Movers & Shakers: Singapore Research Entity Paves Way For A Future-Ready Manufacturing Industry

3D printed blue treefrogs in different layer t...

3D printed blue treefrogs in different layer thicknesses (Photo credit: Creative Tools)

The Singapore government research entity also known as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) has launched the Industrial Additive Manufacturing (AM) Programme to develop a number of critical technologies to grow an internationally competitive AM industry in support of the manufacturing sector in Singapore, particularly the aerospace, automotive, oil & gas, marine and precision engineering industries. These industries are evolving into more complex and advanced high-mix, low-volume production, activities that require new technical skills, high-tech processes enabled by deep R&D capabilities. Advanced manufacturing technologies like AM can help to strengthen Singapore’s manufacturing which constitutes 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2012.

The market size of AM is projected to grow five-fold from US$2.2 billion in 2012 to an estimated US$10.8 billion in 2021, led by automotive, medical and aerospace applications[1]. Although the business outlook for AM is positive and companies are investing in AM capabilities, the lack of materials, process and design engineering know-how is a barrier to mass industry adoption, thus opening a window of opportunity for research.

Additive manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer. Unlike the conventional subtractive manufacturing methodologies, AM offers competitive advantages in geometrical freedom, shortened design to product time, reduction in process steps, mass customisation and material flexibility. This process could revolutionise many sectors of Singapore’s manufacturing. AM also simplifies the laborious process of producing complex parts while reducing cost due to its ability to mass customise. It is predisposed to industry sectors that require high-mix, low-volume parts or customised parts, creating higher-value industries and high-quality jobs for Singaporeans.

The A*STAR-funded programme is led by the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), a research institute of A*STAR. Under the programme, SIMTech will work in close partnership with the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), a key research performer in AM technologies, on AM process design and development for direct manufacturing of components. In addition, two other A*STAR research institutes, namely, the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) as well as the Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) will tap on their respective research expertise in materials development as well as modelling and simulation to support the collaboration. The following six process technologies have been identified to form the key thrusts of the programme :

  • Laser Aided Additive Manufacturing (LAAM)
  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
  • Polyjet
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Stereolithography (SLA)

Dr Tan Geok Leng, Executive Director of A*STAR’s Science and Engineering Research Council, said, “This programme aims to develop innovative additive manufacturing technologies and capabilities to transform the manufacturing landscape of Singapore, and rejuvenate the manufacturing workforce by introducing such advanced manufacturing techniques. Singapore is already well positioned to respond to the needs of this new growth area with its established sectors such as the precision engineering and aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industries as the lead demand drivers.”

NTU’s Dean of Engineering, Professor Ng Wun Jern, said the new programme will benefit Singapore companies by providing critical support for those looking to scale up and integrate additive manufacturing into their processes.

“Understanding industry needs and developing innovative solutions is key to keeping Singapore’s competitive edge in today’s high-tech manufacturing sector. The Industrial Additive Manufacturing Programme will leverage upon NTU’s strengths in engineering and its long history of industry linkages and collaborations,” said Prof Ng. “NTU and A*STAR are well-placed to make this new programme a success. Together, we are poised to support our industry’s move into next generation manufacturing.”

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