Special Feature 2018 - Our Contribution to a Sustainable World
3. Supporting an Aging Society
New social tools, including personal mobility devices, drones, power assist suits, and communication robots, support an aging society through functions such as “carrying,” “moving,” “assisting,” and “communicating.” The Nidec Group supplies brushless DC motors and related products to provide support so that these tools can function more effectively.
Aging Global Population
The proportion of those aged 65 or over to the total global population (population aging rate) increased from 5.1% in 1950 to 8.3% in 2015. It is expected to rise to 18.1% in 2060. Population aging is also forecast to progress rapidly in emerging and developing countries as well as already aging developed countries. Addressing such an unprecedented change requires future-oriented efforts through society-wide cooperation, as recommended by Goal 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) of the SDGs.
Removing Constraints on Transportation
Personal Mobility and Industrial Drones (for Logistics)
In an aging society, there will be an increasing number of elderly people with various problems in their daily lives. For instance, it is said that there were 7.0 to 8.5 million people in Japan who had difficulty going shopping to buy food and other daily living necessities as of 2010, and the number of such people is expected to increase significantly*.
As a means of transportation for elderly people, high expectations are placed on personal mobility devices. WHILL, Inc., which has proposed electric wheelchairs as new “vehicles” that make our daily lives more comfortable and enjoyable, has launched its new model the “WHILL Model C,” in which a brushless DC motor jointly developed by Nidec and the said company is used. In addition to going to shopping facilities to buy what is needed, it is an effective way to have what people need delivered to their homes. Drones with rapidly growing applications are expected to serve as a means responsible for last-mile logistics operations. The Nidec Group has supplied motors for industrial drones since 2017. Having succeeded in the development of motors for all-weather drones due to the improvement of waterproof, dustproof, and heat radiation abilities and motors combined with a control unit and a propeller, we contribute to enhancing the performance of drones.
*Source: “2017 Fact-finding Survey on Measures for People with Limited Access to Shopping Facilities,” Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan
Helping to make the lives of electric wheelchair users more convenient and comfortable through cooperation with WHILL, Inc.
Small Precision Motor & Solutions Business Unit, Sales Division 2, Sales Department 2, Nidec Corporation
WHILL, Inc. has seen it as problematic that the basic functionality of wheelchairs has not evolved as compared to mobile phones, and has acted with the vision of opening a new market of wheelchairs for those who hesitate to go out due to psychological pressure. Concurring with the companyʼ s problem consciousness and vision, we decided to jointly conduct the development of a motor for a WHILL Model C wheelchair. Since we realized that wheelchairs have a direct impact on the quality of life of wheelchair users, we were determined to seriously work on the development of the motor, with the companyʼs pride at stake.
Making use of motor technologies that we have cultivated through the manufacture of motors for electric bicycles, we worked to develop a higher-performance motor for a WHILL Model C wheelchair.
We found the joint development with WHILL, Inc. interesting because we were able to work together as companions with the same goal, irrespective of our relationship of supplier and buyer. We will continue to provide society with motors useful for the lives of people in the future.
Reducing Human Workload
Power Assist Suits and Industrial Drones (for Agriculture)
In association with the aging of the population, the younger generation, which is smaller than the older generation, will have to support many elderly people. Accordingly, it is required to reduce human workload in a wide range of areas, including nursing care, manufacturing, logistics, and farm work.
Wearable power assist suits, which expand and assist human functions by using electric power, such as an electric actuator (driving gear) and an artificial muscle, have been becoming popular in Japan as an effective tool to address the needs of an aging society. Since 2017, the Nidec Group has been providing power assist suit manufacturers with super flat actuators, in which a motor is combined with a flat, compact reduction gear, the “Flexwave.” Our actuators are used, in particular, in joint areas as thin, lightweight and compact drive units, significantly improving the wearing feel of power assist suits.
Industrial drones are also highly expected to serve as a means of promoting the efficiency of pesticide spraying and growth management. Nidec and Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. have jointly developed compact, lightweight, and high-power motors used to spin the propeller of a YMR-08 industrial multi-rotor drone, which was launched by the said company in 2018. We will work to further expand the possibilities of drones.