May 8, 2024


Developing laser processing technology that lights up the world behind the scenes.

A way of life as an engineer that enriches both career and life by continuing to learn.

Although it is not a job that is easily seen in the spotlight, some people support our daily lives with reliable technology in unseen places so that we can "take it for granted" that the necessities of life, and safe and secure transportation are provided for us.

Introducing Mr. Koichiro Yasuda of the Advanced Production Technology Div., Production Innovation Center, the "unsung hero" behind DENSO's world No. 1 manufacturing. He is responsible for the research and development of technologies for processing automotive parts, especially laser processing technology. With a mission to "research and develop technologies that do not yet exist in the world," he also entered graduate school while working to acquire the academic skills to discuss with engineers from around the world on an equal footing. He then received a doctoral degree. Currently, he is also focusing on training junior staff.

He says, “Technology development is very tough and on a long road. After 100 or 1000 experiments, the results are finally visible. It is as if we are running a full marathon. “Should I stop walking on the way?” “Should I quit?” Such thoughts have crossed my mind many times. But I never give up until I make it to the finish line. Perhaps it is because I am truly fascinated by the preciousness of the work of "creating the world's best technology."

Mr. Yasuda spoke of his earnest desire for his work. He also told us that "continuing studying" as an engineer and as a person who continues to pursue his dreams helps him to create the life he wants to lead. No matter what adversity presses in, he never stops moving forward. With an unwavering belief in technological development, he nurtures young people with a broad perspective. We followed the life of Mr. Yasuda, the unsung hero of DENSO, as an engineer.

Contents of this article

    The world's best technology to support people's safety and security in invisible places.

    ───First, please tell me about your current work.

    Yasuda:I am in charge of research and development of technology for processing automotive parts. In particular, we are developing technology to process minute shapes with high precision using lasers. One of the most representative developments to date has been the development of technology for machining holes in fuel injectors mounted on engines. Even now, we are developing various laser processing technologies to meet the latest ever-changing business needs, and let me explain one of the examples.

    ───Is it about the development of technology for machining holes in fuel injectors?

    Yasuda:This may sound difficult, but simply put, it is to develop technologies to burn gasoline, the energy of the car, more efficiently. To run a car, we need gasoline. But do you know how gasoline is used to power the car after refueling it at a gas station?

    In fact, gasoline is spurted out as fine particles through tiny holes at the end of a component called a multi-hole direct injection injector, and it is the combustion of these particles that powers the car.

    ───I am surprised that such a complicated mechanism is built into the car!

    Yasuda:It is important to spurt out gasoline as fine as possible at that time. This will burn gasoline more efficiently, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce exhaust emissions. It has a very positive effect on the global environment.

    For your information, it takes advanced technology to make the gasoline particles that spew out finer. Pores are about 100µm in diameter and as thick as a hair. The required machining accuracy is a few microns. This is about the size of a bacterium, and if the pore size shifts by the size of one bacterium, performance will be affected.

    ───Wow, it is so small!

    Yasuda:Machining is an important process that determines product performance because any deviation in shape or size, even by a few micrometers, can affect engine performance. Furthermore, a typical plant where production takes place is exposed to a harsh environment, with hot summers and cold winters. Even in such a situation, the equipment consisting of 100 units must be able to process 1 million holes daily and produce them for years with almost zero defects.

    Few companies in the world have achieved such a kind of technology. I think this is the best technology in the world that DENSO shall be proud of.

    ───The more I learn about it, the more I realize that the technology is beyond my imagination.... I realized that we can drive safely and securely every day thanks to technology that supports us in places we cannot see.

    Yasuda:We believe that our mission is to support DENSO's cutting-edge products from the viewpoint of processing technology, and to conduct research and development that has not yet been available in the world and materialize it.

    Fascinated by the preciousness of the job of "creating the world's best technology".

    ───Were you originally interested in the field of technological development?

