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Development of a conductive paste superior in conductivity and adhesion, using the photo curing process, and development of circuit pattern formation technology that is highly dense, highly precise and low-cost.

Mino Group Co., Ltd.

Consciousness inside and outside the company reformed through the Supporting Industry Program (SIP)

A remarkable printing technology that enables touch panels to be enlarged
The company was established shortly after the war as stencil paper manufacturer using Mino Japanese paper. It grew to become a general manufacturer of materials and printing machines related mainly to screen printing, and has always been ahead of its time. Currently, the company is focusing on technology (PE: Printed Electronics) for manufacturing touch panels etc. by printing, as applied to the field of electronic devices such as smartphones and tablet devices.

Rising to the challenge in order to respond to the world's needs as quickly as possible

In the black part of a touch panel screen, there run tens of silver lines. The company made it its "pressing" mission to respond to the world's need for "a larger screen while keeping the device small" by making the silver lines narrower and printing in narrower pitches. Mr. Ikedo Hiroaki, one of the project members, tells the story: "The SIP project was finally adopted at the third application attempt. However, whether or not it became an SIP project, there was a need from our customers which we had to respond to. The company had already independently carried out various R&D projects such as applications from transfer printing, and had already commercialized resulting products and received good evaluations for them. However, we began to encounter various issues as we went along. When we decided to try applying the method of direct gravure to the field of electronic devices, it was a case of third time lucky."
A project which saw all employees push forward as one

As soon as the project was adopted, a "PE Workshop" was launched with elite members from various departments in the company. Members brought to the table issues that they had each verified based on their own specialism, and opinions were frankly exchanged. The issues raised in the workshop were then taken back to each department for re-verification. "Being involved in the understanding of the project as a whole, and not just in the work of one department, has helped to raise each employee's awareness. This is surely one of the major effects that the SIP has had on us."
Advice from partner companies that rescued the company from its days of agonizing of the R&D

Nevertheless, the company hints at how tough the project was. "To be honest, it was hard. There was tremendous pressure to complete it on time. However, the fact that our customers were actually waiting for this technology help to keep our motivation high, and plenty of information and advice gained from advisers through the network helped us greatly." With support from both inside and outside the company, development of a conductive paste using photo curing technology, and of high-precision, high-speed printing machines which applied the direct gravure method, were finally completed. The project bore fruit in the form of commercialization.

Successfully matching potential needs through active promotion of the SIP project

According to the company, benefits of being an SIP company are still emerging even after commercialization. "Our name value as 'a company which does R&D properly' has increased, and we attract attention even at exhibitions. The number of companies coming to us with inquiries, requests for samples, and for factory tours and so on is constantly increasing. At the risk of singing our own praises, at the moment business is going very smoothly."
At the headquarters factory, a large machine manufactured during the SIP project is placed right at the entrance. According to the company, visitors to the factory never fail to be struck by its presence and are guaranteed to ask what kind of machine it is, and in the ensuing conversations about the SIP project it is not unusual for new deals to be struck. "Amongst the consultations we have with other companies, we still get a lot of vague requests with no clear content and objectives along the lines of 'Print this'. Since disclosing our research through, we have been much more able to draw out our customers' real needs. This is the most important part, and we feel that our sales style is changing to one that is capable of responding to more customization."

At exhibitions, the company is very keen to show actual machines. A huge printing machine operating rhythmically has real presence and impact. Needless to say, all team members are absolutely delighted with a success that can attract such dense crowds at exhibitions.
"From now on, we are planning to reduce costs by putting it on a mass production basis, and want to broaden the range applications," says Mr. Ikedo. Mino Group has started a second SIP project, and has begun to move forward as a pioneer company that can realize research, development and expansion.

Key points of successful commercialization and matching

"First there was a need, and the company was already working on development
The key point which led to commercialization is that printing was a ""tool"", a theme to which the company's R&D could be easily applied. "
"The project team for the R&D was formed by each department working in horizontal cooperation
Sales and general affairs departments were also included in the project team, which created an open atmosphere in the company and energized the workplace. "
"The company received support and advice from various research institutions and relevant government agencies
Valuable information was made available through a network of advisers and various relevant institutions. "

Advice for making the most of the SIP

Mr. Hiroaki Ikedo, Pad Gravure Division, Machinery Department
In this R&D project, the support from the Program management organization was indeed essential. It was our first R&D using a public system, and could not have been completed without advice on managing documents and how to make progress in the project.
Moreover, it was very fortunate that we received precise advice for commercialization from the Program management organization, as well as useful information and instructions related to the our company's business in general. Commercialization by one SME is often a very difficult task. However, as our case shows, close cooperation with the Program management organization and consultation with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry can open the way. As you have decided to participate, please accomplish commercialization through a strong commitment to forging ahead.

Introduction Movie

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