Taiwan-based machine tool manufacturer Tongtai Machine and Tool Co., Ltd. has announced plans to commercialize its 3D printing technology sometime later this year. The company has also set its annual sales target at NT$200 million (~6.48 million USD).
Founded in 1969, Tongtai Machine and Tool Co. has grown to become the world’s second-largest producer of processing systems for printed circuit boards (PCBs). The company, which has clients in the aerospace, automotive, electric, medical, and home appliance industries (to name but a few), will be partnering with American company Optomec Inc. to develop and manufacture metal 3D printing equipment.
Optomec Inc., for its part, supplies additive manufacturing systems for printed electronics and laser metal deposition. Last year, the company made headlines with the release of its Aerosol Jet Technology, a 3D printing process capable of manufacturing electronics out of commercially-available conductive, dielectric, semiconductor and biologic inks.
Together Tongtai and Optomec have developed a hybrid 3D printing, vertical milling machine, which integrates the latter’s LENS Print Engine into Tongtai’s AMH-350 vertical milling machine. Tongtai is currently demonstrating its new hybrid additive manufacturing system at the Taipei International Machine Tool Show (TIMTOS) in Taiwan.
A spokesperson for Tongtai, Lulu Yen, said at the event: “3D metal printing equipment is expected to be Tongtai’s next sales catalyst.” Once it is commercially available, the hybrid 3D printer could have applications in the aerospace and medical sectors, and is expected to bolster Tongtai’s global reach and impact.
According to Tongtai, its clients in the aerospace industry account for almost 10% of the company’s total sales, so having a new product to offer them could be very beneficial. The automotive sector accounts for a whopping 50% of its sales.
In addition to the new hybrid 3D printing system, Tongtai is also seeking to increase its business with a new manufacturing plant in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District. The plant, which reportedly cost about NT$600 million (over 19 million USD), will begin production next month and will primarily be turning out large-scale, industrial machines for the aerospace industry.
Taiwan, which last year saw a drop in its machine tool industry (due to global economic slowdown, among other factors), is expecting to see a rise this year. Sources expect that Taiwan’s machinery exports will grow by about 10% this year. As for Tongtai, it sees its sales in the industry continuing to grow, and has laid out a 5% annual sales growth target for the year.