    Yasuda:Yes. Ever since I was a child, I have longed to see the "embodiment of advanced technology”. At first, I was interested in rocket development. From there, my interest turned to more familiar manufacturing, and led me to the development of car technology. I think my strong desire to "create the best technology in the world" began to grow when I was a university student.

    ───Since you were a university student?

    Yasuda:When I was a senior in college, I was engaged in the research and development of cutting technology in the laboratory to which I was assigned. I was working on a joint research project with a machine tool manufacturer while sharing ideas with the professor. At that time, we were able to present research results that were not yet available to the world.

    ───That's amazing!

    Yasuda:I was able to witness the moment when the world's best technology was created.... I still remember the joy and excitement that ran through my entire body at that moment. I think that is where my life as a technical developer began.

    ───I understand that your successful experience during your college days has led you to your current position. But I feel that the road to developing the world's best technology is a lot more difficult and arduous than we consumers can imagine.

    Yasuda:Yes, that’s true. It is not so easy to be the best in the world. The chances of success are only a handful. There were countless times when I was shattered by the gap between the ideal and the reality and felt like I was on the verge of breaking down. It’s all we can do to get only a good sign of results even after 100 or 1000 experiments. Still, it is a daunting and arduous path that requires us to move forward without giving up.

    This might be similar to mountain climbing or a full marathon. It is just so hard while running. There is no time to look at the scenery around us. Even so, the excitement of reaching the summit or the sense of accomplishment of completing the race is "soul-stirring", and you can feel it only when you take on the challenge.

    I would like to feel “soul-stirring” again. I believe that I am still striving to pursue that excitement. After reaching the finish line, I am so exhausted that I fall on the spot just like a marathoner. lol Still, I can start running toward a new goal again, perhaps because I am truly fascinated by the preciousness of the job of "creating the world's best technology" more than the bitterness.

    Went to graduate school while working. What he learned by balancing "study and practice".

    ───Mr. Yasuda, I heard that while working for DENSO, you also attended graduate school and obtained a doctoral degree. Why did you choose to pursue graduate study?

    Yasuda:I wanted to acquire the academic skills to discuss with engineers outside the company on an equal term while shifting my attention to the world to create something that does not exist in the world. Therefore, I felt it was essential to relearn and continue the study.

    This is because the environment surrounding technological development is not all positive. Technological development is essentially a precious thing that creates new things and improves society. However, it is also true that it takes an enormous amount of time and money to produce results. "How much will this development cost?" "We're behind schedule, when can we get this to market?" While often being pointed out the benefits and results of our work like this, we must proceed with our work. There were times when I felt crushed by such pressure.

    On the other hand, when I spoke with professors at the university, they were all honest about their feelings and genuinely devoted to the research they wanted to do. Inspired by this attitude, I decided to go on to higher education to engage in research and development once again from scratch.

    ───You mentioned pressure, but have there been any positive changes since you entered graduate school?

    Yasuda:I think it is significant that the motivation, energy, and curiosity of the university professors motivated me to speak positively about technological development. I tried to put what I studied in graduate school into practice on the job or resolve questions or discomfort on the job in a place for studying. The ability to successfully turn the cycle of "study and practice" has had a major impact on my career.

    However, I keep in mind that the title of the doctorate itself is like "a grain of rice on the sole of my foot”.
    The rice on the soles of our feet bothers us if we don't take it off, but even if we do it, we can’t eat it. We cannot arrive at the answer to questions such as “How can we commercialize our technologies?” and “How can we deliver it to the world?” only by studying. On the other hand, we cannot come up with a breakthrough idea only by practice when we are stuck. I feel it is important not only to obtain an academic degree but also to implement both “study and practice”.

    ───However, I think it is not easy to continue studying while working. Please tell us about your driving force for it.

    Yasuda:One is a sense of crisis. In today's fast-changing society, it is essential to keep up with new information and knowledge, in other words, to keep studying. Past successes are great, but if we continue to do things the same way without updating them, we will be left behind.

