Photos by Dino Ray V. Directo III
Gunma, Japan-As you open your headlamps at night, have you ever wondered about the research and technology that goes into that LED bulb? This writer got to answer that question during a guided tour at PIAA’s Studio, as a side trip to the Tokyo Auto Salon. It was a special privilege because not everyone is allowed access to this hallowed ground for lighting technology.
With PIAA Ph officials led by Edbert Tiu, Eddie Beh of PIAA Malaysia and Masashi Otsuka, Assistant Manager, Global Business Development of PIAA Corporation, I was fortunate to have been accorded the honor of visiting PIAA’s research and development facility in Fujioka-Shi, Gunma, about two hours drive from the Tokyo train station. Gunma is one of Japan’s central prefectures and our group took the Kan-etsu Freeway direct to Fujioka-Shi. Prior to our plant visit, our gracious hosts took us to one of Gunma’s popular Udon shops for lunch, to stock up on energy because it was going to be a walking tour.
With the scenic countryside of Gunma as backdrop, we were at PIAA’s R&D Studio in ten minutes. I was taken aback by the simplicity of the facility, because we were expecting the typical factory with large gates, a security gate and walls all around. There was none of that and it was in fact open, without any security except for the CCTV cameras. We were greeted at the door by the head of the PIAA Studio and were led into the showroom. Here, the RP contingent got the chance to see the early designs of PIAA’s array of products like wipers, bulbs, fog lamps and some merchandise from Nakajima Racing. It was a walk through time, in seeing the first fog lamp up the present LED bars.
From there, we were ushered into the studio’s development facility where the fog lamps and wipers are subjected to stringent testing for hours on end until its breaking point. High technology and specific test machines were spread strategically around the area, and one can see LED bulbs, fog lamps and wipers being subjected to weather, salt and endurance testing. “Every product has to go through this facility before actual production. Here is where we iron put the kinks and problems of the products,” explains Otsuka. “PIAA lenses are computer designed for optimum performance to withstand the rigors of off road racing and normal highway hazards. PIAA’s lamps feature a specially designed housing making it possible for the lamps to operate using higher wattage bulbs without sacrificing bulb life,” says Otsuka.
After a 30 minute presentation of the testing area, our group went up to the studio’s lighting test room, where the bulbs, fog lamps “cutline” and brightness are tested. “This is our darkroom, and here is where we adjust the cutline of the headlamps, or the amount of brightness and direction where the light emanating from the lamps are tested,” adds Otsuka. He also revealed that race teams such as NISMO, TOM’s, STi, Ralliart go to this darkroom to adjust their lamps prior to actual racing at the track. “There are different modes/levels of lighting required by each team, like it is different for the Super GT cars and different for the WRC cars,” he adds. PIAA is currently working on laser light technology, which they say is the future of automotive lighting. Research and Development is at the heart of what PIAA does, and we take it very seriously. PIAA’s R&D technicians continually raise the bar on visibility products.
The PIAA Studio is where it all begins the company. PIAA Corporation designs, manufactures, and distributes automotive products. The company offers head lights, fog lights, daytime lamps, and lamps; and wipers, oil filters, radiator caps, and horns. It provides its products for automotive, powersports, and motorsports applications. The company was founded in 1963 and is based in Tokyo, Japan with branches in Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka. PIAA Corporation operates as a subsidiary of Ichikoh Industries Ltd.
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