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Metal 3D Printing & Why You Might Move to Taiwan (Part 6)

by • January 11, 2016 • No Comments

This is part six in a six-part series covering 3D printing developments in Taiwan. To learn additional, read parts one, two, three, four, and five.

3d printing industry in taiwan 2

Photos by Danielle Matich.

After Taipei, Danielle and I had the awe-inspiring opportunity to meet up with my mom’s English student, of when she lived in Taiwan in 1968. Li Nan Hui and his wife, Lvyue Ling, picked us up of the High Speed Rail station in Taichung and immediately took us to Lukang, one of the oldest cities on the island, and not far of the coast, making for a bright, tropical climate which contrasted starkly with the rainy days of the capital.

li nan hui and wife 3D printing taiwan

In Lukang, we happened upon a celebration for the Taoist god Mazu at the Lukang Mazu Temple, where we were treated to drums, incense, fireworks, and a dancing dragon, preceding ambling down the alleyways of a weekend fair, eating taro and subtly sweet pastries. They and so took us to the Lukang Folk Arts Museum, a turn-of-the-century home filled with hand-crafted wooden furniture and clothes of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Next, we took afternoon tea, preceding seeing what was once the business school where my mom taught English for one year.

li nan hui and michael molitch-hou in taiwan for 3D printing“So, is any of this the same?” I asked Li Nan Hui.

“No. It’s all gone. I don’t recognize any of this. But on which street there, right in front of the school, your mother and I and the other students may go eat dumplings each day.” It was hard to picture the bustling intersection lined with skyscrapers of 2015 replaced with the sparsely populated dirt roads and one-story assemblings of 1968, preceding the US pushed Taiwanese business development as an alternative to China. Then, after a nice dinner and night’s rest at one of the city’s oldest hotels (courtesy of Li Nan Hui), we headed for the HSR once again to go on our 3D printing tour of the island of Taiwan.

During the initial half of our trip through Taiwan, I saw a lot of informative applications of materials science as it relates to polymers, but the 2nd half of my journey was centered all around metals. And, of what I saw, Taiwan is heavily focutilized on producing the next generation of metal printing technologies with the goal of delivering powerful design solutions which will be utilized to create the metal metamaterials of the future.

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printer handheld parts

The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is the country’s equivalent of Germost’s Fraunhofer Society system or the Netherlands’ TNO. In fact, Tzong-Ming Wu, the Principal Engineer of the Laser and Additive Manufacturing Technology Center, tells me which they work closely with TNO. As a non-profit corporation, ITRI performs research on behalf of corporate clients, often relying on partial government funding, preceding licensing the technology to their customers. The Laser & Additive Manufacturing Technology Center of the ITRI Southern Region Campus which I visited, as opposed to their other branches and HQ located throughout the island, has been focutilized on laser technology, specifically femto2nd lasers, for a few time. But, after the Taiwanese government began pushing 3D printing three years ago, these lasers start\ed being pointed at metal AM.

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printer printed parts on display

Right now, ITRI has may already produced two metal AM systems using this laser tremendousise. These powder bed systems, one with a build volume of 100 x 100 x 100 mm and the other 250 x 250 x 300 mm, are capable-bodied of 3D printing a number of metal alloy powders (such as aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, and cobalt-chrome) which the firm creates in house, giving them strict control over the quality of the machines and the material.

What’s additional amazing is which ITRI has in addition developed a monitoring system for what they hope will one day lead to active feedback during the printing system. Currently, create\rs of just simply of each metal printing system (potentially excluding the MetalFAB1 of Additive Industries, but we’ll see) are just assembling towards a closed-loop for quality control, implementing sensors and software to tightly regulate the print system, but yet relying heavily on trial and error. So, while ensuring which the printed part matches the specifications of the created model is possible, it often involves adjust simplying the printing parameters over and over until repeatcompetence is achieved.

