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No. 364, January 2000

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American Companies in Japan


PRECISION AND MEDICAL EQUIPMENT

World machine vision leader COGNEX CORP. has been on a roll in Japan recently. It latest order, worth $3.1 million, comes from TOKYO SEIMITSU CO., LTD. The Tokyo- headquartered manufacturer of semiconductor production equipment will integrate Cognex's machine vision with its wafer probe equipment, which enables chip makers to test circuits while they still are in wafer form, and with its wafer dicers, which cut wafers into individual ICs after testing. ....Mean-while, the subsidiary of Natick, Massachusetts-based COGNEX CORP. has introduced the acuReader/OCR III for next-generation 300-mm (12-inch) wafers. Like its predecessors, this system combines an optical character reader and automated lighting control to read serial numbers from wafers, no matter how degraded the characters are. The acuReader/OCR III, which can be used at any step in the production process and with all types of production equipment, is priced from $5,900.

Balanced amplifiers are expected to make inroads on SAW (surface acoustic wave) filters for noise suppression in third-generation, or wideband-CDMA, cellular phones. To measure these differential radio-fre-quency circuits, the marketing units of ATN MICROWAVE, INC. of North Billerica, Massachusetts and AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES INC. are offering a joint solution. It combines an ATN-4111A four-port network analyzer and one of several ATN network analyzer software packages with Agilent's 8753ES vector network analyzer, which also has a built-in S-parameter test set. The partners have priced their system at $92,200.

DAKOTA ULTRASONICS, a Santa Cruz, California manufacturer of industrial ultrasonic test equipment, adapted its USM-1 BoltMeter, which measures the actual clamp load produced by tightening a threaded fastener, to measure the clamping force of the tiebar located inside the clamping unit of injection molding and die-casting machines. Like the original, the Ultrasonic Tiebar Stress Management system achieves this measurement by determining the change in the transit time of an ultrasonic shock wave sent along the length of the tiebar as it is being tightened. Dakota Ultrasonics' subsidiary in Asaka, Saitama prefecture is importing the $24,300 machine for exclusive sale through HANEKA SHOKAI CO., LTD. The Nagoya distributor expects to sell 50 units in the first year.

To enhance the marketability of its DeltaV scalable process control system (see Japan- U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 21) in the very competitive Japanese market for this monitoring equipment, FISHER CONTROLS INTERNATIONAL, INC.'s subsidiary has contracted with SECOM TECHNO SERVICE CO., LTD. for service. FISHER-ROSEMOUNT JAPAN CO., LTD. has its own service network, but it is not extensive enough to give manufacturers of chemicals and other products that install process control systems in their factories confidence that if their DeltaV goes down, it can be returned to service quickly. Secom Techno will handle service calls for Fisher-Rosemount Japan equipment through its round-the-clock call center and some 60 offices across Japan.

FIKE CORP. of Blue Springs, Missouri gave NOHMI BOSAI LTD., Japan's top maker of fire alarms and other disaster prevention equipment, the right to import and sell its explosion suppression systems. The Fike system, which costs around $145,600, detects and chemically suppresses an explosion in its earliest stages to prevent the development of destructive pressures. It consists of a system controller, a solid-state pressure detector, suppressant containers, dispersion nozzles and a gas cartridge actuator. Nohmi Bosai will target sales to companies like chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers that use dust collectors, pulverizers and dryers. It hopes to line up 10 buyers in the first year of marketing.

The subsidiary of major videoconferencing systems maker PICTURETEL CORP. is working with JOHNSON & JOHNSON K.K. to market the MedLink interactive telemedicine workstation to hospitals for use in their emergency rooms and clinics. The mobile videoconferencing unit, priced around $77,700, enables a remote specialist to meet face- to-face with a patient and other medical practitioners. MedLink is based on PictureTel's network-independent Venue 2000 Model 50 platform. It is integrated with a high-resolution monitor displaying 30 frames per second. The clinician uses a wire-less microphone for hands-off, natural speech. Keio University Hospital in Tokyo and a hospital in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture already are testing the system, leading to what PictureTel hopes will be the first two of 200 MedLink orders a year.

