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Helping cool the world's fastest supercomputer a moving task for central Japan firm

President Kenji Kimura of Kotobuki Seikou, a precision metal machining company in Okaya, Nagano Prefecture, is seen holding the cooling system component used in the "Fugaku" supercomputer, on July 17, 2020. (Mainichi/Takashi Kokaji)

OKAYA, Nagano -- The president of a precision metal machining company here that developed a cooling component for the world's fastest supercomputer, "Fugaku," says he is moved to think of the potential of the machine that uses a part designed by his firm.

    The "Fugaku" supercomputer was developed by the government-backed Riken research institute and Fujitsu Ltd. It is the first Japanese supercomputer to rank the world's fastest since its predecessor "K" held the title nine years ago.

    Precision metal machining firm Kotobuki Seikou based in the city of Okaya, in the central Japan prefecture of Nagano, set to work on the cooling component for Fugaku after receiving an inquiry from a trading company in Tokyo in September 2018, and finished the processing work by December 2019.

    "I'm deeply moved when thinking that a product in which we were able to be involved will make contributions to the next generation," company president Kenji Kimura, 71, commented.

    The "Fugaku" supercomputer which was ranked the world's fastest supercomputer, is seen in the city of Kobe's Chuo Ward on June 23, 2020. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Onishi)

    Fugaku boasts an astounding speed. It registered a record 415.53 quadrillion computations per second in TOP500, a project by experts to compare the performances of supercomputers from all over the world. Fugaku also won first place in three other categories.

    The main body of Fugaku is apt to heat up when the supercomputer is handling enormous numbers of calculations, and the cooling system plays an important role, bringing Fugaku's temperature down with water. Developers faced the problem of the material warping from heat during processing, but the component was completed after trial and error.

    The palm-sized component is made of stainless steel and has a cylindrical shape. The machining company created 3D data of the component's diagram, and checked every detail of its shape. It simulated factors to be revised and improved, and responded to the clients' request. "We were able to put to use the skills and experience that we had cultivated," Kimura said.

    Fugaku is scheduled to commence full-scale operation in fiscal 2021, and it is expected to be used in various fields, including medical and disaster prevention purposes. Test runs of the supercomputer have already begun, and a group of researchers at Kyoto University announced that it discovered around 30 drugs including an antiparasitic medicine that could potentially be used to treat the novel coronavirus after using Fugaku to search for possible candidates from among existing medication.

    Kotobuki Seikou was established in 1984. The company has received orders from various sectors, and has handled machining for medical equipment and car parts, among other products. Kimura commented, "Quality is of course important, but it is even more our duty to create products that have no problems far in the future. I hope Fugaku will be useful for as many people as possible."

    (Japanese original by Takashi Kokaji, Regional News Department)

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