Valves are an example of indispensable but often unnoticed products. An integral part of any pipe installation that liquid or gas runs through, they are used in water-treatment facilities, building air-conditioning, industrial plants, ballast tanks, and even in the water faucets we use daily.
Valves come in many different forms, and typical examples include gate valves, ball valves, globe valves, and butterfly valves. Among these, butterfly valves are lighter and more compact, making them an ideal choice for narrow places as they can be mounted easily on any pipe. Butterfly valves also allow for easy fluid-flow adjustment, but they had been considered to be unreliable due to its susceptibility to leaks in its structure until a few decades ago.
Tomoe Valve Co., Ltd overcame this challenge through its inventive approach of improving the material and shape of the rubber used in the butterfly valves. With over 60 years of experience in manufacturing these butterfly valves, Osaka-based Tomoe Valve is now a renowned valve manufacturer, with factories in China, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom.
Tomoe Valve develops and manufactures various types of butterfly valves that caters to different applications. In the past, the team relied on hand tools like calipers, height gauges, and micrometers to inspect products or product components. This was a tedious and slow process, especially when evaluating the eccentricity of the shaft holes, which, like the shafts that connect the valve elements and handle, are important components of the butterfly valves.
Since these shapes are very complicated, it was hard to ensure accuracy using only the calipers. The team also employed the height gauge to measure eccentricity by hanging the valves and passing a shaft through the shaft hole. With this method, the eccentricity of small valves were still relatively easy to check. However, larger valves — such as those that are φ600mm — are typically too heavy to be handled this way. The process was time-consuming and laborious, as the team had to use a crane to suspend the large valve, and keep it upright using a machinist square for the entire duration. Furthermore, measuring with conventional hand tools such as vernier calipers was often inefficient and low in reliability, as the results would vary between operators. In cases where 3D measurements were required, the staff would have to go to an industry promotion center to get it done, making it rather inconvenient for the team.
FARO® ScanArm increases the efficacy and accuracy of measurements, and improves the quality of valves produced.
Commenting on their reasons for introducing 3D measurement technology, Mr. Hiroki Yoshii, a team member from Valve Development Group 1, Product Development Division at Tomoe Valve, said, “We wanted to obtain certain measurements that traditional methods could not achieve. It was also important for us to be able to carry out these measurements in our own premises, instead of going out to the Industry Promotion Center. This prompted us to consider the possibility of introducing 3D measuring instruments that we saw at an exhibition.”
On why Tomoe Valve chose the FARO® ScanArm, Mr. Yoshii shared, “I was drawn to the scanner’s fast speed and I felt we could trust FARO’s sales support.”
Tomoe Valve now validates its developed components by comparing the contact measurement results obtained with the FaroArm against CAD data. Mr. Yoshii explained, “The software programming module allows us to conveniently measure the same positions in our parts each time. It’s like a flow production.” With the module, any team member can easily figure out where and what to measure, and obtain consistent measurement results.
FARO’s suite of products allows for easy comparison of contact measurement results and CAD data.
Going forward, in addition to using the FaroArm for contact measurements, Tomoe Valve also plans to use it to conduct non-contact measurements for CAD inspection, incoming inspection, and reverse engineering.
Explaining the importance of 3D measurement devices in the product development process, Mr. Toshiki Mihara, General Manager of the Product Development Division at Tomoe Valve, said, “We’d like to create products that reflect the manufacturers’ philosophy. We’re keen to tap on FARO’s 3D measurement devices as a tool to improve our design process — by going back to the drawing board and repeating the measurements, assembly, and validation process.”
He continued, “Since we are importing more products from overseas plants, we also plan to use the device for incoming inspections. The FaroArm is highly portable and can be easily brought to the factory floor to measure large valves that are too heavy to be moved. Its portability also allows us to bring it to the fabrication shop.”
Tomoe Valve continues to produce highly reliable products by streamlining measurements tasks and conducting thorough quality control with FARO’s 3D measurement devices.
Tomoe Valve overcame the public’s perception of leaky butterfly valves by producing highly reliable valves. The company’s strength lies in its development capability — being the first to introduce aluminum as a valve body material and driving the development of Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) for aluminum valves. Apart from that, Tomoe Valve has also invested in breaking new ground by launching a website to create interest in valves and recruit younger staff. The company is also loaning its butterfly valves to the uninitiated, thereby gaining greater recognition as a quality valve maker.
While these factors may have led to the company’s growth, Mr. Mihara commented on Tomoe Valve’s interest in overseas expansion and said, “Domestic sales currently makes up for a predominant part of our business. But our target is to achieve 50:50 ratio for domestic against overseas sales.”
Established in 1953, Tomoe Valve Co., Ltd started out as a specialized butterfly valve manufacturer, and has since expanded its business to include many innovative products. It has factories in the United Kingdom, China, and Indonesia, and sales offices in Singapore and the United States. As rapid globalization continues to advance the valve industry, Tomoe Valve is poised not only to increase its market share in Japan, but also in the world, with its development capability as its advantage.
For more information, please visit: www.tomoevalve.com
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