Part 2: Electronic Control Technology &
Chassis and Hull Technology
Pursuit of added value to strengthen the Unique Style of Yamaha
"The Unique Style of Yamaha" in our Monozukuri is the pursuit of innovative concepts, technology and sculptural design that is in tune with human perceptions. To achieve this kind of Monozukuri, Yamaha Motor's two other core competencies?along with our small-engine technology?are (1) electronic control technology and (2) chassis and hull technology.
The first helps us give all of the vehicles and powered products we create comfortable and enjoyable performance that feels natural in all aspects of their handling and operation. The second employs ideal materials and manufacturing methods to engineer products with less weight and innovative sculptural designs. In this issue, we introduce Yamaha's other two core competencies of electronic control technology, and chassis and hull technology.
Electronic Control Technology: Electronic Devices and Systems That Supplement User Operation
Ever since the 1982 release of the XJ750D, Yamaha's first motorcycle with a fuel-injected engine, Yamaha Motor has continued to apply various types of electronic control technology to its production motorcycles.
These devices and systems include anti-lock brake systems (ABS) that utilize microcomputers to automatically control brake pressure to prevent wheels from locking up when braking on slippery road surfaces and the like; traction control systems (TCS) that control engine rpm to prevent excessive sliding of the rear tire; and the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) electronic throttle that detects the rider's throttle action and provides input for the ECU to instantly calculate the appropriate intake air volume and activate the throttle valves as needed.
All of these are technologies that supplement each of the intuitive actions of the rider to make operation more precise and efficient. With the 2015 YZF-R1/R1M models, the 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and five different control systems work together to gather and process information fed from the power unit and chassis components to provide integrated and comprehensive electronic control.
Also, to ensure stable remote-controlled flight from our industrial-use unmanned helicopters that spread agrichemicals from the air in farming areas, Yamaha developed a flight attitude control system based on a 3-axis gyro sensor system and a GPS-linked flight assistance system. Furthermore, Yamaha has successfully developed systems for these unmanned helicopter models that enable fully autonomous flight beyond the range of human sight or places that cannot be observed in order to enable use in disaster area surveillance, surveying for academic studies and other uses.
Electronic Control Technology: Bringing Mechanical Power More in Tune with Human Perceptions
In the category of EV motorcycles (electric vehicles) that run solely on the power of an electric motor, electronic control technology is absolutely essential for bringing true enjoyment to the ride. The smooth ride and quietness of Yamaha's fourth electric scooter, the E-Vino, is the result of the electronic control technology garnered from years of R&D efforts that began in 2002 with the 1st-generation Passol and continued with the EC-02 and EC-03 models. It functions by integrating the brushless DC motor's performance with a drivetrain designed with a low-loss gear system.
A representative example of products like these that place top priority on performance in tune with human perceptions is the "PAS" electrically power-assisted bicycle first commercialized and released on the market in 1993. Prior to the release of the PAS, other manufacturers were selling bicycles with electric motors, but the motors only added or removed power with a simple On/Off switch. In terms of vehicle classification, they were placed in the same license class as 50cc motorcycles and scooters.
Yamaha responded with a completely different concept by developing the Power Assist System (PAS). It used sensors to detect the amount of force applied to the pedals by the rider, and then responded by generating a helpful boost of power in accordance with that pedaling force by means of an electric motor regulated by an electronic control system. The result was a new kind of vehicle that retained the familiar feeling and ease of use of a regular bicycle, but provided a power assist to lighten the rider's work load when pedaling uphill, pedaling into the wind or when carrying loads, etc.
The main focus in developing the electronics for the PAS was to create a control system capable of assisting the effort of the rider while still feeling completely natural and non-intrusive. In order to achieve this goal, the high-speed electronic control system was developed with a top priority on staying in tune with human perceptions. The final system would calculate the optimal proportion of assist force and deliver it through the drive unit. This is an example of the ideals behind Yamaha's electronic control technology.