This is one of the first tie-ups forged by JOHNSON & JOHNSON K.K. since it absorbed the formerly freestanding business unit that had been responsible for sales of medical devices and equipment (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 361, October 1999, p. 23). In a simultaneous move, the company said that it would start leasing surgical, telemedicine and other cutting-edge medical equipment to hospitals and related health-care facilities in cooperation with DIAMOND LEASE CO., LTD. Japan's number-two equipment leasing company will be responsible for approving contracts and collecting payments. Given the high price of state-of-the-art medical equipment and the increasing cost-containment pressures on medical institutions, J&J is betting that more hospitals will see leasing as an effective alternative.

Two more hospitals will use INTEGRATED SURGICAL SYSTEMS, INC.'s ROBODOC Surgical Assistant System for orthopedic applications. The computer-controlled, image- directed robotic product is designed especially to perform total hip replacement surgeries, although that ROBODOC application has not yet been approved by the Health and Welfare Ministry. The Tokyo subsidiary of South San Francisco, California-based IMATRON INC. is the exclusive distributor of ROBODOC. It expects to install the two systems on order during the first quarter of 2000. Imatron also markets the Davis, California company's NeuroMate System, a surgical robotic tool for use in minimally invasive brain surgeries.

Surgeons have some new options for the treatment of coronary artery disease. For starters, MHW approved for marketing MEDTRONIC, INC.'s S670 with Discrete Technology Coronary Stent System. According to the Minneapolis company, this product, designed to cross very tight lesions, represents the state of the art in interventional cardiology. It joins the GFX2 and S540 stent systems and the D114s balloon catheter from Medtronic AVE (formerly Arterial Vascular Engineering, Inc.). Other Medtronic products available in Japan for the treatment of cardiovascular disease include guiding catheters, steerable guidewires, balloon dilation catheters and accessories for angioplasty procedures. .....An-other new treatment option in what is the world's second-largest market for interventional cardiology products comes from BOSTON SCIENTIFIC CORP. Its NIR w/SOX stent delivery system also has been cleared for sale. The Natick, Massachusetts firm's subsidiary will ship the over-the-wire version in the first quarter of 2000; the Monorail (rapid exchange) system will be launched later in the year. Boston Scientific executives say that clinical experience indicates that physicians prefer to use a stent that includes a securement system, such as its SOX technology.

The first INTRATHERAPEUTICS, INC. product to receive MHW's marketing go-ahead is the IntraStent Biliary Endoprosthesis. Made of steel and balloon-ex-pandable, it is used to eliminate blockages in patients with obstructed bile ducts. The St. Paul, Minnesota company, which specializes in the treatment of peripheral vascular disease and nonvascular obstructions, is using GETZ BROS. CO., LTD. as its distributor.

DIAGNOSTICS PRODUCTS CORP. and DAINIPPON INK AND CHEMICALS, INC., the Los Angeles firm's equal partner in NIPPON DPC CORP., have sold the Chiba prefecture-based company to IATRON LABORATORIES, INC. for an undisclosed price. DPC and DIC formed the joint venture in 1986 to market and manufacture DPC's immunodiagnostic test kits. Nippon DPC has annual sales of approximately $19.4 million. DIC reportedly concluded, however, that selling test kits without the related diagnostic equipment was not a growth business. Iatron Labs, a maker of clinical reagents and instruments, will continue to distribute DPC's test kits. The Tokyo company believes that by using the marketing channels established by Nippon DPC, it can double sales of DPC's products in a few years. Most of the joint venture's 60 employees came from DIC and have returned to the world's largest maker of printing inks.

An exchange rate of ¥103=$1.00 was used in this report. aaaaa

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