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Singapore sets up SE Asia's largest 3D printing facility

Posted: 29 Sep 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3D printing? additive manufacturing? virtual warehousing? prototyping?

Singapore will soon house the biggest commercial 3D printing facility in Southeast Asia, Business Times reported.

U.S.-based semiconductor company Ultra Clean Technology (UCT) recently launched the new facility in Woodlands, a suburban town located in northeaster Singapore. With a maximum build volume of 650mm x 750mm x 550mm, the $3.5-million 3D printing facility will provide services including 3D engineering, prototyping, part optomisation, virtual warehousing and consumer parts production.

UCT said in a statement that the move from mass production to mass on-demand customisation will have a positive impact on the economy.

Last week, Singapore unveiled the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster, which seeks to harness, strengthen and expand on the country's existing 3D printing capabilities and to position the country as a world leader in this technology.

Additive manufacturing is one of the four key technology areas identified for development under the $200 million Innovation Cluster Programme (ICP) announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in October 2013. The programme is led by SPRING Singapore and National Research Foundation (NRF), by the Research, Innovation & Enterprise 2015 (RIE2015) Sub-committee on Innovation & Enterprise.

To accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing, NAMIC will also partner with well-known industry partners, including multinational companies and local firms.

Lesser production costs

Prototype production of parts can now be accomplished within a few days, according to Lavi Lev, senior vice president of UCT's Asia division. This will significantly reduce costs, boost productivity and engage smaller companies by allowing them to manufacture parts with no capital equipment investment, he added.

In addition, cost of operation is lessened and traditional supply chains are optimised through virtual warehousing. In this approach, parts are digitally stored and manufactured only on demand. The need to store thousands of parts in warehouses that cost millions becomes obsolete.

3D printing, however, will not replace mass manufacturing just yet at its current state, said Brendan Goh, co-founder of local start-up Pirate3D, adding that the technology will only become mainstream if it can produce high quality finished products and if it can achieve high speeds.

Although some challenges lie ahead, the Singapore government has started investing in advance to "build up upstream R&D and downstream commercialisation capabilities," Business Times quoted an Economic Development Board spokesperson as saying.

The national government has also begun training talents that will drive the nascent additive manufacturing industry.

The manufacturing sector accounts for about 18 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP), and with continuous technology upgrades and restructuring, the sector will continue to be a key driver in the country's economic growth.

- Stephen Padilla

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