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In 1991, although the company was performing well, dark shadows were on the horizon for DISCO. Chairman Hitoshi Mizorogi, the head of sales division at the time, felt a loss of the competitiveness and saw a decline in market share for dicers (precision cutting equipment). Additionally, one more person, Kazuma Sekiya, who was the nephew of the president of DISCO at the time, had already developed an image processing machine as an engineer, but he felt a sense of crisis regarding “the lack of competitiveness of DISCO’s dicers compared to those of other companies”. To propose the development of new equipment designed to suit the needs of customers, he approached Chairman Mizorogi directly.

DISCO’s booth
at SEMICON 1992
The order was issued on January 1st, 1992. The goal of the “X project” was to develop new equipment that could be presented at SEMICON Japan 1992 at the end of the year. Kazuma Sekiya was a third year employee and was appointed the leader of a team dedicated to the development of new equipment, where the average age of the project members was 25 years old.

In that year, our company moved ahead with a restructuring plan because of a depression in the semiconductor industry. The restructuring plan included: cutting wages for management positions above administrative executive, regulation of overtime work, introducing early retirement, and canceling our new project for a horizontal diffusion furnace. In fiscal year 1992, we made a loss for the second time since the institution’s formation. In such a situation, the members of ‘Project X’ focused on the tasks ahead of them with high motivation as a united group.

In this project, they sought an unprecedented amount of miniaturization and cost reduction. The existing semi-automatic dicer was 850 mm in width, but the DAD320 was the smallest in the industry with a width of 500 mm. Furthermore, by thoroughly rethinking what a dicer should be, the design of every part was reviewed. As a result, the number of parts was greatly reduced, while fundamental performance was improved. In addition, progress was made towards the commonization of parts, which had not received much prior attention. The project members sacrificed their weekends, fought day and night, and succeeded in bringing about a cost reduction of more than 30%.

On December 2nd, the DFD620 and DFD640 fully automatic dicing saws and ten DAD320 semi automatic dicing saws were on display at DISCO’s booth at SEMICON. The young team had succeeded in developing groundbreaking equipment in the short period of a year.

Afterwards, the annual business performance for fiscal year 1993 returned to black figures thanks to the brand-new products rolled out to the market which matched with customer needs. Subsequently, the X project did not just create a number of different products, but also greatly changed our existing way of work, including how we viewed development time and cost. This success story continues to be told in the office and became big turning point for DISCO’s growth.

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