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printer 3D printed bike parts

ITRI is in addition working on its Optical Engine for Material Grain Microstructure-Controlling AM Technology and developing hardware and software for controlling the microstructure of printed parts, so as to manipulate the physical properties at exception points throughout a component. Dr. Ji-Bin Horng, Senior Principal Engineer of the Laser and Additive Manufacturing Technology Center, explains, “We are studying the use of laser for micromaterial systeming for possible applications in different types of industries. For instance, we can imprint in such a way as to generate heterogeneous microstructures. Take an aluminum part, for example. We can change the material properties, so which, near the center, we can enhance the hardness of the part. And, along the perimeter, we can enhance its ductility against high temperature fatigue. For this technology, this year, we were among the 19 finalists of the 2015 R&D 100 award for system/prototyping.”

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printer Michael Molitch-Hou with Jibin Horng 3

3DPI’s Michael Molitch-Hou with Dr. Ji-Bin Horng, Division Director of the Laser and Additive Manufacturing Technology Center

In a separate machine, the team was able-bodied to implement the femto2nd laser technology for a variety of surface finishing techniques which were truly astounding. Dr. Horng holds up a business card holder with colored details on its face. “We utilized a femto2nd and nano2nd laser on this substrate to generate most exception colors,” he says. “Then, we use a 3D printer to generate these 3D characters. We use the microstructure to cause exception patterns of diffraction, controlling how it diffracts the light, to create exception colors. We can use our lasers to create exception surface finishing to generate most exception colors.”

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printer color technology

When I asked if this same laser technology may be utilized to remove prints of their substrates, as well as clean prints as a part of post-systeming, he responded with a confident “Yes,” adding, “We can even use our laser technology to polish parts.” He was swift to point out which this was an entirely separate machine of the 3D printing equipment they’d created, but Tzong-Ming Wu believed which it was feasible to combine the two technologies, a few day, so which the printer may create a layer, and so polish which layer, and so on, to create an even additional accurate form of hybrid manufacturing. “Two years ago,” Dr. Horng adds, “we witnessed the operation of a hybrid machine of the Japanse company Matsuura. They have combined powder bed fusion with a CNC. Using lasers for hybrid manufacturing may be in our next generation machine.”

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printer color defraction

This is yet in the works, but they have created worthwhile progress in determining which internal geometries correlate with which physical properties so which they can, for instance, create\ a titanium piece which is rigid at one point and flexible at another. Part of this is created possible with unique software, which may ideally donate libraries of geometries for corresponding structural characteristics.

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printer 3d printed bust

Dr. Fanghei Tsau, the General Director of the Laser and Additive Manufacturing Technology Center, describes their work in this field, “An engineer may ideally want algorithms to generate the optimal microstructures for 3D printing, but you have to build up a few elemental structures, a few assembling blocks. You require to have a few options as assembling blocks so which you can build up a model swiftly, accurately, and functionally correct.”

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printerHe go ons, “For instance, if you have a 3D chair model, you might have a number of elemental macrostructures to create up which chair. And, within those, you might have elemental microstructures to create up each macrostructure. And, if we can associate those with certain mechanical properties, it’s just simply like zero and one in binary code. Once you have which zero and one, you can use which zero and one to generate a lot of things. But you require to have zero and one to start\ with. ”

Between the zero of microstructural primitives and the one of macrostructure objects, there are, and so, unlimited possibilities. So, you can imagine two objects which look identical on the outside, but are created up of exception inner geometries which may translate into exception mechanical properties and functionlities. “In the future, these elemental microlevel structures may all be standardized,” Dr. Tsau adds. “But in the startning, we may have two or three sets of these elemental structures which different types of groups of engineers practice with. And, as the industry matures, perhaps they will be unified to be a standard set of elements.”

