Refrigerators, washing machines, computers and game consoles. We are surrounded by countless electronics in our day-to-day lives. And all of these electronics are made using a wide variety of materials. While some materials contribute to economic growth and social development, they can also be a source of air and soil pollution, or have negative impacts on human health if not managed properly. With environmental regulations restricting the use of hazardous substances growing more rigorous — with the RoHS Directive foremost — Hitachi High-Tech Science began sales of its "RoHS Application-Compliant Equipment Data Acquisition System" in November 2021. This system helps to tighten controls on hazardous substances, supporting companies in their progress toward sustainable manufacturing.
Preventing Environmental Emissions of Hazardous Substances
The Hitachi High-Tech Group has always worked to resolve social issues using its strength in technologies for observation, measurement, and analysis. Its "RoHS Application-Compliant Equipment Data Acquisition System" is one such case. The system can provide central control for diverse data inputs measured with multiple analytical systems, making analysis and control of hazardous substances simpler and more reliable.
"Manufacturers are constantly working toward finding processes without hazardous substance environmental emissions, while seeking ways to limit usage of hazardous substances overall in order to comply with environmental regulations typified by the RoHS Directive. At Hitachi High-Tech Science Corporation, we want to support companies in those efforts by providing analytical systems and data management services. Our services help companies achieve sustainable growth, while helping ensure a healthy global environment and population,"
explained Senior Engineer Noriaki Sakai, a developer of the system at FS Design Section 1 in the Analysis, Development and Design Div. at Hitachi High-Tech Science Corporation.
The RoHS Directive is an EU law restricting the use of hazardous substances in electronics and electrical devices. Its objective is to eliminate or restrict the use of specific hazardous substances in products in order to increase the ease of recycling and to prevent emissions of hazardous substances during manufacturing and disposal processes.
The initial directive (RoHS1) took effect in July 2006, with the amended RoHS Directive (RoHS2) taking effect in January 2013. The directive is currently applicable to a total of ten designated hazardous substances including cadmium, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and four types of phthalate esters.
Products that contain more than the maximum acceptable concentration of hazardous substances cannot be sold in the EU. Similar regulations exist in countries and regions outside the EU as well, such as China RoHS, Korea RoHS, Taiwan RoHS, and California state RoHS in the US.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in September 2015 also include goals for the appropriate management of chemicals and minimal emissions of hazardous substances during manufacturing and disposal.
Ensuring Rapid Investigation and Response in the Event of Nonconformities
In the past, Hitachi High-Tech Science Corporation worked on the development and manufacturing of X-ray fluorescent spectrometers and thermal desorption mass spectrometers for hazardous substance inspection, but managed all measurement and inspection results individually.
This new "RoHS Application-Compliant Equipment Data Acquisition System" is more than just a dedicated application for RoHS analysis — it is also unique in connecting individual measurement results with the Hitachi High-Tech IoT service portal "ExTOPE®."
This allows users to centrally manage all measurement data from analytical systems in each factory and office in real time.
Representative Keiichiro Shinohara from the High-Tech Science Corporation Strategic Business Development Dept. explains that the benefits of centralized managed are that "in the unlikely event of an issue where you need to investigate product or component substance content during manufacturing, you can get the data in real time and move quickly to investigating, confirming results, making decisions and taking action."
"Many of our clients who have adopted analytical systems are engaged in international business. Installing the 'RoHS' app lets you check data from remote or international sites instantly. It also eliminates repetition of the same inspection of the same part at each factory, improving efficiency." (Shinohara)
The coronavirus pandemic has also had an impact on the development of this system. Engineer Kazuya Iwata of FS Design Section 1 in the Analysis, Development and Design Div. at Hitachi High-Tech Science Corporation noted, "managers at manufacturers suddenly had to conduct product inspections remotely during the pandemic."
"The measurement data from each analytical system is collected by the RoHS app, allowing you to check it remotely without going to the location. Hitachi service staff monitor devices remotely, ensuring they operate smoothly. Clients have told us that it also helps to improve efficiency for inspection and management work." (Iwata)
"The Designer's Mission is to Resolve Issues for Customers"
Hitachi High-Tech Science Corporation works to develop analytical systems out of a desire to resolve customer issues, as well as the social and environmental issues that give rise to customer issues.
「"As designers, we try to speak with customers directly and use issues they experience as material for our next improvement or development. We make customers happy when we resolve their issues, and also, I personally feel that my mission is to find solutions." (Sakai)
During the development of the RoHS Application-Compliant Equipment Data Acquisition System, developers repeatedly met with companies that had installed analytical systems. We have also begun providing new services to resolve issues they noted during the process.
"One issue customers face is the complexity of analytical methods. Their inspection systems also tend to vary, site by site. In addition to providing analytical systems, we felt it was necessary to improve the inspection systems themselves." (Jun Horigome, Strategic Business Development Dept. Manager's Representative, Hitachi High-Tech Science Corporation Business Div.)
For example, hexavalent chromium is widely used in metal plating and pigments, but is prohibited by the RoHS Directive due to its being highly toxic. However, difficult preprocessing such as sampling has been required for analyzing hexavalent chromium content. Furthermore, it had been growing more difficult to reliably transfer analysis skills due to a generational shift in analytical technicians and a shortage of personnel.
Having provided business solutions as a marketing representative in the past, Horigome explains of the situation, "While we were taking in customer issues, we developed a simplified inspection system. With simplified measurements, we were able to take an inspection that would have taken an hour with conventional preprocessing and measurement work, and shorten it to about 25 minutes. Out of a desire to contribute toward hazardous substance-free manufacturing, we built a mechanism for measurements that is independent of worker measurement knowledge or experience."
Shinohara, who worked with customers on compliance with environmental regulations, said, "Stronger environmental regulations mean that environmental damage has already deepened. There is even cause for concern about mass production and consumption of products impacting the ecosystem and soil. Companies face risks of litigation or widespread media coverage if their products fail to meet environmental standards. Our goal is to boost sustainable manufacturing and growth, while ensuring companies don't miss out on business opportunities. We also want to develop those results into a virtuous cycle of healthy environmental conservation."
Hitachi High-Tech Science Corporation has manufactured and sold analytical systems for compliance with environmental regulations for over 40 years. We provide analysis and measurement devices to check for hazardous substances in plant wastewater, as well as sensor devices for monitoring gas emissions.
"We do business in a lot of sectors, building off our core technologies of analysis and measurement. To analyze and measure something is to 'know' about that thing. It's how we learn what's inside it, or how many units there are. Knowing about something in that way also helps us save energy and reduce our environmental footprint. We hope to continue providing everyone with solutions that have value for society, with analysis and measurement at the core of that." (Horigome)
"ExTOPE" is a registered trademark of Hitachi High-Tech Corporation in Japan and other countries.
Hitachi High-Tech Group Materialities contribute toward "1: Contributing to the Sustainable Global Environment," "2: Contributing to Healthy, Safe, Secure Lives" and "3: Contributing to the Sustained Development of Science and Industry."
Contributions Toward Hitachi High-Tech Group Materialities by the RoHS Application-Compliant Equipment Data Acquisition System
The equipment data acquisition system automatically saves the analysis results and maintenance data obtained with the analytical systems in the cloud. The device data saved in the cloud can be checked by using a web browser. This system supports customer efficiency of inspection and maintenance. *Sales have started only in Japan with a view to overseas expansion. (as of April 2022)