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No.01 Pressure Measurement Film

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Our Science Reporters with the Inside Scoop INNOVATION REPORT One light touch tells you what you need to know! The world’s only pressure measurement film was really amazing!

  • Meet Our Reporters
  • Our Technology
  • Examples and Outlook

Meet Our Reporters

  • photo:YUKO



Our Technology

The sole pressure measurement film in the world that can easily measure
pressure level and pressure distribution.
Yuko Watanabe, our Innovation reporters, spoke with
Masahiro Hatta, in charge of product development, at Fujifilm’s Fujinomiya Factory.

[Technology and Product Overview]Watanabe : Can you describe the Prescale product for us?

Hatta : Prescale is the only film in the world designed to make it easy for anyone to visually determine pressure level and distribution through visualization of pressure that is otherwise invisible to the eye. Originally, R&D was conducted at the request of an auto manufacturer, and since the product was launched in 1977, we’ve expanded our pressure measurement lineup. Today, the product primarily supports efforts to streamline quality control on a variety of production lines.

About Prescale

Watanabe : The only one in the world!? Wow, that means Fujifilm is the only one making this film? What kind of technology is used to “visualize” pressure?

Hatta : I’ll explain the structure with the type that uses two sheets of film. One piece of film is coated with what are called “microcapsules,” which range in size from a few microns to a few dozen microns, and which enclose a color-forming material that reacts with acid. The other sheet is coated with an acidic substance called a color-developing material. When these two sheets are put together and pressure is applied, the microcapsules will break at a predetermined level of pressure, and the color-forming material reacts with the color-developing material to produce a color. That’s the principle behind the product. Color density and variation make it possible to visually confirm pressure uniformity. An analysis system can also be used to analyze pressure levels in detail.

Watanabe : How much pressure is needed to cause a reaction?

Hatta : The product line offers eight types for measuring various levels of pressure. They cover a wide range, from film on the high end that won’t produce color even when stepped on by an elephant, to film that emits color with the lightest touch of a hand.

Types of Prescale and How it Works

Hatta : Today, I’ve brought an actual sample of a film that reacts to low pressure. Try cutting it with a pair of scissors, then put two sheets together and play around with it.

Watanabe : A regular pair of scissors slices right through it! It’s easy to use too—all you have to do is cut the sheets and put them together.
Wow, all I did was put my finger down and it’s turned red! It’s like a fingerprint sensor.

Hatta : That’s right. This happens to be our newest product, and its most distinctive feature is that it can detect even very weak pressure from a light touch. Designing a film that reacts to weak pressure was challenging, but getting to the finished product stage also presented other difficulties. We only got to this point thanks to the various technologies we’ve accumulated.

photo:pressure is turned red

Watanabe : You’re referring to a store of technologies unique to Fujifilm?

Hatta : The process of coating a thin film with something is itself challenging, and requires specialized technology. Thanks to its background in photographic film, Fujifilm has the technology to apply a thin, uniform coating, and that’s one of our strengths. The technology behind photo film is also used in the microcapsules and in coating with the color-developing material.

Watanabe : So specialized expertise is behind the technology for coating thin film, too!

Hatta : Yes, because Prescale is used to measure pressure uniformity, even the slightest variation in thickness is unacceptable. One key point with this product is how uniformly the microcapsules are applied. This is why Fujifilm’s thin film coating technology is such a significant strength. At the same time, the product also takes advantage of our technology for producing color, which our photographic and other types of products provide.

About Fujifilm’s Core Technologies

Examples and Outlook

Examples of the use of and outlook for Prescale

Watanabe : What specific kinds of applications is Prescale currently used for?

Hatta : Historically, Prescale has built a track record of use in the auto industry, primarily in pressure testing as part of the production process. In verifying the sealability of engine parts, Prescale is employed as a Japan Industrial Standard (JIS). In recent years, the appearance of a variety of new technologies, including smartphones and semiconductors, has created a need for detecting lower levels of pressure. We have continued to add to the Prescale line as other technologies and products have changed and evolved.

Watanabe : How is Prescale used in the production of smartphones?

