TIMTOS 2011: Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools Muscles

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Taiwan is a country smaller in size than the Indian State of Kerala. A group of 14 islands located between the East China Sea and the Western Pacific, and last colonised by the Japanese for 50 years, only to be set free when the World War-II ended, Taiwan is an economic miracle that has seen the island nation's per capita GNP vault from below US$ 200 in 1952 to over US$ 15,659 in 2005. The 50-year Japanese rule inculcated the technical thirst and thrust, and set the nation on a high growth path. From building of the railways and ports to modern agricultural practices and education, the Japanese needs fuelled the development of Taiwan, a process that got accelerated with American aid in the immediate aftermath of the Great War, and the benefit of a much bigger global market. Within two decades, Taiwan joined the elite quartet of the Asian Tigers along with South Korea, Hongkong, and Singapore, setting the trade routes blazing across the world. The reason for this sudden digression from the great Indian bazaar to the miracle land of Taiwan was facilitated by an invitation from TAMI - Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry - to visit TIMTOS 2011, now the second largest machine tools exhibition in Asia. TIMTOS - the Taipei International Machine Tools Show - is a biennial event that showcases Taiwan's machine tool prowess to the world. It is the fifth largest producer and fourth largest exporter of machine tools globally, sitting among the front rankers like Japan, Germany, Italy, and China. But unlike the big four which require over 50% of their production for domestic consumption, in the case of Taiwan almost 80% is earmarked for exports, which explains the rather favourably skewed figures, with Hongkong and mainland China together accounting for a whopping 47% share of the exports pie. When the show opened on the morning of March 1, 2011, the President of the Republic of China, which is the official nomenclature of Taiwan, Dr Ying-Jeou Ma, was present at the opening ceremony to celebrate the success and reassure the industry of his government's support to this vital sector. Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools Muscles1.jpg

The immediate need is, of course, for more exhibition space preferably at a single location, as the show in its present form is spread across five halls at two separate venues - three at the TWTC and two at Nangang Exhibition Centre. Encouraged not just by the global economic recovery but also boosted by the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China, which seeks to reduce or eliminate tariffs on 17 machine tools products from the beginning of 2011 with more exemptions to follow in phases, the mood of optimism was all pervading, the event setting a new record in term of participation.

"Machinery is the mother of all industries," observed President Ma, speaking at the opening ceremony. Referring to the ECFA, he said, "It's all about the product of origin. We must produce all key components on our own, so we have more bargaining power when dealing with competitors. Therefore constant innovation is the way we must take to reach our goals."Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools Muscles2.jpg

Dr Chih-Kang Wang, Chairman, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), the joint organiser of TIMTOS, mentioned that this year the show has surpassed all previous milestones and attracted a total of 928 exhibitors (676 local, 212 foreign), exhibiting their products in 5152 booths (standard 9 sq.m), another record.

The Swiss had the largest foreign pavilion. "The wide range of items on display meet every imaginable need, including metal cutting machine tools, metal forming machinery, tube and wire processing, controllers and control systems, industrial robots, tools, welding, vibration grinding, surface treatment and machine tools parts and accessories," he said.Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools Muscles3.jpg

Mr Hsiu-Tsang Hsu, Chairman, Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry (TAMI), mentioned that Taiwan has become the fifth largest producer of machine tools globally in 2010, reporting a production value of US$ 4 billion. It has also become the world's fourth largest exporter of machine tool products ranking after Japan, Germany, and Italy.

Later, speaking at a press conference addressing the international media, Mr Hsu called upon the government to quickly sign FTAs with the EU and USA to allow Taiwan to stay competitive with South Korean manufacturers. By the time the show ended on March 6, the organisers had achieved their stated goal of 'Double 5000', the second set of 5K figure referring to the overseas visitors that touched the 5071 registration mark, a growth of 18.9% over the figures for TIMTOS 2009. But there is a method in this surfeit of machine tool statistics, the miracle itself a result of a combination of factors, the foremost being the careful planning and development of machine tools clusters powered by a string of research institutes and a chain of universities churning out graduates to fill in the ranks of researchers and technicians.Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools Muscles4.jpg

Built over a period of more than four decades, Taiwan's machine tool industry is geared to face international market competition from Japan and Germany at the higher end, while facing the Chinese low cost juggernaut from the other end, with due diligence to take care of the entire value chain between the two ends. In the process, it not only has been responsive to the market's needs, but has also used product differentiation strategies and developed products for the niche market.

