Mark Lee/ 3D Printing in East Asia

Mark Lee is the manager of 3D Printing in East Asia's social media presence. Through  its Patreon and Facebook

profiles, Mark and his contributors explore and report on the latest 3D printing and additive manufacturing developments in the region, with a particular focus on South Korea. In November 2017, he was in attendance at the first tct@MATOF conference, taking in the full two-day programme. 

The Korea International Manufacturing Technology Fair & Conference (MATOF) is a specialty trade show held once every two years in Changwon, South Korea. Participants come from a wide range of industries including, automation, robotics, injection moulding, production engineering, machine tools, and other emerging manufacturing technologies to show off what they have and to learn about new ideas that they can apply to their businesses.

Why is this important? Because the Changwon area, a major port city located in the south-eastern portion of the Korean peninsula, is home to the single largest industrial manufacturing complex in the country, including automotive, shipbuilding, railway fabrication, and SME factories of every shape and description. To give some perspective the Changwon Industrial Complex, a 25,302-square kilometre area of factories, employs some 82,000 people. To say that Changwon is a manufacturing town is a gross understatement to say the least.

On the other hand, TCT is a global media source on the latest industrial 3D printing/additive manufacturing news and information. TCT is responsible for organising many of the major exhibitions and shows related to 3D printing/AM, but with a serious focus on industrial applications and technologies. And they have been doing it for the past 25 years.

That is what makes the tct@MATOF 2017 show so special. The MATOF show run from October 31st until November 3rd, and the TCT conference overlapped it on November 1stand 2nd, bringing together industrial experts and researchers from all over the world in this industrial showplace. These were two separate events, but so closely related that they fit seamlessly together, allowing people from widely differing industrial backgrounds to mix and exchange information.  

The first day of the TCT conference was pretty exciting, especially for those in business and interested in upgrading their company with the newest technology, or at least interested in learning where the latest technology is, and will be going, so that they can start to plan their upgrades. To aid clear communication, simultaneous translation was provided to audience members in English, Korean, and Chinese, though English was the most widely used and spoken language at the conference.

                                                                       Mark Lee/ 3D Printing in East Asia

Crowds gather at the tct@MATOF conference

The keynote presentations were given by Dr. Mincheol Kang, the Executive Director of the 3D Printing Research Organisation. Dr. Kang received his PhD from Pusan National University and is an expert on metallurgical engineering and metal powders. He offered his insight into the technical aspects of superior metal powders for use in the most common AM metal printers currently in use, as well as some future challenges that need to be met to bring better and more accurate metal printing to fruition.

The second keynote speaker was Dr. Yongqiang Yang, a professor of Additive Manufacturing, Mechatronic Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering at South China University of Technology. Dr. Yang spoke about the latest advances in metal additive manufacturing in China, especially the technology’s use for dental implants and corrective work.

Following a midmorning break, Dr. Xiaofan Luo of Polymaker discussed a new filament for FDM printers which actually outperform traditional wax compounds used to create ceramic casts in the metal casting process. He was followed by Dr. Jaekeun Hong, a senior researcher at the Korean Institute of Materials Science (KIMS) who also focused on metal 3D printing, but rather his talk sought to educate attendees on the various methods by which metal powders used in the printers is actually made. 

After lunch, Michael Kenworthy from Honeywell spoke about AM use in the aerospace industry. He was followed by Choongshig Shin of Hanwha Techwin, a Korean security and aerospace company, who also spoke about advances in the aerospace field as it relates to the newest AM methods. Next came Collin Wilkerson, managing director of Western Tool & Mold, an aircraft component supplier based in Hong Kong. He spoke about his company’s recent decision to utilise AM in the production of their products, specifically his company’s recent purchase of Stratasys Fortus machines and how they are, and will, implement them.

Following the final coffee break of the day, Professor Jy Jeng of the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology spoke about a wide range of topics, but focused on hybrid AM technology. This is the combination of additive and subtractive manufacturing processes for the fabrication of a final product. And Jonghyuk Kim of Hyundai Wiarounded out the day by also speaking about hybrid fabrication, and took the opportunity to announce that his company has just developed a new hybrid machine. I am sure we’ll be hearing more about that soon.

The first day concluded at 5pm, with attendees going off in all directions. Some went over to the MATOF exhibition, some out to explore the local restaurants and night life, and others, such as myself, went over to the beautiful Pullman Hotel to check in. Fortunately, the hotel, along with a collection of specialty shops and an upscale shopping mall, is next door to the CECO exhibition hall. After a quick dinner, it was up to my room to unpack the information I had collected that day, and to prepare for the next morning.

                                                                       Mark Lee/ 3D Printing in East Asia

Day two started off with a fast buffet breakfast and cup of coffee in the hotel’s restaurant, then it was off to the forum. The conference opened with a presentation by Dr. Johannes Witzel of the Frauhofer Institute for Laser Technology in Germany. He spoke about the current commercial forms of laser-based additive manufacturing (LAM) and highlighted several areas of research, including newer experiments into the use of Laser-induced Forward Transfer (LiFT) techniques in 3D metal printing. He also cautioned the audience that we, as industry professionals, have a duty to try and keep popular hype about our work under control so as not to build unrealistic expectations in the public. A message that clearly needs to be repeated frequently, as it IS very easy for the public to get overly excited about the technological progress being made, but which in the long term can actually harm our efforts to move the technology forward.

Dr. David Bourell of the University of Texas at Austin spoke next. Being a professor of mechanical engineering and material sciences, he gave a highly detailed history of AM techniques and how computers allowed those original ideas to bloom into the AM processes we know today. He then spoke about his work as Director of the Laboratory for Freeform Fabrication (LFF), as well as some of the basics economics of AM versus traditional manufacturing techniques. Following the conclusion of Dr. Bourell’s talk, the conference broke for a morning coffee break.

When the conference resumed Kevin Zhang, a Senior Lecturer at China’s Beihang University, took to the podium to discuss the newest developments in 3D metal printing and the processes of taking these developments from the R&D phase into actual industrial production. He was followed by Dr. Young Seok Song of Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction who spoke about the use of 3D printing in the design and fabrication of power plants for the technology’s design flexibility and ability to improve thermal efficiency. He noted the many challenges to adopting the technology into this area of heavy industry and Doosan’s efforts to meet those challenges.

The early afternoon session focused on the automotive industry, so Oerlikon’s Brian Jung spoke about the newest applications and advantages AM offers the automotive industry. He discussed a recent design project his company was involved in creating a specialised wheel carrier, ventilated disk brake, and a flow-optimised cool plate for race cars. Shinhu Cho of Hyundai Motors Advanced Materials Research Team then spoke about the need for newer and more specialised materials for automotive applications, and some of the promising areas his team is looking at currently. He also spoke about the current limits of AM in his industry and shared some ideas on ways of overcoming those limitations in the near future.

After the final coffee break of the day, Dr. Seung Kwon Seol of the Korean Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) shared some results from his latest research into 3D printable electronics. I actually interviewed him back in October of 2015 about a breakthrough his lab had made in the area of 3D nano-printing for electronic applications. In this talk he discussed the advances his team has made which allows 3D micro and nano-scale structures to be printed on three-dimensional surfaces at room temperature, which will allow the creation of techniques to print a variety of conductive materials directly. As an interesting aside, we learned that the technology he helped to develop is being transferred to Daegun Tech, a 3D printer manufacturer in Changwon, for commercial development.

Source: TCT Magazine