“The joy of making and contributing to the region, together with Iwate businesses.” That is the motto of the Iwate Industrial Research Institute(IIRI), an independent administrative agency that researches manufacturing technology for companies in the prefecture. The IIRI also offers consulting services, experiments by request, worker skills development, and rental of 3D printers and other advanced equipment. It is also a player in Iwate’s plan for the ILC: the IIRI is using its research to help local companies get involved with the construction of the facility.

Distinctly Iwate

The IIRI has been around since the Meiji Period of Japan, as it was founded in 1873 as “Kangyojo,” (lit. “A place to encourage industry”). Ever since that time, the IIRI has encouraged the use of the most advanced technology available at the time to Iwate companies and organizations, and the precise techniques of the time of its founding can be seen even today in Iwate’s traditional craft culture. The IIRI has been a place that has supported artisans who need precise techniques for cast-ironware, woodworking, lacquerware and more. Iwate as a whole also has a thriving primary industry, and the IIRI’s research has helped local companies make Iwate’s bountiful agricultural products into a variety of goods.

The IIRI’s research is divided into two, and they support the research and information sharing associated with them:


Electronics, software, IT, surface finishing of industrial materials, paint application, joining materials together, plastic processing, metallic casting, machine processing, precision measurement, chemical analysis



Design, lacquer, crafts, wood-working, sake, other brewed edible products, food with health-promoting benefits, fermented food, processed food, and using research results in product development

Here are six interesting projects the IIRI has dedicated resources towards (and of course, there are many more than listed here!):


R&D for the Yui-no-ka rice cultivar

Working with local sake associations, farmers, the Iwate Agricultural Center, and other related parties, the IIRI led an initiative to develop a new rice cultivar specifically for making sake, called “Yui-no-ka.” Around 20 sake breweries in the prefecture have each made a Yui-no-ka sake using this rice, and people like to sample each company’s unique spin on the sake.

Universal design for Iwate’s cast-iron products

Iwate is known throughout Japan for its cast-iron products, as the area has been a home to these artisans for over 400 years. Most famous are their iron kettles – these valuable items have distinctive designs etched onto jet-black iron surfaces. But consumption is down and the industry needed an injection of some new design ideas and philosophies. Enter Universal Design. The IIRI worked with industry officials to introduce the ideas of UD and make these kettles easier to use. They adjusted the spouts for easy-pouring and a lowered chance of boiling over, and flattened the handles for a no-slip grip. These products won the Good Design Award in 2005.

Developed and patented a new Zogan technique

A woodchip company came to the IIRI to see if there was a way to add value to small-diameter tree products, so they performed joint research to develop and patent a new zogan technique for use with leftover log-ends. Zogan is an old Japanese technique for inlaying designs in metal or wood, and this particular technique is used to create intricate designs into dried woodchips. The IIRI previously made contracts with companies so they could use the patent to develop key-holders, stamps, medallions, and other knick-knacks (the patent is now expired).


Anechoic chamber

Iwate companies use this sealed chamber and its electromagnetic compatibility equipment to evaluate effects of electromagnetic waves emitted from electronic devices. In 2015, IIRI registered with VCCI (Voluntary Control Council for Interference by Information Technology Equipment), a Japanese association created to cope with radio disturbance problems caused by personal computers, facsimile equipment and the like. Now it is possible to use the data recorded with IIRI’s EMC equipment and send it to VCCI for integration and confirmation from within Iwate. This will improve quality assurance and product development for manufacturing companies in Iwate.

3D Scanning and Printing

Coordinate measurement systems used in non-contact 3D scanners are used to measure the dimensions and geometry of free-form objects at an extremely precise level. In layman’s terms, the technology used in 3D scanners can now accurately scan in objects with complicated shapes, and the IIRI owns a scanner with these capabilities. We can now see the potential of combining 3D scanners and printers to create highly efficient and precise manufacturing methods, and expectations are high for a paradigm shift in manufacturing technology. The IIRI is using its 3D scanner and 3D printer to participate in joint research with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology to create a closed loop method of manufacturing.

Radiation measurement

Following the 2011 Tohoku disaster, many were worried about the effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the agricultural output of Iwate. To ease fears and report findings, the IIRI installed a Germanium semiconductor radiation detector and survey meter to be used by companies to prove there is no contamination in manufactured products, parts, processed goods, and raw materials. In this way, the IIRI is contributing to halting the spread of rumors regarding Iwate products.


Officials envision a Silicon Valley in Iwate where businesses accumulate in the area surrounding the ILC and compete to develop the best technology. However, it’s hard for local companies to get involved as they don’t normally have the chance to develop precision techniques that will be used to construct the ILC. The IIRI will play a central role in supporting companies within Iwate that can contribute to the project. One area in particular that they are supporting research in is electropolishing.

 A SCRF cavity provided by KEK. These cavity must be smoothed to perfection using electropolishing

A SCRF cavity on loan from KEK. Their interior surfaces must be smoothed to perfection using electropolishing. (SCRF: Super-conducting radio frequency, a technology used in accelerators)

The technique immerses metal into an electrolyte solution and then subjects it to a direct electrical current, which then removes imperfections and leaves the surface completely smooth, like a mirror. Electropolishing would be needed to make the superconducting niobium cavities required for the ILC accelerator, as you need an absolutely perfect surface inside to accelerate sub-atomic particles. But electropolishing thus far has been an expensive and lengthy process.

The IIRI has been researching technology that would be needed for the mass production of the SCRF cavities, and has focused on electropolishing technologies as an area where local companies could contribute. This year they are exploring inexpensive plastic resins that could be implemented in the electropolishing device instead of the costly Teflon currently used. Researchers run tests to evaluate the endurance of the material after being immersed in the electropolishing fluid.

The Stretch Machine – INSTRON 5982

The Stretch Machine – INSTRON 5982

Before and after immersion, the material is run through stretch tests with the machine shown above. The IIRI has succeeded in observing the procession of distortions to the material with Digital Image Correlation.

The IIRI is also supporting two local companies, Higashi Nihon Kiden Kaihatsu and WING, which are working with Marui Galvanizing (a company from Hyogo with a factory in Tohoku), to develop a way to electropolish the SCRF cavities standing vertically, rather than laying them horizontally. They believe that this way would greatly reduce both costs and labor hours, which would be very useful when mass-producing these cavities.


Every year in October, the IIRI opens its doors to the public so that they can learn more about its activities. In recent years they’ve held lectures on the ILC helmed by researchers from KEK. There are also exhibits of Iwate products that use IIRI’s technology and equipment, and workshops where people can see robots and other devices in action. This year’s event is on October 15, 2016 (Saturday).


We’ve reported on the technical research done at the Iwate Industrial Research Institute, but there’s another organization next to the building that works on the softer side of developing businesses in Iwate. Next time we’ll bring you an article about the Iwate Industry Promotion Center and what they’re doing to get local businesses ready for the ILC!


















引張試験機– INSTRON 5982


今年の一般公開は、 10月15日(土)の予定です。