You were responsible for the development of the WA-5 series. What are some of its advantages and special features?
The WA-5 series enables two types of measurements to be selected, namely the atomic absorption method (WA-5A) or the atomic fluorescence method (WA-5F). In addition, they are the world's first mercury analyzers that can be connected to sample changers.
The WA-5 series is the successor to the WA-4 series that had been in continuous production for about 10 years, but, needless to say, their specifications have been improved when compared to those of the WA-4.
The WA-5 series includes both the WA-5A and WA-5F analyzers that are based on different measurement principles.
In Japan, there has traditionally been a strong demand for the WA-5A, which uses the atomic absorption method specified by JIS or other official standards, but that type of method is now becoming obsolete.
Contrarily, many foreign companies are willing to utilize the atomic fluorescence method used in the WA-5F, which is both more up-to-date and more sensitive, and hence demand for the WA-5F has been stronger.
The type of measurement having been officially specified in Japan means that Nippon Instruments Corporation has had to provide two different types of analyzers for domestic and export use. In the future, however, I feel that I fairy confidently predict that users in both Japan and abroad will prefer the atomic fluorescence measurement method as it ensures more sensitive analysis.
(For the differences between the atomic absorption method and the atomic fluorescence method, refer to “Mercury analyzers' selection by professional advice”)
What provided you with the most satisfaction with regard to the WA-5 series you helped develop?
One of the things that I found very satisfactory about the WA-5 series is that they are equipped with sample changers for the collection tubes.
I am very proud of the sample changers as them being capable of being attached to mercury analyzers is a global first.
Conventionally the reagent had to be manually inserted, but the WA-5 series allows it to be automatically inserted, and which I believe must make it so much more convenient.
The opinions of customers that make multiple reagent measurements were of inspiration in the development of the sample changer.
In addition to the sample changer that attaches to the product, we frequently improve existing functions or develop new functions in thereby meeting the needs of customers.
I was in charge of this model's development and I feel slightly embarrassed mentioning of what I found particularly satisfactory because I feel as if I would be heaping praise on myself.
It is much easier for me to mention unsatisfactory points (laughs).
What challenges did you have to overcome in the commercial production of the WA-5 series?
The WA-5 models are more sensitive than previous models. Greater sensitivity leads to a higher level “structure” being necessary.
If the part responsible for the measurement is highly sensitive but the surrounding parts are not structured in accordance with it, then the results may not reflect the degree of sensitivity.
For example, even small factors, such as “vibration,” “a change in pressure,” “strain,” or the “clearance,” can have an influence on the end result, so we faced the challenge of identifying how to control and maintain the stability of those factors, and thus how to gain the best results.
With the sample changer, for instance, it was not an easy job developing the structure that met the various requirements, for example, the airtightness.
Both the body of the WA-5 and the sample changer were designed for the collection tubes to be held and fixed in them by merely inserting the tubes from the top of the unit. If the fixture is too loose, however, air can leaks, but conversely if too tight the collection tube cannot be removed. We had to utilize different shape gaskets and various other methods, all of which took a long time to achieve the optimum tightness.
Could you tell us a little about the product development team members?
The development team is headed by a leader, and then made up of “developer(s),” “software developer(s),” “machine designer(s),” and “tester(s)/evaluator(s)”.
As a product development project progresses, all the members become very familiar with the official methods and chemical information related to mercury analysis. They have to actually use the chemicals themselves in making measurements.
The members also have to occasionally visit customers when making deliveries, deal with visitors at exhibitions, for example, PITTCON in the U.S. or JASIS in Japan, or travel abroad to visit and provide agencies with instructions on new products.
Employees of companies of the size of our company have to be involved in a variety of matters, but I am confident that our team members can utilize the experience gained from that in then developing new products.
Anyone involved in the development of a product will know the most about it. We therefore ensure that the developer of a product accompanies the engineer/serviceman when the first lot of the product is delivered/installed or repaired for the first time.
When and shortly after a product is released, unexpected failures can occur, so we ensure to make thoroughly detailed inspections before shipment.
Do you often think about mercury in your daily life?
I would not say I don't think about mercury at all in my daily life, but very little.
We used to utilize a lot of things containing mercury in our daily lives, for example, clinical thermometers, seal ink, Mercurochrome, and batteries, but we now find almost no mercury-containing goods around us. One memory I have that is related to mercury is that I suggested to my wife that she refrain from eating large fish such as tuna when she was pregnant.
I am of course careful not to break any fluorescent lamps when replacing them, but once again fluorescent lamps are now being replaced by LED lamps and my concern about fluorescent lamps will sooner or later have no basis.
What is your motto when you are working?
I constantly attach the utmost importance to usability from the user's point of view.
When manufacturing products I always bear in mind that they should be “easy to operate, install, and service while actually using them.
Improving their performance, of course, is also important, but I still place significant weight on their usability.
Cost is another important factor. No matter how high the quality and usability of a product is, customers will not be interested in it if it is too expensive, and hence I never forget cost-performance while developing it.
If the development of a product takes a lot of time then that factor needs to be reflected on its price, so I constantly remain conscious of the need to shorten its development time and thereby reduce its cost.
What do you do to relax?
I don't have any special secret to effective relaxation. After finishing work, I guess, I relax at home by playing with my children.
For the time being, I place priority on playing with my children in my spare time over any other hobbies or interests.
However, to be honest, I am actually forced to do that (laughs).
I like outdoor pursuits and often take my family camping beside rivers or lakes.
I would consider catching fish and play in water with my children at camping sites would be my best form of relaxation.