Taiwan’s Machine Tool Industry: An Inside Look
TAITRA, the Taiwanese machine tool association, recently hosted a global group of journalists for a tour of the Taiwanese machine tool industry. On that trip, our major question was: what does Taiwan have to offer in this area, and where does Taiwan rank relative to the major machine tool manufacturing nations such as Germany and Japan?
Touring ten manufacturing facilities and interviewing five major toolmakers, we discovered that Taiwan is no longer the country that manufactures small wares, toys and other low-cost injection molded products. On the contrary, Taiwan offers considerable high technology in the machine tool sector.
What We Learned in Taiwan
Considering its small relative size, the country is surprisingly highly ranked economically:
- Eleventh in the index of economic freedom by the Heritage Foundation
- Fourteenth in global competitiveness according to the World Economic Forum
- Fourteenth in global competitiveness according to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook
- Fourth in overall investment environment, according to the Business Environment Risk Intelligence Service (BERI)
Although it’s a small island, Taiwan is economically significant. Overall, in terms of the machine tools that we’ve seen during this trip, the level of technology is high, and quality is high. Automation is widespread: we saw extensive automation in machine tools and lots of industrial robots at work. In addition, we saw prominent use of control systems from companies such as Siemens, FANUC and Heidenhain.
Most importantly, we recognized a great deal of emphasis on Industry 4.0. The concept is important here, and already several manufacturers have extensive implementation of Industry 4.0 technology. All of them are in the process of rolling it out.
This is a country that is full of high-tech manufacturers, and is definitely worth a closer look.
Closer Look: Taiwanese Manufacturers We Interviewed
Goodway Machine Corporation manufactures multiaxis vertical and horizontal turning centers as well as specialty equipment for Swiss turning, wheel turning, tapping and cylindrical grinding. The firm builds equipment in Taiwan, but is expanding its manufacturing in both Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. At Goodway, chairman Edward Yang told us how important the export market is for corporations based in the country of Taiwan.
Fair Friend Group
Fair Friend Group (FFG) is one of the largest machining center manufacturing conglomerates in the world. They produce precision machining centers, turning centers, grinding machines, and transfer machines. Many machine tool brands from Italy, Japan and Germany fall under the FFG umbrella, including Sigma, SNK, Honsberg and Modul. At FFG, chairman Jimmy Chu spoke about the importance of manufacturing execution systems (MES) in his plants’ productivity.
Yeong Chin Machinery ages its castings for an average of 2-3 months to naturally relieve internal forces on the metal. Stress-relieving the castings provides better machine accuracy by reducing the risk of the parts warping or bending after construction.
“We have more than fifty years of experience with this process,” said Wing Liu, sales manager. YCM ages small parts, such as those approximately the size of your hand, for ten to twenty days. Large parts can take up to three to four months.
Victor Taichung Machinery Works, based in Taiwan, makes a wide variety of machine tools including turning machines and multi-purpose milling machines, but an interesting speciality application of the company are wheel machines.
We spoke with Wayne Hsueh, director of overseas marketing division at Victor Taichung Machinery Works about the difference between wheel machines and general purpose multi-axis machine tools.
Over the years, machine controls have become increasingly complex. What started out as two hand wheels on the old manual mills has become a full-fledged computer terminal with advanced functionality. Unfortunately, an advanced system may not always be particularly user-friendly.
Hartford Innovation, a Taiwan-based machining center manufacturer, likens the changes in controls to those in telephones. A classic landline can make calls, but a smartphone can connect to the internet, take pictures and run various apps.
The company sough to replicate this difference in developing its Hartrol Plus controller (of course, whether they achieved this goal is for machine operators to decide). Like smartphones, the controls are designed to provide full functionality while being user-friendly.
Everising Machine Co.
EVERISING builds their own machine tools in-house, and designs them to minimize vibration, noise and temperature.
To achieve the smoothest of cuts, EVERISING joined together with a saw blade manufacturer and developed their machines to properly lubricate the saw blades while in contact with the material.
“The cutting surface, whether it becomes smooth or rough, is also really important,” company president Shu-Chai Chiao said. “Our machines are strong enough and have enough reach that it’s easy to get that smooth cut. We joined together with a saw blade manufacturer and we worked on a solution to lubricate the blades during the cut. We need this for an improved cutting surface. The saw blade, the teeth angle and the way the teeth cut are really important for us.”
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