Hatta : For example, with smartphones and Liquid Crystal Displays, Prescale makes it very easy to check even the delicate uniformity of pressure required in the bonding process. And because it’s a film Prescale is easy to manipulate, making it possible to measure pressure even in tight spaces or along curves. As a result, manufacturers are able to improve quality control and minimize defects, contributing in terms of cost as well as in terms of product reliability.

Watanabe : Does your future outlook involve responding to needs for even lower-pressure detection?

Hatta : I do think the trend is heading in that direction. Our lowest pressure product today is the Prescale 4LW extreme low-pressure type, which can detect pressure at the slightest touch, but we are considering developing even more highly sensitive types, and we ourselves are actively seeking out new low pressure applications and possibilities. We are actually also working to develop and commercialize products for visualizing things aside from pressure that are invisible to the eye, including heat and UV light.

Watanabe : You also have film that can visualize heat and UV light?

Hatta : Yes. For heat, we have Thermoscale. This is used to check heat uniformity in heat sealers for food packaging, and to ensure uniform heat distribution in heated fusion rollers for printers. This single sheet of film is coated with capsules with a material whose transparency changes in reaction to two types of heat, and with a color-forming layer. Capsules with a blue color-forming agent produce higher transparency at low temperatures, while capsules with a red color-forming agent produce greater transparency at high temperatures. This allows for a range of detection between 150-200 degrees, with lower temperatures appearing blue and higher temperatures appearing in the purple to red spectrum. Why don’t you test it for yourself using this heat sealer?

Watanabe : Wow, that’s amazing. The color comes out beautifully!

Learn more about Thermoscale

Hatta : Next, we’ll look at UVSCALE, for UV light. This is utilized in checking production processes, including the use of UV light to harden resins and for disinfecting. For example, using this film, you can check every surface on the inside of a beverage package. A tool called an illuminometer can also be used to measure UV light, but it only provides measurement for a single point. In food safety, we believe uniform light distribution is important. Try it with this UV light.

Watanabe : Film is ideal in terms of looking at an entire surface, isn’t it!
Wow, it turned blue! This makes it easy to see variations in how the light hits. Have you also made these kinds of film products available in overseas?

Hatta : Yes, they’re available worldwide. For example, we’ve recently seen an increased demand for Prescale for industrial applications in China and Southeast Asia.

Learn more about UVSCALE

Watanabe : Does it have potential outside of industry? I was involved in robotics, so for example I wondered if it could be used to measure how a robotic vacuum cleaner runs into walls. Other ideas might include art, educational products, making fish prints without using ink, taking a baby’s handprints, and so on!

Hatta : Prescale is actually being applied in verifying the safety of robot-human contact, to check contact pressure. Health applications are another area. By visualizing pressure produced by the human body—for example, sitting posture, sleeping posture, foot impressions when standing, and so on—it is used in product development in the nursing care and medical fields.

Watanabe : What about fluid pressure from gases or liquids? Is it possible this technology could eventually be used to check the internal uniformity of artificial organs or blood vessels?

Hatta : We’ve actually had inquiries from university researchers studying fluids, asking if we can do just that. Naturally, we cooperate with such requests, and closer to home, we also assist with hands-on science classes for children and so on. Changes in color are very easy for children to understand.

Watanabe : Your technology is sure useful in all kinds of areas!

Hatta : Thank you. This product has been used by many customers of the past 40 years, a truly lengthy track record, and we are confident it can prove useful in an even wider variety of applications going forward. Nevertheless, many people still don’t know about these products, so it would be great if the two of you could go out and spread the word for us.

Watanabe : We’ll do our best! Thank you for your time today!

After the Interview

Yuko Watanabe

This was my first experience as an interviewer, so I was quite nervous, but thanks to Mr. Hatta’s careful explanations, I learned many things, including in areas I’m interested in. From what I’ve learned today, I truly feel Prescale is a remarkable technology, something Japan should be proud of, and I hope I can spread the word not only to people in related industries, but to ordinary people who normally wouldn’t be involved in this kind of technology.

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YUKO WATANABE Age22 Scientific Specialty: Robotics

Hobbies include anime, manga, movies, watching TV, visiting sacred spots and karaoke. Has experience in several sports, including volleyball, tennis, basketball and distance running. A real jack-of-all-trades, she's involved in both sports and the humanities. "I'm so glad that what I've learned in science and engineering will be useful to me as a reporter! I'll be giving it my best!"