◆NSK technology plays a key role in the spread of renewable energy
The Wave Energy Converter (WEC; InfinityWEC) was on display in the NSK exhibition booth as technology that creates renewable energy. This technology uses a buoy to capture the energy created by the undulation of waves on the ocean to generate electric power.
What's surprising is the sheer size of this device. The diameter of the buoy is approximately 11 meters. The nuts of the ball screws built in to the device move up and down with the motion of the waves, generating power.
── Moving on from our discussion of the booth's concept, we asked Mr. Shimomura more about the InfinityWEC.
My ears pricked up when I heard the words 'wave energy converter' around the office. I hear that the project started when a venture company in Sweden that had been trying to develop the InfinityWEC came to us asking if we would make ball screws for them. The power generator the company is planning to make requires large ball screws. These are extremely difficult to manufacture, and there are very few companies that are equipped with the engineering skill and knowhow to handle the project. This is what led them to our doorstep. Wave power generation is a method of creating renewable energy that is not yet known by very many people in Japan. By exhibiting this technology at the Tokyo Motor Show this year, I was hoping it could gain more widespread recognition throughout the world.
There are high expectations for wave power generation as a new attempt at harnessing renewable energy, but it is still five or six years away from practical implementation.
Furthermore, the crux supporting the new venture into wave power generation is the ball screw. In the InfinityWEC, the up-and-down motion of the buoy caused by the waves is converted into rotational motion by ball screws to produce power. In order to increase power generation efficiency, the ball screws need to move smoothly, and of course, high durability is also a requirement. To manufacture a screw of this scale calls for some intensive heat treatment and cutting, and a high technical capability is required to achieve the required roundness of such a large nut.
On the topic of renewables, we put the InfinityWEC on display this year as a new concept we are working on, but in terms of renewable energy, NSK's technology is already being used in wind and solar power generation. Our technology is used in wind turbines to efficiently transform the energy gained from the rotation of turbine blades into power, and the precise positioning of NSK ball screws is indispensable to the manufacturing of solar power generation systems. NSK technology is used not only in Japan, but all over the world.
── NSK technology is making huge contributions to the advancement of renewable energy.
At NSK our corporate philosophy directs us to build a safe, smooth society and preserve the global environment. As the spread of the automobile continues, rapid advancements have been made in vehicle electrification to curb global warming. Not emitting CO2, electric vehicles (EV) are seen as a particularly effective means to solve the global warming crisis.
That being said, how we go about obtaining the electric power for EVs is crucial. Securing naturally occurring renewable energy sources to generate electric power for EVs is extremely important in keeping them green as people enjoy increased mobility moving forward.
Furthermore, the sustainable growth of NSK itself hinges on its efforts to resolve these societal issues. Moreover, by engaging in open innovation with venture companies in all corners of the globe, we are working to light the spark that sets the future in motion.