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Field Guide: Omron Corp.

Omron is a global leader in automation, sensing, and control technologies, which leads it to other industries beyond industrial automation.

The company

Kazuma Tateisi started what would become Omron Corp. (Kyoto, Japan) in 1930. He began by manufacturing and selling trouser presses in Kyoto. Sluggish sales and excess stock drove him to develop a new product: the knife grinder. Two years later, he hit pay dirt by developing a fast timer for X-ray machines. In 1943, his company, the Tateisi Electric Manufacturing Co., developed Japan's first precision switch. Five years later, the company officially incorporated as Omron Tateisi Electronics Co.

In 1959, Tateisi introduced the company motto: "At work for a better life, a better world for all." On January 1, 1990, to reflect its broad reach in products, industries, and geographical markets, the company changed its name to Omron Corp.-a name that is pronounced the same regardless of language. By this time, Omron had introduced several firsts: non-contact proximity switch, automatic traffic signal, and fully automated train station system, automatic cancer cell diagnostic equipment, and on-line cash dispenser.

In 2001, the company launched Grand Design 2010 (GD2010), the company's vision for the first decade of the present century. A goal in GD2010 (from fiscal 2001 to fiscal 2004) is to achieve a return on equity of 10%. Omron achieved that in fiscal 2003. On March 31, 2007, Omron closed its fifth consecutive year of sales and profit growth. Sales revenues were more than ¥ 736 billion ($6.3 billion). Omron has about 33,000 employees in over 32 countries.

The company's business units encompass broad applications: industrial automation (41.5% of sales), electronic components (18.8%), automotive electronics (12.7%), social systems (14.4%), healthcare (8.9%), and others (3.8%). In 2006, Omron began focusing on energy, environment, security, and safety as additional markets to develop.

 

Industrial automation

In the United States, Omron Industrial Automation (Schaumburg, IL; www.omron247.com) services industries including industrial machinery, transportation, electronics and small parts assembly, semiconductor, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food and beverage packaging, and automotive.

Industrial automation. Omron supplies a long and broad list of industrial automation products. (See chart Products from Omron Industrial Automation, p. 61.) Integrating many of these products requires software. Of note is the Omron Smart Platform, a set of software products that let non-specialist engineers, using wizards and drag-and-drop actions, mix-'n'-match controllers, control devices, equipment, and so on, while minimizing control hierarchy and other communications issues. Central to Smart Platform is CX-One, an integrated software management tool that lets users build, configure, and program networks, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), human/machine interfaces (HMIs), motion control systems, drives, process controllers, and sensors. The software is compatible with Ethernet and Controller Link peer-to-peer networks, Mechatrolink II motion network, Profibus and DeviceNet fieldbuses, and CompoWay/F and Modbus serial networks. "Plug & Work" functionality comes from Omron-supplied function-block libraries and "smart active parts" (device-specific objects) and from user-created, machine-specific objects.

Safety equipment. To protect workers around machinery, automated equipment, and industrial robots, Omron's North American subsidiary Scientific Techno-logies Inc. (STI; Fremont, CA; www.sti.com) manufactures and sells safety-related products (www.ce-safety.info) including safety light curtains, interlocks, networks, relays, mats, and switches, sensors. Safety sensors are available to periodically test the network for system and component failures that could lead to equipment damage or danger to personnel, to perform self-monitoring tests, or to do both. Stop Category 0 safety relays ensure that a machine operates while the integrity of the safety system is maintained; Stop Category 1 relays ensure the machine goes through a controlled stop. Safety networks have higher levels of data transmission integrity.