Chassis Technology Frames That Help Achieve "Yamaha Handling"
Much of Yamaha Motor's products are vehicles and craft like our motorcycles and boats. For these vehicles to have the end-performance and response they were designed for, the power unit?an engine or electric motor?and the vehicle itself must be built around a well-designed chassis or hull.
Realizing this from its first motorcycle, the YA-1, Yamaha turned its attention to the development of frames with the materials and construction to give them the lightness to take full advantage of the engine's power, and the strength necessary to withstand all of the various forces it is subjected to when the motorcycle is ridden. For the 2nd Asama Highlands Race in 1957, Yamaha entered a factory racebike using a double cradle frame made of super-high tensile steel pipe, and the machine completely dominated the field with its speed. Then in the 1960s and '70s, Yamaha built up a wealth of technical expertise in the development of strong and lightweight frames through competing in the Road Racing World Championship, and this know-how was then fed back into creating production sport bikes. The resulting line of lightweight motorcycles with outstanding handling that Yamaha brought to the market one after another was what later won the brand the reputation of creating bikes with unique "Yamaha Handling."
Then in 1982, Yamaha rolled out its first aluminum double cradle frame on its GP500 factory machine. This frame would eventually evolve into the Yamaha-exclusive Deltabox frame, which would go on to be used on a wide range of Yamaha production sport bikes, beginning with the 1985 TZR250. These Yamaha frame development efforts are what built the foundation for the chassis technology used on today's R-Series and MT Series motorcycles.
Hull Technology: Seeking Light, Strong and Beautiful FRP Products
Back in 1958, Yamaha Motor founder and first president, Genichi Kawakami, was on an observation tour to North and South America when boats and archery bows made of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) drew his attention. As soon as Kawakami returned to Japan, he directed the company to pursue development and commercialization of products made of this new material.
At the time, FRP was hailed as a revolutionary new material that was "stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum." Ordinary plastics made from petroleum have many advantages, such as being light and highly durable. But they also have the disadvantages of being easily bent and lacking strength as a structural material. FRP is a form of "strengthened plastic" that solves these weak points by taking sheets of hard, strong fibers like fiberglass and mixing in liquid plastics like unsaturated polyester that harden when heated and laying this combination into a mold in numerous layers to solidify into a light and strong composite material.
The most basic method for shaping products with FRP is known as the "hand lay-up" method, a process which can be likened to applying layers of water-moistened gauze onto a doll to duplicate its shape. The resin gelcoat that will form the outer surface of the product is first applied to the product's female mold. Then, the repeated process of laying lamination layers of glass fiber cloth into the mold and permeating it with liquid plastic is performed carefully by hand. Because this method makes it possible to reproduce subtle curves and contours, it allows for a very high level of freedom in the design and shaping of products. Also, the finished surfaces are smooth, beautiful and their hardness makes them resistant to scratches. The process is simple and easy to learn, and it doesn't require sophisticated machining equipment. Other advantages include the fact that small areas of damage to the product are easily repaired.
It is said that with the first prototype FRP boat Yamaha Motor built, the layers were laid on too thickly and this made it so heavy that the 10 hp outboard motor it had been planned to use couldn't plane the boat. However, after the establishment of the Yamaha Technological Research Institute, development progressed rapidly. In 1960, the company brought to market its first FRP boats: the light and agile V-hulled RUN-13 and the high-stability CAT-21 catamaran (twin-hull design). These products helped spark Japan's first boating boom.
After that, Yamaha was active in acquiring and mastering the latest FRP processing technologies, including molding techniques, like the Sheet Molding Compound (SMC) process and the Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) process to strengthen and beautify the end-products, and the latest materials (plastics, fibers, filler materials). The company applied them in the manufacture of a wide variety of body parts for products ranging from snowmobiles and golf cars to industrial-use unmanned helicopters. In recent years, Yamaha developed its own exclusive ultra-lightweight material for use in the SMC process to create WaveRunner personal watercraft hulls.