By William Cho, via Wikimedia Commons
The Far East is a considerable contender for the North America's 3D printing power-region crown, but commentators often single out China as being the force behind this global industry shift.
However, Singapore has thrown its hat in the ring, as Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has ramped up its 3D printing and additive manufacturing research and development by announcing a brand new $30 million (£18.86 million) centre devoted to the technology.
The new NTU centre is supported by Singapore's Economic Development Board and will feature the latest 3D printing machines, laser-aided machines for building metal parts and objects for industry, as well as bioprinters that can 3D print human tissue.
Therefore, life-saving body parts such as skin, heart tissue and corneas could be just a click away when the new NTU is up and running.
The 300 sq m 3D printing hub will work closely with the manufacturing industry on research and development projects concerning new materials, software and the processes leading to the technology's commercial applications.
As its first initiative to garner more interest in 3D printing and additive manufacturing from students and the general public, NTU will play host to Singapore's very first international 3D printing competition with top prizes coming in a $10,000 apiece. The Singapore International 3D Printing Competitions 2013 features two categories: one for wearable, modern fashion; and the other for designing the abacus. Even though they are worlds apart, these two categories were conceptualised to reflect the diverse range of cultures Singapore is home to.
The competition is being held by the centre in partnership with NTU's School of Art, Design and Media and is open now to both local and international participants and will close on November 1st 2013.
Chair of NTU's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Prof Chua Chee Kai will become the Director of the new 3D printing centre.
He stated: "The NTU Additive Manufacturing Centre will be keeping Singapore at the forefront of 3D printing technology, developing capabilities not yet available elsewhere in the world.
"Due to its ability to address volatile industrial demands and because it can adapt easily with evolving technological trends, Additive Manufacturing is the optimal choice of technology in today’s knowledge-based economy."
Assistant Managing Director of the Economic Development Board Julian Ho added: "The NTU Additive Manufacturing Centre builds on NTU's strong research and development capabilities to grow a competitive additive manufacturing industry in Singapore. By training students and collaborating with industry on research and development, we hope the centre will enable companies in Singapore to take advantage of this exciting technology as they develop better products. In the longer term, we see Additive Manufacturing as one of the disruptive technologies which will ensure that our manufacturing industry remains globally competitive."
Advanced manufacturing techniques including additive manufacturing and 3D printing have been singled out as a major growth opportunity for Singapore's manufacturing sector, which is a key driver for expansion accounting for more than one-fifth (22 per cent) of the country's GDP.
Moreover, at the recent National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong announced hat EDB will ring-fence $500 million over the next five years to support a Future of Manufacturing plan that will develop new and disruptive technologies such as additive manufacturing.
The establishment of the NTU Additive Manufacturing Centre is, therefore, timely due to the fact it aims to address an increasing trend in the development and use of additive manufacturing in major industries including oil and gas, aerospace, automotive and bioengineering. Future applications also include the printing of organs and tissue, food printing and hybrid manufacturing.
As well as spearheading cutting-edge research, the centre will groom engineering talents and source manpower for the industry placing Singapore's next generation on the front line of 3D printing as it evolves. It will have hundreds of researchers and scientists working on dozens of new projects.
Undergraduates will also benefit from NTU's drive to push 3D printing into the public consciousness and the curriculum, as they will be able to gain practical industry knowhow when they work on additive manufacturing-related Final Year Projects or through the NTU's Undergraduate Research Experience on campus programme, which allows students to pursue independent research under the supervision of a professor.