Jan 5, 2016 | By Kira
Taiwan’s Metal Industries Research & Development Centre (MIRDC), known for advanced knowledge in EBM (electron beam melting) additive manufacturing technology, has signed a cooperative agreement with the Institute for Materials Research (IMR) of Tohoku University of Japan in order to develop and advance metal 3D printing technology and related metallic 3D printing materials.
Metal 3D printing seems to be the manufacturing industry’s new best friend, with market research company CONTEXT reporting not only that sales of metal 3D printers grew 45% in Q3 2015, but that metal 3D printing was the only profitable sector within the industrial/professional 3D printer marketduring the same period. Global industry players from the aerospace, defense, automobile, medical industries and more have been increasingly turning to metal additive manufacturing as it has the unique ability to produce high-volume and high-quality end-use parts while significantly reducing cost, lead time and material waste.
As far as both Japan and Taiwan’s highly advanced R&D sectors go, there are perhaps no two institutes that are better qualified to work on metal 3D printing technology and metallic 3D printing materials than MIRDC and IMR.
Taiwan’s MIRDC, a government-funded R&D body on the island, is known for succeeding in developing a nickel-titanium alloy powder for additive manufacturing, and for setting up Taiwan’s first EBM additive manufacturing laboratory, which has helped Taiwanese medical equipment makers move up market.
As for Japan’s contribution, the MIRDC reports that Tohoku University is the world’s most renowned university in terms of metallic materials research, with the IMR being the longest established among the prestigious university’s institutes (not to mention that it has two Nobel Prize winners currently among its faculty members). The IMR is globally recognized for its achievements in research and theoretical postulations on material science and technology, particularly in the fields of 3D printing, magnetic materials, biocompatible materials and functional materials.
The new partnership, signed in mid-December between CEO H.C. Fu of MIRDC and Dr. K. Takanashi, director of IMR in Sendai, northeaster Japan, will see both institutes work together to develop new additive manufacturing equipment, related processes and melting technology, as well as the setting-up of a joint laboratory to share R&D resources. Along with upgrading both Taiwan and Japan’s metal 3D printing industries, longer term plans for the agreement are to enhance the exchange of researchers and eventually to work on key technologies for the energy industry.
Recently, Taiwan has made several advances in metal 3D printing, having revealed its first locally developed metal 3D printing system for use in the aerospace and defense industries, as well as another metal 3D printer specifically designed for jewelry production. In terms of research innovation, the Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) developed a laser optical engine that can actually regulate the hardness of metal parts during 3D printing.
As for Japan, Tokyo-based imaging and printing giant Ricoh recently unveiled the first ever Ricoh-brand industrial 3D printer, and, in a surprising announcement, home electronics manufacturer Toshiba showed off its own metal 3D printer that is said to be 10 times faster than competitors.