So at the one end it has created an entire range of metal cutting and forming machines to cater to the every need of the global manufacturing industry, from the other end it has also churned out high precision and high value components and aggregates for machine tools, in the process not only ending its own dependence of imports for this crucial requirement but also develop export markets for them. And the 'constant innovation' reference by President Ma during his speech is central to all these initiatives.Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools Muscles5.jpg

The government on its part has played an important role, listing precision machinery as one of the key industries in its six-year national development plan, and designated the Central Taiwan Science Park as a centre for development of precision machinery and aerospace industries. Dedicated efforts by the companies coupled with the government's large-scale support, Taiwan's machine tool industry has built up impressive R&D and manufacturing capabilities. Strong cluster development, especially at the Taichung Industrial Park that is home to a very large chunk of this high tech industry.

Several other parks have followed in the wake of this success, most notably the Taichung Precision Machinery Park, Taichung Fengchou Technology Park, and Changhua Erlin Precision Machinery Park. Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools Muscles6.jpg

For the record, 80% of Taiwan's machine tool industry is concentrated in the Taichung region, which also has a separate show during alternate years in TMTS, the next edition due in 2012. On the last day of the exhibition, Premier Wu Den-Yih, accompanied by Chih-Kang Wang, Chairman of TAITRA and Hsiu-Tsang Hsu, Chairman of TAMI, visited several exhibitors including leading companies like Dahlih Machinery Industry Co., Far East Machinery Co., She Hong Industrial Co (Hartford), Victor Taichung Machinery Works Co., Roundtop Machinery Industries Co., WELE Mechatronic Co., Fair Friend Group, Taiwan Takisawa Ltd, Co., Tongtai Machine & Tool Co., Luren Precision Co., and CHMER EDM.

According to Hsiu-Tsang Hsu, with the global economy recovering rapidly, TIMTOS 2011 was likely to help create business opportunities worth US$ 2 billion. Buyer representation was strongest from Japan since Taiwanese manufacturers have grown adept at offering products with quality that nearly matches that of Japanese goods. Secondly, Taiwan-made machine tools and components are more competitive in price due to the appreciation of Japanese Yen. Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools Muscles7.jpg

Thirdly, the potential business opportunities provided by the signing of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has encouraged many Japanese companies to establish cooperation with Taiwanese manufacturers. China ranked second in the total number of visiting buyers. TIMTOS 2011 was the first machine tool exhibition held after the release of the Early Harvest List stated in the ECFA, thus drawing a great number of Chinese buyers. Other countries included Malaysia, South Korea, India, Thailand, US, Turkey, Singapore and Russia. For TIMTOS 2011, the organisers had mobilised 56 branches around the world to proactively invite leading buyers and arrange buyer groups from Italy, Russia and India. For the record, the total number of Indian visitors was 333.

WELE Mechatronic Co., Ltd, a manufacturer of high speed machining centres, reflects the trend of strong connections many entrepreneurs share with research institutes. Mr Yong-Chang Kuan, President of the company (WELE is derived from 'We Lead'), is a veteran of the Industrial Technology Research Institute and a strong believer of separation of ownership and management of companies. Started just four years ago in the year 2007, WELE's 40% shares are owned by the JKET group of Japan, including Toyoda Koki, a sub-group of auto giant Toyota, and the balance 60% are held by local shareholders in Taiwan. Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX1.jpg

The company had displayed its latest machines for the moulds and dies, auto parts, windmills and aviation segments. HB-430F - horizontal boring milling machine; UG800 - 5-axis gantry type machine for dies and moulds; UA2090 - C type, 5-axis machining centre for the aviation sector; FG1612 - gantry type 3-axis high speed machining centre for auto parts and dies and moulds; SB3016 - 5-face machining centre with automatic changeover from horizontal to vertical machining for big parts; and VTC2500H - a multi-tasking marvel that combines turning, milling and grinding in one unit. Its hydro-static bearing, designed in-house, is capable of supporting a work piece of up to 22 tonnes, the full table size ranging from ??1600 to ??4500 mm. Designed to produce wind power generator and aerospace components, this '100% Made in Taiwan' machine, was adjudged the winner of the Supreme Excellence Award, the top honour at the event, with the HB-430F also winning the Award of Eminence, making it a double bonanza. The company has sold close to 1000 units of these various machines in the last four years, including a few in India where it is represented by Drass Mechatronics & Machinery Pvt Ltd.