Optical inspection. Omron has three in-line and three off-line automated optical inspection systems for printed circuit board (PCB) production. The Omron VT-RNS, for example, is an in-line post paste (post reflow and post wave), placement, and solder inspection system that can accept PCBs measuring 255 x 333 mm or 460 x 510 mm. These systems use Omron's color stripe phase shifting highlight technology to determine the height of PCB objects for visual inspection. The Omron IP Inspection Pro captures post-solder fault information from the in-line machines and displays an image of the fault with a fault message for operator determination. The off-line inspection system is aimed at smaller manufacturers running low volume or prototype assembly lines. Desktop models can inspect PCBs measuring 50 x 50 mm up to 650 x 550 mm. Omron also provides various repair-station software modules to show actual images of defective components, paste, solder, and placement, as well as data collection, analysis, display, data management, and related software for PCB production management.

Radio frequency identification (RFID). Schaumburg-based Omron RFID (www.omronrfid.com) provides inlays and readers for high frequency (13.56 MHz), ultrahigh frequency (860-915 MHz), and applications using other frequencies. Omron has two readers. The V740 is able to read/write tags compliant with EPC Class0, Class1, and Class1 Generation2; the V750 reads/writes EPC Gen2-compliant tags and includes features such as advanced diagnostics, self execution, and radio noise detection.

Omron's patented ultra-sonic bonding technology, Jomful (joint of metal with film by ultrasonic welding), joins the IC chip to the antenna, producing a strongly bonded inlay compared to inlays produced using conventional joining techniques (such as adhesive-based processes). The antenna size for Omron's Gen2 inlays range from 1.1 x 1.1 in. to 3.7 x 0.63 in. Read ranges are as close as 4 feet on up to 15 feet. The aluminum-based Scorpion UHF EPC Gen2 inlay announced last October is 0.0024-in. thick (coil; 0.0118-in. IC strap). Omron introduced aluminum-based inlays to complement its copper-based products in 2005 in response to the tightening of waste management regulations around the world and customer concerns regarding the disposal of copper. Omron also has EPC compliance kits fully scalable from one device to an enterprise-wide deployment.

 

Electronics

Schaumburg-based Omron Electronics Components Co. (www.components.omron.com) supplies for a variety of industries worldwide an extensive range of electronic components, including relays, switches, connectors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), flow sensors, pressure sensors, and optical components.

The company makes a wide range of relay types: low-signal, high frequency, high-voltage DC, metal oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET), power PCB, general purpose (plug-in and power), and solid state. Omron power PCB relays come in various sizes, as well as various sealing forms, plug-in styles, mounting options, pole configurations, phases, and load capacities. Omron SSOP-model MOSFET relays are the world's smallest telecommunications relays on the market for telecommunications switching applications. Available in 1- and 2-pole configurations, MOSFET relays are also used in automated test, diagnostic, medical, and security equipment; instrumentation and automated meter readers; and other applications.

Omron's range of switches is also extensive: heavy-duty snap action, unsealed snap action, sealed snap action, dip, detection, tactile, dome/dome array, and combination jog switches. The combination jog switch gives users a single interface for scrolling through and then choosing from a list of options (typically found in consumer and some industrial handheld devices). It consists of five tactile selector switches: a center push button plus four peripheral push points. All Omron switches come with a variety of actuators, termination, and mounting styles.

Omron's experience in MEMS technology has resulted in a line of intelligent MEMS micro sensing devices (www.omron.com/ecb/products/photo/index.html) for measuring pressure (available in analog, pulse, or frequency output signal), tilt, vibration, mass flow, and velocity for medical, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC), consumer electronics, networking infrastructure, and test equipment applications. Because of their small size-one-tenth (2.5 mm2) the size of conventional products-the flow sensors can be used with most medical, inert welding, and combustion gases. The gas mass flow sensors can measure most non-corrosive gases, including natural gas, oxygen, air, nitrogen, N2O, heli-ox, helium, and CO2. Sensors incorporating the Omron dust segregation system keep particulate away from the sensor element. These sensors can be used to monitor the performance of fans, detect clogged filters in computers and projectors, and variable air volume control in commercial HVAC systems. Touch sensors (www.omron.com/ecb/products/touch/index.html) are available in 4, 8, and 16 channels.

