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    Advanced manufacturing offers key opportunities for economy

    A man looks at a cluster of factories at an industrial park in Singapore. Reuters file photo
    A man looks at a cluster of factories at an industrial park in Singapore. Reuters file photo


    SINGAPORE — From customised hip implants to more efficient and cost effective space satellite components, the answer lies in additive manufacturing or 3D printing for companies seeking rapid growth through advanced design and manufacturing processes.

    At Manufacturing Technology Asia 2017, the spotlight is on such advanced technologies among others including industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), automation, robotics, optics and photonics and precision engineering. More than 300 companies from 26 countries and regions are participating in the event held at the Singapore Expo from April 4 to 7.

    According to industry experts, this digital transformation in manufacturing will enable companies to become more flexible and better-positioned for faster growth while saving on costs and improving productivity. Singapore is, accordingly, positioning itself at the heart of this manufacturing revolution.

    “Advanced manufacturing presents significant opportunities for our economy, companies and people. The Government will work closely with key stakeholders, including the industry, institutes of higher learning and industry associations, to build and sustain a globally competitive manufacturing sector for Singapore,” said Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry at the opening ceremony on Tuesday (April 4).

    Mr Lim Kok Kiang, Assistant Managing Director, Singapore Economic Development Board, said: “It’s a critical next step that Singapore must take… We have achieved early successes with a critical mass of advanced manufacturing investments.”

    For instance, Meiban Group, under the iSmart Factory project, plans to invest about S$10 million to S$12 million to testbed solutions in robotics, automation and smart factory software, with ambitions to yield a 20 to 30 per cent productivity gains.

    And ST Aerospace is investing in next-generation passenger-to-freighter conversion for Airbus 330 and Airbus 320 aircraft, and in Smart Factory initiatives to digitalise and streamline its maintenance, repair and overhaul work processes. It is also building IIoT-enabled capabilities in 3D printing and data analytics to optimise operations as well as lower costs and turnaround times.

    Mr Terrence Oh, Vice President (Asia Pacific) at industrial 3D printing technology company EOS Singapore, said additive manufacturing will be key in enabling Singapore to retain its leadership position in Asia in areas such as aircraft repair and medical technology.

    “With additive manufacturing, aircraft parts can now be readily manufactured at reduced weights of up to 40 per cent, yet be stronger than conventionally-made components by more than 50 per cent, all at shortened-lead time serial production levels… For high-quality medical devices, additive manufacturing not only brings to life the production of precision-fitted, lightweight implants, but also enables manufacturers to achieve speed, flexibility and cost effectiveness,” he said.

    Highlighting new trends in robotics, Mr Ang Boon Hua, Head of Robotics at ABB Singapore, said: “Robotics technology must be able to handle rapid changeovers given the need for wider product variations, yet in shorter times. In order to do so, robotics technology is becoming more intuitive to use, enabling quicker re-programming of robots to handle different products.”

    ABB last year launched a first-in-Asia Integrated Operations Center in Singapore that monitors about 700 ships, analyses data, and works with the ships’ onboard and shore-side teams to plan maintenance and troubleshoot problems.