Chin Fong Machine Industrial Co., Ltd, another reputed manufacturer of power presses with a 30-year history, had an impressive range on display covering a range of sTaiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX2.jpgingle/double crank power presses, link form forging presses and the most impressive of all, the intelligent link drive single point servo press (iLSI). Continuing with the theme of energy saving servo drives, and ranging in capacity from 110 to 160 tonnes, these presses are suitable for diversified intelligent forming including deep drawing, compound pressing and forging, general forming, perforation/blanking and in-die heating up to 200??C. The iLSI series press effortlessly achieves multi-stage forming process requirement by utilising servo control system while saving significant production equipment investment, according to Jade Chen, Director, Sales & Marketing. Another new launch was the GRM/GRA-200, single crank machines with manual/automatic slide stroke adjustment, is a first in Asia. With reduced noise and vibrations, these presses have easy adaptation facility for various press automation functions. Chin Fong Machine Industrial Co Ltd is represented in India by Delhi-based Kriti Tools. 

Luren Precision Co., Ltd is also, like WELE Mechatronics, a spin-off of tech transfer from ITRI, with the technology coming from gear machinery specialist Samputensili in the initial years for hob cutters and shaving cutters. Luren literally means six, six gear companies coming together to form the company in 1994. Beginning with supply of gears to local manufacturers, the company startedTaiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX3.jpg designing machines for its own use before supplying these to other manufacturers. Today, it manufactures horizontal (LFG-3540) and vertical (LFG-8040) gear profile grinding machines from its manufacturing plants in Taiwan and China, with exports to Japan, Korea, Europe, USA, India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Other products on display included the CNC worm and thread grinding machine (LWT-2080), based on the 'Smart Grinding' theme for making operation easy. The company has successfully posed a challenge to the more established European models, the cost advantage not an insignificant role player here, as in general is the case with all Taiwan machinery manufacturers.

Mr Chuck S D Chen, President of Luren Precision Co is very upbeat on the near term growth. The company presently exports 30% of its production to China and 40% to the rest of the world. It has sales offices in Shanghai, Chicago, and Osaka, but has ambitious plans to extend to more locations in Thailand, India, and Europe. In India, the response is very encouraging, according to Mr Chen. 

Ching Hung Machinery & Electric Industries Co., Ltd, or CHMER as the company is popularly known, is an EDM specialist. The company won the Grand Champion Award for the Other NC Machine Tools category with its P3020SL High Accuracy Low friction Micro feed quantity Wire-Cut EDM. Founded in 1975, the company today manufactures 1200 units per annum and has 3 factories in China, besides manufacturing plants in TaiwTaiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX4.jpgan. The award-winning wire cut EDM, Model P2030SL, is just awaiting the first commercial delivery. Claimed to be the fastest EDM in this class, it uses the company's in-house linear motor a non-touch linear motion system. So it has no the problem of backlash caused by ballscrews, guarantying the performance of high precision and long life span, explains Mr Brad Wang, Marketing Manager. With almost 3 decades of EDM development and manufacturing experience, CHMER and its affiliated companies are continuously striving to design and produce the finest quality EDM products. Through in-house R&D department, the company has developed highly reliable and user friendly CNC controller and state-of-the art EDM power supplies, besides EDM specific software to optimise the cutting performance between the power supply and controller plus provide user specific software for special applications. In India the company is represented by Pune-based K Value Consultants headed by Mr K G Advani.

From metal cutting to metal form ing, and Shieh Yih Machinery Industry Co., Ltd, SEYI in short, launched its new generation 200-tonne servo presses, with the latest servo motor and control technology specially for stamping presses application. According to Mr Marco Lim, Regional Manager, Overseas Sales Dept., the energy saving servo motor offers 3 times torque higher than conventional servo motors, and 30% torque higher than other direct-drive servo presses. Taiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX5.jpg

The range will shortly be extended to 400 tonnes capacity. Among its exhibits, Model SNSI-160, a 3-in-1 integrated robotised unit, boasts a straight side frame design that virtually eliminates angular deflection, providing increased precision for progressive die applications and reducing maintenance costs on tooling. 

The slide area is 15 %~25% greater than comparable C-frame presses to allow for larger tools. Similarly, Model SLS2-400 double crank is equipped with a 2-bar transfer unit that saves manpower, and also boasts of long life span of tooling. All these presses are suitable for mass production. The company, established in 1962, today manufactures 4000 presses annually from its production units in Taiwan and China, and caters to the global market. In India, it has 4 dealers across different geographies, and all of them were present during the exhibition.

