Oct 6, 2015 | By Kira

The National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) in Taiwan today revealed Taiwan’s first locally developed metal 3D printing system, with which it hopes to improve the nation’s aerospace and defense industries. The 250 x 250 x 250 mm metal addictive manufacturing machine, equipped with a 500 W laser, will help bring Taiwan up to speed with global digital manufacturing trends, and could hlep create high-quality replacement parts for the country’s aging military missiles and submarines.

image via Central News Agency

Image credit: Wang Zhong Hua

While it is good news that many of Taiwan’s weapons systems have not been used for more than 20 years, it also means that many of the original manufacturers for these weapons have ceased production, and that should the weapons be needed, spare or replacements parts will be in short supply. Using injection molding to manufacture a small number of parts is expensive and timely, resulting in extensive DMSMS (diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages), but as many countries have come to realize, the cost efficiency and speed of 3D printing could be the answer.

CSIST’s new 3D printing platform, which has been development since 2014, can produce materials with tensile strengths of up to 1,100 megapascals, yield strength of 950 megapascals, and hardness exceeding 30 HRC. It meets aerospace material standards (AMS-6514), and if approved by the United States Federal Aviation Administration, the products could be used in aircrafts. What’s more, its 500 W laser has a similar quality to IPG Photonics, the leader developer and manufacturer of high-performance fiber lasers.

Images credit: Su Zhong Hong

According to Jen Kuo-Kuang, deputy general director of the Institute’s Missile and Rocket Systems Research Division, the system could be used to produce components for some of Taiwan’s prestigious old submarines. The Sea Lion, which has served for over 60 years, and Sea Tiger and Sea Dragon, in service for the past 20 years, are at risk of DMSMS, however by analyzing the original materials, researchers from CSIST can create the same material powder and 3D print exact replicas of the required parts. Similarly, CSIST’s self-developed Glory, Sky Bow and Sword missiles can benefit from new lightweight, smaller-sized components, given them the ability to carry more equipment and enhance their shooting range. CSIST is Taiwan’s main weapons research and development center.

Image credit: Su Zhong Hong

The next step is the local development of powder materials, which, with the help of the National Cheng Kung University, the Institute expects to achieve within six months. By next year, the nation is also expected to develop a metal 3D printer with a 1KW laser in order to be up to par with current world leaders.

With 3D printing technology’s obvious applications in aerospace and weapon’s manufacturing, more and more countries are clamoring to get on board, though whether for purely defensive purposes or not has yet to be seen. All we know for certain is that no government or military can resist the thought of inexpensive, rapidly manufactured, high-quality and accurate super weapons, and that with 3D printing technology, they are easier than ever to produce.

 

 

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