 

The OKAO vision sensor

(www.omron.com/ecb/products/mobile/index.html) uses face recognition to ensure security between mobile devices with cameras (e.g., phones, PDAs, and laptops) and their owners. Data registration measures 1.5 KB per photo, while memory usage measures just 450 KB ROM and 370 KB RAM. Processing time is approximately one second (with the MSM 6500 chipset).

Optical devices (www.omron.com/ecb/products/opt/index.html) include high-speed CWDM optical subassemblies, optical splitters, passive CWDM mux/demux, optical switches, PLC splitter modules, and micro lens arrays (MLA). Omron light control technology helps speed input and output devices, video recording systems, and liquid crystal displays used throughout communications infrastructures. Bi-directional PLC splitter modules are used in passive optical networks, DWDM and CWDM systems, optical cable television, and other remote, fiber-based equipment applications. Omron MLAs are used for the backlight in LCDs in cellular phones and PDAs. Customizable, polymer, flat and right-angle type MLAs provide low-cost, free space optical connections. Omron sells the smallest single-mode CWDM optical multiplexer/demultiplexer on the market.

Omron FPC connectors support the high-density mounting of PCB components. Omron's patented rotary backlock mechanism ensures a complete connection regardless of how much the flex cable moves. FPC connectors come in 0.3-, 0.4-, and 0.5-mm pitch; front and rotary backlock mechanisms; upper-, lower-, and double-sided contacts.

Wi-PlaDs (wireless polymeric advanced devices; www.omron.com/ecb/products/whfd/index.html) is the brand name for Omron's wireless, high-frequency devices. These devices use special dielectric polymer antennas that can be molded into a variety of shapes. Wi-PlaDs mobile devices are compact and can operate in the wide GHz range, providing ultra wide band (UWB) short-distance wireless communication with speeds and capacities that exceed wireless LAN and Bluetooth systems. Wi-PlaDs products include an SMD polymeric antenna optimized for WiMedia band groups 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, and it is suitable for applications such as PCs and peripheral equipment (including wireless USB dongles and hubs), mobile equipment, and digital home entertainment systems and home appliances. A UWB polymeric antenna is designed for high-definition video streaming applications.

Omron Electronics also provides IC and MEMS foundry services (www.omron.com/ecb/products/foundry/index.html) from small-lot prototyping, volume production, and partial processing, to total processing. Foundry services include wafer bonding, diffusion (implantation, doped deposition, and annealing), deposition (including oxi-dation, insulation film depositing, metal, and organic thin film depositing), photolithography, wet and dry etching, sacrificial etching, electroforming, and characterization, dicing, and cleaning. The MEMS foundry can handle from 4- to 8-in. wafers. Electroforming is available for superfine patterns (sub-micron shapes) for NI, and Ni-PD materials from 0.02 to 5.0 mm.

 

Automotive

Novi-based Omron Automotive Electronic Components Co. (www.omronauto.com) vehicle manufacturers and suppliers with car electronic and electromechanical components and systems in four key areas: comfort and convenience, safety and anti-theft, ID systems, and environmental considerations. This business unit has over 1,250 employees in North and South America, and operates three manufacturing facilities (one in the United States and two in Canada). The automotive business unit has the largest market share in Japan and North America (2007) for remote keyless entry systems. Other products based on radio-frequency technology include tire pressure monitoring systems, immobilizers (vehicle security), and wireless control devices.

The business unit's switches and closure controls run the gamut from electric power steering, power seat, and power window controls; hidden switches, such as micro switches for seat, sunroof, park pin, trunk release, and closure mechanisms; other closure controllers, such as for power slide doors and power tail gates; and a variety of accessory switches. Sensors help with automotive comfort, convenience, and safety applications. The Omron HDRC CMOS Imager has a greater dynamic range than the human eye, and it works in dark condition (tunnel and at night, for instance). Omron also produces an image sensor/signal processor/vehicle interface as a single unit.