HIWIN (derived from HI-tech WINner) Technologies Corporation, having established its dominance with a complete line of linear motion control technologies and systems, needs no introduction, a globally well-known brand with patents registered in over 34 countries including the US, Japan, the European Union, and more. The compaTaiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX6.jpgny has overseas subsidiaries in Germany, USA, Japan, Switzerland, Czech Republic and France, and has R&D centres at Tokyo, Offenburg (Germany), Haifa (Israel) and Moscow, besides Taiwan. All this, in a relative short span of time, the company formed as recently as in 1989. New products on display included the high capacity roller screw RolCrew; ballscrews with SynchMotion technology featuring less noise, less friction, better lubrication and less energy consumption; and AC servo motors and servo drives. According to Mr Sean Yang, Senior Executive VP, the company has launched the first formula linear motor characterised by high speed and accuracy, but the high cost is acting as a deterrent right now. The company has recently acquired Mega-Fab Motion Systems Ltd., an Israeli developer of motion control technology, via its affiliate Hiwin Mikrosystem Corp., which focuses on the development of linear motor system, linear actuator and positioning measurement system, and is Taiwan`s only maker of linear motor systems and semiconductor and photovoltaic equipment. Hiwin actuators for the sunbeam-tracking systems have won certifications from European leading solar power plants.

Kao Fong Machinery Co. Ltd., started in 1968 as a manufacturer of drilling and tapping machines before graduating to boring and milling machines and machining centres. Today, the company manufactures a wide range of HMCs and VMCs, bridge type milling machines and machining centres, CNC milling machines, double column machining centres and tapping machines. 

The products are used for processing of precision metal components, moulds, semiconductors and othTaiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX7.jpgers. With a substantial portion of its turnover spent on R&D, the company churns out up to 50 types of new machines every year, and in its 40 years of existence has sold hundreds of thousands of machines globally, but the main market remains China. At TIMTOS 2011, the CV-9A VMC and BMC-2616 bridge type milling machine were among its new products, the latter ideally suited for working on big parts in the automobile and aviation sectors. Kafo horizontal machining centres have a big market in Europe, but as with other major manufacturers, China remains its biggest market. According to Mr Kevin Masrour, Regional Manager, International Sales, the company has a good market in India, where it is represented by PMT.

Yeong Chin Machinery Industries Co., Ltd (YCM), founded in 1954, manufactures a range of products covering CNC lathes, VMCs/HMCs, horizontal boring milling machines and EDMs (through a sister concern). The company is among the leading manufacturers of machine tools in Taiwan, with over 70 models in production. At TIMTOS 2011, its new offerings included a high accuracy heavy-duty boring machine, Model BMP1416B. Mr Kipper Lee, Global Sales Manager at YCM, stressed that the machine, equipped with an Intelligent Thermal Compensation System designed in-house, adopts a series of solutions to avoid thermal deformation and achieve optimum accuracy suited for large workpiece boring and heavy cutting of hard materials. The spindle with 3-speed gearbox provides maTaiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX8.jpgx torque of 256 kgf-m, and the patented air pocket design of the rotary table, even with the full load of 7,000 kg, imposes no strain on the axial motor. Among the other new launches are the NTV 158A is a high efficiency vertical machining centre with a unique T-base structural design; the FX380A with 5-axis simultaneous control for more machining flexibility; and FV50T, a high speed high performance drilling and tapping centre. With spindles designed in-house and now boasting 3rd generation spindle thermal compensation (STC); exclusive software enhancements like the iOperation that boosts production efficiency by 25%; and I-Direct remote monitoring system, YCM has added value to its products. The company also has its own foundry so is not dependent on any vendor for its requirements of castings. S&T Engineers, Coimbatore, represents it in India 

For Soco Machinery Co., Ltd., manufacturer of pipe/tube cutting/bending/ chamfering machines, it is all about innovations and solutions, for wide applications in the automobile, furniture, fitness equipment anTaiwan Flexes its Machine Tools MusclesBOX9.jpgd other industries. Established in 1979, the company is today led by Mr Kyle Lo, a young and dynamic engineer, and has several 'firsts' to its credit for Taiwan and Asia. Besides Taiwan, it has established manufacturing plants in Malaysia and China, and sales offices across the world. Model SA-150NC, a circular sawing machine, is among the new launches, one of only 3 such developments globally. Ideal for angle tube and solid bar cutting up to 150 mm for very hard and HT tubes, this machine can cut very thin tubes that are today preferred for lighter end products. Another new machine on display was the tube bender Model SB-80x12A-MR-PT+2C, an all-electric, 12-axis bending + cut-off unit that has won the 2011 Taiwan Excellence Silver Award. Another award winner, the SA-78NCE + BDB-70, high speed HT steel tube cutting cell with deburring was also among the exhibits.

Then there was the new TAC-192 Laser Beam Saw. Delhi-based Ravik Engineers represents the company in India, where the demand is substantial for Soco machines. 

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