Older workers

National Day Rally 2019: Learning 3D printing at 64

Mr Chan Ban Kiong, 64, is being trained by his employer Mencast Marine to operate 3D printers to make prototypes for ship propellers, something he used to do by hand. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
Mr Chan Ban Kiong, 64, is being trained by his employer Mencast Marine to operate 3D printers to make prototypes for ship propellers, something he used to do by hand. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

For over 45 years, foundry specialist Chan Ban Kiong made prototype moulds for ship propellers by hand.

But his job is now undergoing a sea change.

The manual method is to use sand to make a mould, which is used to create an aluminium prototype. The prototype is then used to create a second mould, from which the bronze propeller is cast.

Earlier this year, the 64-year-old was told that his employer Mencast Marine was going to start using 3D printers to make the prototypes, to improve productivity, and that he and eight others, all older than 60, were going to be trained to operate the 3D printers.

"Initially, I lacked confidence on whether I can learn it well. But with encouragement and support from my superiors and younger colleagues, I overcame my worries about the training," he said.

With the new technology, their work will be safer and easier, and production time will be faster by a third, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally, highlighting Mencast as a smaller firm that made the effort to retrain and upgrade its workers.

Mr Chan said he hopes to continue working as long as he is able to add value to the company. "I am happy that I can acquire new skills to stay relevant to the changing environment and continue to work in Mencast," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'Learning 3D printing at 64'. Print Edition | Subscribe