By Ko Lin
Taiwan News staff reporter
3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) has come a long way in Taiwan, as homegrown technologies have matured to a point where the reliance on imports are no longer justifiable, according to Deputy Minister of Science and Technology (MOST) Lin Yi-bin on Wednesday.
“The additive processes and system integration we provide can now stay on par with the likes of Sweden, the United Kingdom and Switzerland,” Lin said, adding that the technologies offered can come at a fraction of the costs.
Funded entirely by the ministry, the National Cheng Kung University’s (NCKU) Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics have managed to develop core 3D printing technologies for various large-scale applications, including micro/nano powder manufacturing, powder compounds and binders, printer head and its drivers, and overall 3D printer system integration.
Wang Muh-rong, the department’s professor at NCKU, is a strong believer in the potential of 3D printing to transform manufacturing by making production of complex products easier and paving the way for mass customization.
The department’s pride and joy can be attributed to its recent breakthroughs made in printer nozzles, which are the core parts of any 3D printing machine.
“We have the ability to provide up to 18-35 microns of the finest metallic powder,” Wang exclaimed, adding that it is capable of providing 60 percent of granulated dusts from a single block of metal – titanium, aluminum, etc.
“Taiwan is really foraying into the 3D printing world not just by developing the technologies themselves, but also doing it at really incredible price points,” he said.
According to estimates provided by MOST, the price of imported granulated metal average NT$8,000 per kilogram, whereas with the cost sourced domestically can be a fraction of that and priced far lower than the competition.
“On the home front, the technologies provided by the NCKU are great contributions to the development of mechanical engineering, measurement instrument, bioscience and nanotechnology,” the deputy minister said.
The ministry also expects that the annual production of metallic powders will be greater than NT$ 10 billion in Taiwan within the next few years.
“We expect our breakthroughs to perform just as well as the competition, because driving a fall in prices can only be a good thing for metal 3D printing, which seems to be arriving, slowly but surely, from research labs to the open market,” Wang said.