Borescope

SPI Engineering Co., Ltd.

Website: SPI Engineering Co., Ltd.
Category: Japanese Machinery

Reaching those hard-to-reach areas

Borescopes are used to inspect small, narrow spaces inaccessible to the human eye. In the medical world, such devices are known as endoscopes and have enabled physicians to see inside the human body with minimal invasion. SPI Engineering Co., Ltd. produces industrial borescopes that enable detection, inspection and quality control across a variety of applications. Its easy-to-operate devices feature high-resolution cameras that can enter the smallest openings.

President Takeo Hidaka

SPI Engineering's video borescope boasts an articulated tip that can rotate 360 degrees and can be bent to a 90-degree angle

Simple, precision, innovation

The "SPI" in SPI Engineering stands for "Simple," "Precision" and "Innovation"-keywords that summarize the company's approach. SPI Engineering was founded by Takeo Hidaka and Koichiro Harayama as a student business project in 2006. Hidaka was undertaking his MBA when he heard a gas company was looking for borescopes to inspect pipes. Hidaka recalls that designing and building their first device was a tedious process with "numerous failures" over the course of a year. But ultimately, the perseverance of the young innovators bore fruit.

Flaws of fiber optics

In fiberscope technology, fiber-optic cables can break easily and are hard to extend without suffering a loss of image quality. By contrast, the tiny inbuilt video camera of SPI Engineering borescopes transmits the image via electrical cable. The resolution is better and the cable can be extended up to 100 meters without any degradation of image quality.

The borescope's camera features a white LED to light the inspected area

Autos and infrastructure

Nearly 70 percent of SPI Engineering's customers are involved with the auto industry. They use the borescopes to inspect parts such as the cylinder block or the transmission system, where little holes can easily become clogged with dirt or debris. The other clients tend to be in infrastructure, employing the devices to inspect fiber-optic cable connection outlets. SPI Engineering's video borescopes are also used in aviation, such as for the inspection of turbine jet engines. And Japan's space agency JAXA even purchased the device for use in Tanegashima, where it launches its rockets.

Customers can be sent a monitor and various camera cable sizes for a free one-week trial

The lighter side of Lehman

SPI Engineering has succeeded by offering high quality products for less. The 2008 Lehman Brothers crisis provided an unexpected opportunity. Companies falling on hard times who had to repair other, more expensive borescopes found it cheaper to buy SPI Engineering's products and obtain the same quality at a fifth of the price.

Hidaka says the video borescopes requested by customers are getting smaller and smaller. In response, SPI Engineering has just released a 1.8mm-diameter model that's the world's thinnest. And Hidaka and his colleagues are studying future avenues to explore, such as creating medical endoscopes.