    If you look at the world, the people I admire are engaged in fierce competition and doing the best they can. We must manage to follow, catch up with, and overtake them. I think that continuing to study is as necessary as "breathing" and "eating”.

    ───I see. You are strict with yourself!

    Yasuda:Of course, the "intrinsic enjoyment" of studying is also my driving force. I think studying can be a bridge to making your dreams true when you have a vision of what you want to become, what you want to do, and what you want to achieve. I was able to grow through new insights and discoveries and get closer to who I wanted to be.

    I think studying is interesting only after we have the perspective of what we should study for our life. We cannot realize it when we study only for exams or when we are forced to study by someone else.

    Besides, when I listen to overseas researchers, I think we can catch up with their level of research. Nowadays, technology is advancing at an accelerated pace and its use is diversifying. If we study and develop our unique way of utilizing knowledge, we will quickly be able to become a leading expert and achieve results that only we can produce. If we feel a sense of growth through study, we will enjoy our work and be willing to study more. This virtuous cycle has been the driving force for me to continue studying at any age.

    ───Your story shows us the importance of having a place for both "study and practice" in our career. Do you think there is such a culture within DENSO?

    Yasuda:Yes, I think there is an environment that encourages us to study in DENSO. We are a company that is always striving to be the best in the world, so study is still essential no matter what division or position you are in. There are, of course, those who are studying at graduate school as I am.

    Communicating with highly aspirational people within the company can be motivating, and it allows us to have friendly competition with them at a high level. I have the impression that many of the younger members, especially those in their 30s or so, think independently and work proactively with an eye toward their future careers.

    And when we set the goal, we can advance the technological development stably in terms of funding and physical strength. I think it is an environment unique to DENSO that encourages both study and practice for our goals.

    From now on, I want to focus on "developing human resources to support manufacturing".

    ───I can imagine the young people are growing up watching your example! What are your visions for the future now that you have completed your studies?

    Yasuda:Recently, I have been more interested in human resource development, asking myself "how to develop a group of professionals" and "how to draw out the potential and motivation of each individual" rather than the desire to create technology with my own hands.

    ───I would love to hear more about that!

    Yasuda:To continue to create the world's best technology, the most important thing is the “motivation”, which is to say "power of the technical developers" who do the hands-on work. We shall not rest on our past glory, but build on it, absorbing new knowledge as we go, and keep updating it. Once we achieve one thing, we continue to challenge ourselves to develop the next technology. I know it is not a smooth road. That is why the motivation to "give it a try" that comes from deep within us will power us to overcome any difficulties.

    But to maximize that power, it is important to create "an environment where what each of us wants to do resonates with each other”. “I have no choice but to do my job since I’m engaged in it.”, or “I have no choice but to do it since my boss tells me to do it.”. In such an atmosphere, the limits of what we can do are self-evident. That does not mean that everyone should just do whatever they want to do. The important thing is to manage each person's motivation by combining “what they want to do” with “what they have to do”, and to share "what each of us wants to do" and motivate each other.

    We believe that if we can fulfill what each of us wants to do, and if we can create an organization that can promote technological development with reproducibility, our results will be maximized even more.

    ───Because of your goal of having the best technology in the world, you realize the importance and necessity of "human resource development" to carry out this mission.

    Yasuda:Yes, I do. It would be great if we could create an organization with such a culture. It is an organization where what each of us wants to do advance resonating with each other and properly inheriting the good culture of DENSO. I wonder what kind of view we will be able to see when we succeed in delivering the technology we create in such an organization to the wider world. ────

    I am preparing for a new stage with such a thing in mind.

    It is hard to start something new, not only in technology development. It takes a lot of effort, and my heart breaks off when it doesn't work out. Nevertheless, if we are honest with ourselves and take one step at a time, we will achieve our goals someday. No matter how old I get, I want to live by repeating "study and practice" and experiencing “soul-stirring emotions" throughout my life.


    Writer:Misato Kaizu / Photographer:BLUE COLOR DESIGN


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