A variety of relays and relay modules are available for automotive applications, including PCB relays (typical applications are power windows and door locks, electric sunroof, windshield wipers, and car audio), plug-in relays (typical applications are motor, lamp, and resistive loads, engine cooling fan, HVAC, blower fan motors, head lamps, air and fuel pumps, anti-lock braking systems, and glow plugs), solid state relays, and 42V relays.

Last, Omron manufactures electronic control units and other controllers for applications such as daytime running lights, and rear wiper and defogger timer controllers.

 

Social Systems

Schaumburg-based Omron Transaction Systems, Inc. (www.omronost.com) manufactures and sells cash (bill and coin) recyclers and dispensers, boarding pass readers, ticket printers, and turnstile gate systems for banking, retail, and transportation-activities related to social infrastructure. Some history: Omron developed the world's first automatic traffic signal in 1964; in 1967, it completed the first unmanned train station system with automatic ticket vending machines and automatic ticket gates; and in 1971, it was first to develop an on-line automatic cash dispenser. All of these system to track the flow of money, people, and vehicles are based on Omron's sensing and mechatronics technology. The Omron US-ABIO Cash Recycler, for instance, automates cash handling, eliminating the labor associated with counting, accepting, and dispensing cash. The unit can recycle up to four denominations of bills, transport about seven notes per second, and hold up to approximately 2,500 new notes in each of two cassettes-all while maintaining an audit trail. Omron's ticket readers and printers are finding increasing demand in public transportation, where efficiencies can be found by using prepaid cash cards instead of train tickets, and using common cash cards among different railway companies. These same cards are now being applied to road transportation (highway, bridge, and parking tolls). Omron ticket-accepting turnstiles can work with magnetic- and plastic-type of ticket with a processing speed of 2.2 seconds or less. At airports, Omron boarding pass readers provide automated ticket handling. Two BPR101 readers, for instance, can process boarding passes from 560 passengers in 8 minutes.

Omron's CCD-based facial recognition system calculates the characteristics of an individual's face. Such information is expected to be the basis for next-generation security applications such as access control, patient detection, and e-commerce authorization. In development is a non-stop electronic toll collection system for relieving traffic congestion at toll booths. Other developments include a system using sensors to detect and deliver information to drivers concerning road accidents and fallen objects on the road.

A joint venture with Hitachi, Ltd., called Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions Corp. (www.hitachi-omron-ts.com), manufactures and sells automated teller machines (ATM), cash dispensers/recyclers, image recognition, passbook entry and printing machines, card readers, and other finance-related self-service machines. 

 

Products from Omron Industrial Automation
SensorsPhotoelectric sensors, displacement and measurement sensors, vision sensors, microscope, proximity sensors (inductive and capacitive), fiber optic sensors, photomicro sensors, rotary encoders, ultrasonic sensors, pressure sensors, data loggers, liquid leakage sensors, sensor controllers
SwitchesLevel switches, basic switches (electromechanical), limit switches, pushbutton/indicator lamps, thumbwheel switches, digital indicators, monitoring products
Safety componentsSafety door switches, safety limit switches, safety sensors, emergency stop switches, two-hand control, motor starters, hydraulic press brake guarding, enabling components, presence/detection sensors, force-guided and safety monitoring relays, safety application controllers, safety light curtains, safety laser scanner, safety mats, safety contact strips and bumpers, safety interlock switches, perimeter access guarding
RelaysGeneral purpose relays, electromechanical relays, solid-state relays, power controllers
Control componentsTimers, counters, cam positioners, temperature controllers, signal converters, power supplies, programmable relays, programmable controllers (compact, modular, and rack), process controllers (including temperature; single- and multi-loop)
Automation systemsSupport software, programmable controllers, field networks and wiring (including DeviceNet products; modular and compact remote I/O; field I/O in both open DeviceNet and proprietary CompoBus/S versions; and wireless I/O), remote I/O, wireless components, programmable terminals, code readers, automatic identification and RFID systems, human machine interfaces (such as digital panel indicators, and PC-based and proprietary displays), fiber optic components (such as fiber and amplifiers)
Motion and driversMotion controllers, frequency inverters (up to 300 kW; including basic inverters for low-power speed control and custom designed inverters for variable torque loads), servomotors (rotary and linear), servo drivers (stand alone, and PC-based; rotary, linear, and direct-drive), “smart” servo systems (providing fractional horsepower on up to 55 kW), rotary encoders (absolute and incremental), multi-axes motion control (up to 30 axes), decentralized motion control, point-to-point position control
MiscellaneousPower supplies, axial fans, air cleaning/static electricity components, measuring/motor protective relays, wiring systems, common accessories, printed circuit board inspection and repair systems

