japan today. Protechnology Japan’s journalists are working on a few stories stories that serve as prominent examples for an upcoming issue.

 

Bold Design Ideas Keep The Customers Coming Back

“A company cannot grow unless it continues to take on challenging work that, when customers first describe it, gives you momentary pause,” declared Mr. Imahashi. “Today, you can’t just offer thin and functional products – they have to look good, too.” The company is machining products with the goal of delivering the quality, form, and feel of high-end consumer goods. In order to accomplish this goal Mr. Imahashi has poured his profits back into the company, by investing in the best machinery available.

Among Imahashi roster of tools are the MAZAK 5-axis Machining Centers in their main plant. In addition to the traditional linear X, Y, and Z axes, this device also adds rotating and vibrating axes for complex machining operations. Imahashi is equipped to machine items in-house up to 3,200 × 1,400 mm in size. Only the most skilled metallurgic technicians in the world to operate these cutting-edge machines. However, not every process calls for the most contemporary equipment. Masamori Imahashi, president of the company, says, “There are cases where traditional general purpose lathes achieve greater precision, so we use different devices depending on the particularities of each job.” Because all orders are customized according to the actual design needs Imahasa can be flexible and employ only those techniques that need to be used to achieve the best design. This approach, according to the CEO, often has a great cost benefit to the customer.

Imahashi is also proactive about providing designs for and sharing ideas with clients that might not have schematics ready. The company’s willingness to design products from scratch is also well regarded. Imahashi also excels at contactless measurement and reverse engineering new parts from existing products and components. This allows users to drastically shorten the time it takes to realize an idea as a finished product.

Imahashi has also collaborated with physicians at university hospitals to develop medical devices, and its parts are used in some of the latest surgical procedures. Another of Imahashi’s strengths is the company’s quick delivery times. The majority of orders, even complex ones, are delivered in less than a week.

 

Some Call Them the Outcasts, Misfits, and Rebels. These Are Imahasa’s Finest.

The Imahashi plant is a veritable Japanese hipster joint. The majority of the clients are in their twenties and thirties and they are quite a hip crowd. It’s reminiscent of the punk rock scene in the early 1990s in New York that this article’s journalist came of age in. “There is such a fresh raw creative energy in the factory,” our journalist told the CEO, “I can’t believe it’s a metal factory in the Japanese countryside.” The CEO smiled laughing, “I know, isn’t it wild.” Mr. Imahasa himself is a real beatnik rebel type. He’s a third generation metal man who initially rejected his industrialist roots to explore the Tokyo arts scene while studying in the nightless city. He wound up studying mechanics and worked in the manufacturing. “I’m half street artist, half factory kid,” the CEO quipped, “manufacturing is what I know, it runs through my veins, but I need to keep things edgy and punk.” Mr. Imahashi began working at his father’s firm in 2008. He explained, “I didn’t come back to the firm under duress, as many children who take over their parents firms do, I sowed my wild oats and expanded in many directions and was ready to come back to the firm with gusto.”

He came in a gadfly and challenged his father to stop operating strictly as a subcontractor for major companies and went out to expand their customer base and to disrupt the corporate culture. When he became the CEO in 2011 he set out to invigorate his workers who were demoralized by years of acting under tight deadlines for major Japanese corporations. “I hired these punks, greasers and hoodlums from the trade schools and design colleges,” said Mr. Imahashi, adding, “I was looking for kids with a certain edge.” He convinced this new generations of industrious creative and foisted them the factory that had been dominated by a conservative Japanese rural corporate culture. The older employees chided him for his choices, but he had a devil may care attitude and told them they would have to get used to the new situation. It only took a few days for the two side to begin working together famously. The old generation and the young forged bonds stronger than the titanium they shaped. “I did what factories in Japan need to do; keep what’s great of the old and bring in the new,” exclaimed the CEO.

Imahashi, with the management experience he got before returning to the company together with his technical and artistic knowledge pushed for changes, and achieved all he set out to do. He cultivated his new recruits. Imahashi gave the new hires the more challenging jobs so that they could ramp up their skills. At the same time, he began deploying 5-axis machines and other leading-edge equipment. The CEO explained that he, “encouraged experimentation and failure, because it’s only through trial and error that people improve, I learned that from the art world.”

 

Rise Up Ye Factories And Change The Mainstream.

Today, the company negotiates directly with manufacturers, rather than being a downstream subcontractor. That shift in the company’s way of thinking has enabled its current growth. The CEO stated, “our prime minister Abe wants to make Japan great again,” he became highly emotional and said, “when small to medium industries liberate their expertise and creativity onto the world market Japan will become great again.” He observed how many Japanese small to medium sized firms are repositories of unparalleled talent and expertise, but that they hold back because they don’t know how to engage the market directly. “These companies need to hire differently, then things will really start to move,” said Mr. Imahashi.

Mr. Imahashi invites readers of Protechnology Japan to contact his team of designers and craftsmen to explore what’s possible. “We want to help the boldest, brightest and most innovative people in industry today to raise to the top of their fields.” Mr. Imahashi invites anyone to, “give me a call, we’ll sit down and create the future together.” Here’s to designing and realizing the future.

Imahashi Co., Ltd.

Name: Imahashi Co., Ltd.
Business Description: machining for high-mix, low-volume lots (complex forms, difficult-to-cut materials, precision aluminum machining, welding, cast machining, plate machining)
Headquarters: 20-42 Ishi, Juo-cho, Hitachi-shi, Ibaraki Prefecture (Ishi Industrial Park)
President: Masamori Imahashi
Established: 1964
Official site: www.imahashi-ss.jp/pdf/pnf/imahashi_panf_en.pdf