Rings of Power Tsubame Radio Co., Ltd. IP

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Category: Machinery

Tsubame Radio’s slip rings enable durable 360-degree rotation for electronic devices

Slip rings are the components that allow electronic devices to maintain an electrical connection even through 360-degree rotation. Tsubame Radio Co., Ltd. prides itself on developing slip rings to meet client needs, including exceptionally small, thin and economical slip rings guaranteed to last 20 million cycles.

It’s a simple but fundamental question: how do you carry electricity across a connection that has to rotate 360 or more degrees?

The slip ring in this pan/tilt head allows 360-degree movement.

Enter the slip ring, Tsubame Radio’s signature product. Nobuo Imamura, the company's U.S.-educated, bilingual Executive Vice President, explains that Tsubame Radio’s slip rings allow a device to maintain an electrical connection thanks to tiny metal "brushes" that scrape over metal contacts during rotation. The brushes slide back and forth over the contact with ease; consequently, there are no electrical wires to be stretched, strained or worn out from movement.

Nobuo Imamura, Executive Vice President of Tsubame Radio Co., Ltd.

Durable Designs

Tsubame Radio’s history in developing, manufacturing and selling electronic components reaches back to its establishment in 1929. It started focusing on slip rings about 10 years ago, and now produces potentiometers, joysticks and pan/tilt heads for cameras that leverage this expertise.

Tsubame Radio has capitalized on its know-how to develop slip rings that are significantly smaller, lighter and thinner than competitors’ models, and less expensive to boot. “We can modify our slip rings to meet customer requirements,” Imamura says confidently. In fact, the company believes adapting to customer needs is exactly what drives innovation.

Tsubame Radio has taken out patents in Japan for the unique design of its slip ring and part housing. But the company’s high production quality may protect its components more than any patent: Tsubame Radio slip rings are guaranteed to last over 20 million cycles, which the company has genuinely tested out in its factory. "It takes us a nearly a month and a half just to test out 20 million cycles," Imamura explains.

Tsubame Radio Co., Ltd. can make slip rings that are smaller, thinner and more economical than conventional slip rings.

Rings Around the World

The company is no neophyte to overseas markets, having been selling abroad for more than 50 years, with a factory in Vietnam. Meanwhile, its domestic customers include manufacturers of surveillance cameras and makers of Japan’s pinball-style pachinko games, while Panasonic Corporation adopted Tsubame Radio slip rings for use in its bladeless Electric Fan Q.

Imamura envisions his slip rings finding applications in robots, drones and any other devices with components requiring unrestricted 360-degree movement. In addition to approaching manufacturers of such products, he’s looking to partner with component makers to jointly develop electro-mechanical subsystems, such as a combination product that incorporates a motor and a slip ring. Imamura ambitiously aims to gain a 10 percent hold in his targeted overseas markets over the next year, hoping to build on that momentum in concert with sales partners.

Whether working directly to create finished products or developing innovative components, Imamura’s purpose is clear: “Our goal is to save your rotational devices,” he says.

The components of a Tsubame Radio Co., Ltd. slip ring. From top: Mold case, rotor base, ring base.

Based on interview in October 2016