HOME > 経営をよくする > Vibrant SMEs of JAPAN

Vibrant SMEs of JAPAN

Japan's only manufacturer of bio-electrodes [I-Medex]

Secret to Robustness
  • Japan's only manufacturer of bio-electrodes.
  • Increased reliance through integrated production and quick response.
  • Frontier spirit and "never give up" attitude.

"Let's just make it" attitude and independence

In ECG tests, electrodes attached to the body are used to detect electric signals produced by heart contractions, and an electrocardiograph displays them as a waveform. I-Medex is Japan's only manufacturer involved with both bio-electrode pads and conductive gels for ECG. Its business ranges from OEM supply for large manufacturers of medical instruments, to products under its own brand. The market for electrodes was formerly overwhelmed by products from overseas, but I-Medex has continued to develop products and grow its business through the approach of its President, Shinshichi Ichida: "If we can't find something anywhere, we'll make it ourselves."

Ichida knew about in-vivo electrodes when he worked at a chemical supply firm, where he was responsible for the silver paste used in PCBs. Fukuda Denshi, a medical equipment manufacturer, asked him: "Can we obtain disposable electrodes?" At that time, ECGs were becoming widely used in health check-ups, so manufacturers were thinking about entering the ECG market. However, the electrodes needed for ECG were all made overseas. That motivated Ichida to say: "So, let's make some ourselves."

Electric potential change in heart muscle cells occurs through the inflow and outflow of electrolytic ions. Ichida was asked to manufacture "silver - silver chloride electrodes that are stable during ionization," as described in research papers. He asked a silver paste manufacturer to develop such electrodes, resulting in a finished product: silver - silver chloride electrodes printed on a film. However, the manufacturing was done small-scale, at the prototype level, without being recognized by university research labs. Although disposable printed electrodes using silver and silver chloride had been recognized since the 1980s, as a means to prevent infections such as AIDS, the collapse of Japan's "bubble" led Ichida's company to stop manufacturing products in-house, including electrodes. Consequently, Ichida started to work independently, and in 1992, he established I-Medex.

Two months spent staying in the lab for development

It wasn't all smooth sailing from the start. Initially, Ichida assembled bio-electrodes, but customers asked him to manufacture urethane pads for chest electrodes. He developed manufacturing equipment, started blending polyurethane resins, and began mass-production the following year. However, he wasn't able to make good products for a long time, and sometimes, he thought about "going out of business." But Ichida didn't give up; he succeeded in finding out the causes of the problems by spending two months staying in the lab. As a result, revenue grew so much, the business "got out of the red in two months" (Ichida).

Around that time, Ichida heard from a large manufacturer that it would cease production of the conductive gel used with electrode pads. He immediately asked the company to license its technology, and endeavored to manufacture the conductive gel at I-Medex. It was hard for Ichida to familiarize himself with the technology, but in 1-2 months, he became able to do everything at I-Medex, from gel production to screen printing and pressing, building up an integrated production system.

In 2002, something happened that led to major progress. Fukuda Denshi told him: "We're going to manufacture the world's smallest Holter ECG, to be worn 24 hours for recording. We'd like you to develop disposable electrodes for it." Ichida thought, "This is a chance to utilize the technology I've been warming up," and consulted several tape manufacturers. But they all turned him down, because "large orders couldn't be expected." Ichida started to develop tape himself: "I'll make non-irritant tape at I-Medex." He succeeded in doing so through trial and error, based on samples from several adhesive and material manufacturers. That became the opportunity to start integrated production of electrodes. Ichida also made arrangements to quickly handle claims regarding electrode performance or tape irritancy, leading to greater reliance by customers.

Competing through own brand

In 2012, I-Medex released Myrode, the first electrode pad under its own brand. The Myrode is for wearable bio-sensors, which users can attach to their body by themselves. The pad has a built-in earth, and includes technology for excluding EM waves from outside the body, minimizing their effect on sensors. This pad has gained a good reputation because it can be used for multiple purposes, and I-Medex has also received inquiries from companies in other sectors that are thinking of entering the healthcare field.

I-Medex intends to ride the wave presented by the Government's reinforcement of Japan's healthcare industry, providing medical equipment at lower prices, and suggesting optimal means of care for patients.

Myrode, the first electrode pad under its own brand.

Myrode, the first electrode pad under its own brand.

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Keeping up a frontier spirit

Ichida looks back: "Because I was an amateur who didn't know anything, I've been able to get this far without being scared." The world of medical equipment looked attractive to a chemical salesman. He's broken into the market through his inherent frontier spirit and "never give up" attitude. And now, as Japan's only specialist manufacturer of bio-electrodes, I-Medex anticipates tackling the global market.

Company Data

President:President:Shinshichi Ichida

President:Shinshichi Ichida

Company name I-Medex Co.,Ltd.
President Shinshichi Ichida
Industry Type Manufacture and sale of medical equipment, including silver electrodes and conductive gel
Address Unaya-cho 1504-6, Hanamigawa-ku, Chiba-shi, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Phone 043-257-7411

Printing day:April 23, 2014

Recent Posts