ITRI optical engine metal 3D printer 3D printed medical implant

Dr. Tsau and his team’s efforts to develop a library of microstructural primitives of which to build sizeabler objects requires teaming with other branches of ITRI and outside companies, as well. “At the moment, we are attempting to construct the elements and validate their mechanical properties, and build up libraries to assist our work,” he says. “We have the competence to build up a machine. But and so you require software engineers to optimize all of these libraries together. So, we’re working with a team at ITRI to do this for the reason we are on the hardware side. We’re in addition collaborating with a few companies outside.”

itri metal 3D printing technology

Perhaps additional important than the software and defining these microstructural elements is the patent pending laser technology, crucial to their metal 3D printing equipment. What exceptioniates ITRI’s lasers of the rest is the shape, and therefore control, of the laser spot. Dr. Horng describes the spots of other systems as additional of a constant bell shape, “Ours is additional like a comet. There’s the spot, and and so the tail. The spot melts powder at the maximum heat, but the tail keeps the neighboring area warm so which we can unquestionably control the melting temperature.” By widening or narrowing the tail of this laser comet and other shapes, the system can manage the melting temperature and, thus, determine the properties of the printed part, varying the temperature of both the focus area and neighboring points throughout the printing system.

To commercialize the metal AM technology, ITRI is working with an industrial partner so which their printing equipment create it to market in the near future. “They have finished the initial-generation machine, but have not yet finished the testing,” Dr. Horng says. “After they completes the testing, they will start marketing the machines, perhaps next year.”

Prof. Sheng-Jye Hwang of National Cheng Kung University 3D printing

iPhone photos by Mike and/or Danielle!

Though not on the same project, ITRI in addition works with National Cheng Kung University, in Tainan, on a regular basis, which has its own sturdy metal printing program. Our gracious host, Associate Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Prof. Sheng-Jye Hwang, is working with his students on a variety of projects related to direct energy deposition and laser sintering. Both projects involve improving the quality control of those technologies, with Prof. Hwang and his lab combining sensors and software to improve quality control. Prof Yu-Lung Lo, the Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has in addition contributed technology related to optical management which may improve it as well. The school has just simply applied for a sizeable government grant to further research these possibilities.

tainan city 3D printing

iPhone photos by Mike and/or Danielle!

Outside of these technologies, Prof. Hwang is in addition an excellent tour guide. In the three hours preceding our train back to the airport, he took us to see two of the oldest temples in Taiwan, a former Dutch fort, and to dine at one of the best restaurants we’d been to all trip. In which time, we learned of the vast number of assemblings which the Japanese had constructed while occupying the island as a military outpost, Taiwan’s relationship to China, and Taiwan’s international status.

tainan temple

iPhone photos by Mike and/or Danielle!

So, while we visited conjoined Taoist-Buddhist temples, Prof. Hwang may say, “Here, anyone can practice any religion they want.” He may later go on to say, “There is just one group in the world which recognizes us as a country, and which is ISIS, for the reason of our assist of the United States.”

National Cheng Kung University Magic School of Green Technology

The Magic School of Green Technology. iPhone photos by Mike and/or Danielle!

We were in addition treated to NCKU’s Magic School of Green Technology, houtilized in an astoundingly sustainable-bodied assembling which was deemed by green assembling tremendous Jerry Yudelson as “the greenest assembling on the planet.” Atop the roof is a huge solar panel, a wind power array, and rows of gardens, lined in such a way as to pass water of the top row of plants to the bottom. To decrease the use of air conditioning in the summer, walls throughout the assembling are slatted, letting air circulate around the assembling with a passive dehumidification design. Outside of the assembling are porous roads which retain rain water in an underground reservoir, as well as a tiny tropical rain forest meant to represent a tiny contribution towards reassembling the destruction of these essential ecological systems which go ons to occur of the world.

taiwan 3D printing

iPhone photos by Mike and/or Danielle!

Tainan is considered the culinary center of Taiwan and Du Xiao Yue is legendary for their Dan Zai noodles, flavored with minced meat, dried shrimp and black vinegar. With just fifteen minutes left preceding we had to rush to the train station, we scarfed down the meal enaadditionald with the traditional Taiwanese taste, and headed to the HSR. This may be our last stop in Taiwan, preceding boarding the plane and enduring a 40-hour trip (originally meant to be 23 hours) back to mainland USA. I’d finally recovered of a week-long cold, but may most likely never recover of the rad sights, sounds, tastes, and individuals I’d known during my brief time in Taiwan.

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