 

 

Healthcare

The mission of Omron Healthcare, Inc. (OHI; Bannockburn, IL; www.omronhealthcare.com) is to help prevent lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity. OHI's products consumers monitor certain aspects of their day-to-day health at home and help medical professionals in such settings as post-anesthesia care, critical care, emergency room, labor and delivery, cardiology, dialysis, and dental offices. OHI products include automatic, manual, and wrist blood pressure monitors; ear and digital stick thermometers; "personal wellness" products, such as heart rate and blood pressure monitors, pedometers, and body fat analyzers; respiratory devices, such as portable nebulizer systems; and flow meters for asthma management.

The professional line of medical products comes from Omron's subsidiary, Colin Medical Technology Corp. (San Antonio, TX; www.colinmedical.com). These products include digital blood pressure monitors (sphygmomanometers and aneroids), stethoscopes, digital thermometers, cardiovascular assessment devices (such as portable electrocardiography [ECG] monitors and non-invasive vascular profile devices), and vital sign monitors. These monitors measure such vital signs as non-invasive blood pressure (systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial pressures); ECG, two-channel temperature, invasive blood pressure, and capnography (EtCO2); functional arterial oxygen saturation (SpO2); pulse rate; and respiration.

 

Other businesses

Omron is also involved in entertainment (such as photo sticker vending machines), components for mobile devices, and customized RFID projects for transportation. Omron also operates in the computer peripherals business with products such as broadband routers, uninterruptible power supplies, and insulation monitoring devices.

 

Industrial Competition

Just about anybody who is anybody supplying to the industrial automation and electronic components markets competes with Omron. This includes the major automation vendors providing a broad range of products, such as ABB, Bosch Rexroth, GE Fanuc Automation, Honeywell International (the automation control segment), Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Siemens AG, as well as the vendors of individual product categories (e.g., sensors, controls, vision, HMI, etc.). For instance, companies competing against Omron in sensors would include Analog Devices and Custom Sensors & Technologies. In Japan, while Omron holds about 60% of the market in high-precision sensors, it faces Japanese competitors, such as Alps Electric and Oki Electric Industry. In electronic components, Omron competitors include Fairchild Semiconductor, Motorola, NEC Electronics, Texas Instruments, and Vishay.

In the automotive electronic components market, Omron competes against Delphi, Johnson Controls, Motorola, NEC Electronics America, TRW Automotive, Tyco Electronics, Visteon, plus niche Tier 2 and 3 companies, and skunk work divisions within the automakers themselves.

On May 10,2006, the Omron Group established its new corporate principles based on the company's corporate motto: "At work for a better life, a better world for all".

 

The Omron Principles
Corporate Motto: At work for a better life, a better world for all.
Corporate Core Value
Working for the benefit of society
Management Principles
Challenging ourselves to always do better
Innovation driven by social needs
Respect for humanity
Management CommitmentsGuiding Principles for Action
Respect for individuality and diversity
Maximum customer satisfaction
Relationship-building with shareholders
Awareness and practice of corporate citizenship
Quality first
Unceasing commitment to challenging ourselves
Integrity and high ethics
Self-reliance and mutual support