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Toyoda Gosei backs optical design startup

15 May 2019

Yamagata-based Imuzak also develops optical elements based on moth-eye nanostructures.

The Japanese industrial conglomerate Toyoda Gosei has invested ¥50 million ($0.46 million) in an optics technology startup.

Completed via a newly established corporate venture capital subsidiary, the deal sees Kiyosu-based Toyoda take a 19 per cent equity stake in Imuzak, which specializes in optical design and nanostructured optical elements.

Founded in 2015, Imuzak has worked on a variety of other optics technologies, including holography, anti-reflective components, and femtosecond laser processing of fine and brittle materials.

Toyoda Gosei’s investment appears to be geared more towards applications in autonomous driving, however, with the company stating in a release:

“Toyoda Gosei’s investment in Imuzak will give it access to that company’s proprietary findings in the field of optics for the creation of new value as it develops exterior products that are transparent to infrared light using lidar, and interior products that use light in equipment operation.”

Sensing requirements
Toyoda predicts that the emergence of autonomous driving technology will increase the need for sensors capable of recognizing other vehicles, pedestrians, and road configurations, while it also sees a need for new human-machine interface functions so that people and vehicles can communicate effectively.

“Given this trend, Toyoda Gosei is integrating sensors and other electronic components into its exterior and interior products such as front grilles, cockpits, and steering wheels, where it has been a leading supplier for many years,” says the firm. “The modular products it is developing with this new technology will combine functions for safety and comfort with attractive design.”

Imuzak states on its web site that it provides customers with a variety of mold designs and ultra-fine processing options, including on curved surfaces.

One example involves die processing of anti-reflective structures on curved surfaces, with the patterns then transferred to the surface of resin parts. “[Using] this method, we are developing optical elements with moth eye structure[s],” adds the startup company.

Imuzak’s efforts to imitate natural phenomena for innovative manufacturing have also won funding support from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry - to develop ultra-hydrophylic optical components for medical applications, specifically lenses with both anti-fogging and anti-reflective functions.

Now with operations spread across 18 different countries, Toyoda Gosei is part-owned by Toyota Motor and sells a wide variety of parts for automotive and general industrial use - including an optoelectronics division that is largely devoted to LED development and production.

It has developed particular expertise in gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors, and now sells a range of deep-UV LEDs for applications in water sterilization.

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