Ultra Clean Asia Pacific opens region’s largest commercial 3D printing facility

South-east Asia just saw the largest commercial 3D printing facility in the region open today when ­Ultra Clean Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd (UCT) announced its newest production factory in Singapore. This opening of the UCT Additive Manufacturing Centre is aimed to supply the aerospace, dental and medical industries, but also plans to provide consumer services.

Today Online reports that the facility is massive in scale, cost more than $3.5 million to establish, and houses 15 sets of 3D printers. The facility currently employs 12 people but the company plans to double that number by next year.

UCT is a Nasdaq-listed company with a great deal of experience in 3D printing. The company was founded in Japan in 1991 and initially affiliated with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation before splitting off in 2004. Even before the establishment of this manufactory, UCT supplied a wide variety of 3D printing options including FDM 3D printing, SLA and SLS metal 3D printing, DMLS (direct metal laser sintering), Poly jet modeling, wax jetting, stereolithography and full color powder binding.

A company in the United States who provide very the similar 3D printing service, Shapeways, Inc., recently released an infographic that describes many of the above 3D printing techniques and how they fit into the industry.

“The establishment of UCT’s ­additive manufacturing facility ­reflects Singapore’s progression ­towards advanced manufacturing and engineering,” said Mr Lim Kok Kiang, Assistant Managing Director of the Singapore Economic Development Board, which supports the facility.

“Companies can tap on Singapore’s base of skilled engineering talent, ­industry-focused public research and development ecosystem … to ­develop better products and services to serve their growing Asian customer base.”

The Singapore government has placed quite a stake in “the future of manufacturing” and announced plans in 2013 to inject $350 million into the industry over five years. This future of manufacturing also includes an interest in 3D printing.

Today Online also reports that retail shops in Singapore have seen an increase in requests from customers seeking to print products from figurines to jewelry.

The commercial market for 3D printing

While 3D printing has numerous uses for rapidly creating customized items for consumers–for fashion, jewelry, toys, etc.–there is also a commercial market for 3D printing that involves rapid prototyping and the production of varied parts to speed manufacturing.

With the unveiling of the UCT Additive Manufacturing Centre the company hopes to provide on-demand services for companies who want to quickly prototype products, produce limited lines of particular parts rapidly, or even act as a production facility for a catalog of products that could be printed as demand provided. Of course this facility could also provide mass scale manufacturing of customized consumer components.

In many ways 3D printing can change the way that supply-chain works for companies that require short runs of particular parts or product types. In 2014, independent analysis company Canalys predicted a $16.2 billion market in 3D printing by 2018 driven by the falling cost of printing compared to the logistics of fabricating and shipping from traditional factories. This was cited by The Guardian in 2014 about how 3D printing could begin to disrupt traditional logistics and supply chains.

The new UCT facility is exactly that: a custom part manufacturing facility that sits closer to SE Asia industry. This means that companies in the region could task needs through 3D printing locally than potentially reaching out over seas or using facilities that need weeks or months to be re-tasked for specific manufacturing. With 3D printing services it’s possible to retask instantly–with literally a few keypresses and uploaded files a batch of 3D printers can be set on printing the next run.

Featured image credit: Pixabay

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