Varsities to work with firms on 3D printing tech

Mr S. Iswaran (centre of picture) checking out an autonomous navigation robot by Techmetics Solutions that can be used to transport food and devices. With him are (far left) Mr Mathan Muthupillai, chairman and technical director of Techmetics Solutions, a
Mr S. Iswaran (centre of picture) checking out an autonomous navigation robot by Techmetics Solutions that can be used to transport food and devices. With him are (far left) Mr Mathan Muthupillai, chairman and technical director of Techmetics Solutions, and Professor Lam Khin Yong, executive director of IPI.PHOTO: IPI SINGAPORE

A new partnership between three local universities will help push out 3D printing technologies to companies keen to use them.

The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (Namic) will look at the latest research in 3D printing and study how to translate it into commercial uses in the industry, said Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Home Affairs, yesterday.

Companies can use Namic's equipment and tap its know-how to manufacture products using 3D printing. This means that the firms can assess if the technology is useful before buying a machine, which can cost between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Objects are created by a machine that deposits thin layers of material - typically plastic or metal - layer by layer to form 3D shapes. The technology can be used to manufacture products and prototypes used by engineering and architecture firms.

It is one of the four areas identified by the Government for development under the $200 million Innovation Cluster Programme announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in October 2013.

Currently, not many firms use the technology, said Mr David Yeow, Director of Special Projects, NTUitive.

The goal is to get more firms to take up new technologies, which the Government is committed to doing, said Mr Iswaran at Techinnovation 2015, an annual two-day conference and exhibition that connects technologies to firms that need them.

Namic, which will be led by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in partnership with the National University of Singapore and the Singapore University of Technology and Design, aims to work with 80 to 100 companies over the next five years.

One firm looking forward to the new set-up is Creatz3D, which handles 3D printing systems and solutions. Said its general manager Sean Looi: "Creatz3D plans to develop its own solutions in the 3D printing space, so having access to materials experts in NTU through Namic will certainly benefit us."

Organised by Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI) Singapore, Techinnovation 2015 opened at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre yesterday, drawing a record number of more than 1,800 delegates from 30 countries.

The event is targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises and offers businesses a chance to network and collaborate.

Among the technologies on show are drones, which can help identify leakages in oil storage facilities through thermal sensors.

There was also on display a robot which can deliver items such as food or gadgets in restaurants, hotels and hospitals after orders are received remotely.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'Varsities to work with firms on 3D printing tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe