Taiwan makes bigger bet on machine tools

Jan. 13, 2011
A preview of the 15th Taipei International Machine Tool Show (TIMTOS 2011), to be held March 1 through March 6.

Taiwan, the world’s fourth largest machine-tool exporter after German, Japan, and Italy, is poised to be a bigger global player as its manufacturing capabilities become increasingly sophisticated. In its eyes, areas ripe for exporting machine tools are countries such as China, India, Malaysia, Viet Nam, and Turkey. And as prices rise in Japan and China, Taiwan expects to sell more machine components in those countries.

To that end, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry (TAMI) will host the 15th Taipei International Machine Tool Show (TIMTOS 2011), March 1 through March 6.

TAITRA President and CEO, Mr. Yuen-Chuan Chao says exhibition space for the huge show filled up in just a week. A total of 185 international exhibitors will come from countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, the U.S., Brazil, Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, Malaysia, China, and Hong Kong. The show will also feature many Taiwan exhibitors, including such manufacturers as Shieh Yih Machinery Industry Co. Ltd., Wele Mechatronic Co. Ltd., Ching Hung Machinery & Electric Industries Co. Ltd., Victor Taichung Machinery Works Co. Ltd., Soco Machinery Co. Ltd., Keyarrow Co. Ltd., Dahlih Machinery Industry Co. Ltd., Tailift Co. Ltd., and Yeong Chin Machinery Industries Co. Ltd.

Show organizers expect a total of 5,000 international and 42,000 Taiwanese visitors.

TAMI Machine Tool Committee Vice Chairman Mr. David Chaung said the total export value of the Taiwan machine tool industry from January to August 2010 hit $1.8 billion, 62.9% higher than the same period in 2009. Continues Chuang, “Without a doubt, the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China is this year’s big headline for the machine-tool industry.” The import tariff of machine tools to China is between 5% and 15%. ECFA this year selected 17 machine tool items for which duty will be eliminated. The agreement will also eliminate all custom duty within three years. “This should accelerate business exchange across the Formosa Strait and help companies lower their costs and boost international competitiveness,” he says. “There is a great demand in mainline China for smaller and cheaper tools.”

Taiwanese officials contend its machine tools are closing the technology gap with respect to those from Japan and Germany. The competitive edge: the price to performance ratio. Interestingly, for horizontal machines, Taiwan’s biggest competitors are Japan and Germany. But for vertical machines, the biggest competitors are within Taiwan itself.

Many Taiwanese machine-tool builders reside in the central part of the 400-km long, 144-km-wide country. One is Shieh Yih Machinery Industry in Taoyuan County. Many Taiwanese machine-tool builders started about 40 or 50 years ago. Shieh Yih opened its doors in 1962. The company has Hong Kong and U.S.-based subsidiaries and sells its turnkey stamping equipment and cold forging presses in over 40 countries. The company’s machinery makes use of servomotors instead of hydraulics, said to be the first major change in the Taiwanese metal-forming industry in years. The company estimates it produces about 3,000 units a year.

Wele Mechatronic in Hsinchu County is the only subsidiary of Toyoda (machine-tool builders for Toyota) that is not mostly owned by Japan. Wele has factories in Taiwan and China and builds machines including vertical, double-column, gantry-type, horizontal boring, and five-axis machining centers, with X axes ranging from I to 16 m and Y axes ranging from 0.50 to 5 m. Sample applications might include the rough, precision, and finish machining of parts for aerospace turbines from Titanium Ti-A61-4V and the machining of taper cones with roundness held to 5.4 µm. According to the company, it has dealers in all the major countries and sells under the Toyoda brand in the U.S. and Germany.

One of the biggest manufacturers of electrical discharge machining (EDM) equipment in Taiwan, Ching Hung Machinery & Electric Industries in Taichung, focuses on building CNC EDMs with programmable controllers that allow unmanned machining. At TITMOS, the company plans to feature its new EDM machines with linear motors rather than the usual ballscrew and ac motor. According to the company, it builds the CNC controller, software, and machines in-house as a way to control costs. The U.S. is the biggest market, followed by Korea, Brazil, and India. Ching Hung estimates it sells about 1,000 machines a year. Unfortunately, EDM machines are not yet one of the low-tariff products under the ECFA agreement.

Victor Taichung Machinery in Taichung is an unusual company because it is one of only two firms in Taiwan to have its own foundry. Unlike many Taiwanese companies that just assemble machines, Victor Taichung builds its CNC and injection-molding machines from the ground up, using its own castings and spindles. The company also uses the Japanese concept of multi-tasking machines, which do both milling and turning at the same time, on its own products.

Soco Machinery in Taichung says it was the first company in Taiwan to make laser cutting machines. The machines are sold to China, Brazil, and Russia for approximately $1 million each. The company also builds machines for tube and pipe cutting and forming, a niche market, says Soco. Tubular components go into products including chair frames, faucets, and cabinet handles. The company also developed an unusual machine that bends pipe and also cuts it to length, as well as a 12-axis tube bender, the use of which is said to save large amounts of stainless steel. Company representatives claim last year was their best ever.

For a company that has the concept of “lean” down cold, you would be hard-pressed to find one more efficient than Keyarrow in Taichung. It holds over a 95% market share in China for its metal horizontal-type sliding machine-tool covers, which protect the surroundings from oil and chips. Keyarrow President King Wang says the lean tactics arise from a time years ago when the company held large amounts of inventory that did not sell. Wang eventually took the seemingly risky step of eliminating the warehouse all together. Now the company fills orders in increments of, say, five units over a month’s time. The delivery deadline is still met, while Keyarrow fills open time with last-minute orders. This approach offers a lot of flexibility and lead time for a cover is now only four hours. All the components for a sliding cover travel with it as it progresses through production, so there is no need to keep a large inventory. Wang adds that workers themselves solve problems in the production line, and the company highly regards humbleness. Thus, among their other duties, production employees are even required to clean the toilets.

Dahlih Machinery in Taichung also makes multi-tasking machines, mostly for the die/mold industry, and recently sold two machines for making car components. It produces 70% of its machine tool components in-house, including the spindle, but uses Fanuc and Siemens controllers. It does about $50 million of business a year, selling everything through dealers in different countries including the U.S., Turkey, Malaysia, Brazil, and China. It also sells a lot of machines to manufacturers in Taiwan. The company keeps a collection of spare parts so it can send out a replacement part as quickly as the next business day.

Tailift in Taichung is the largest forklift manufacturer in Taiwan, building about 28,000 units per year. According to the company, it has always focused on quality, service, and price for its forklifts. New is the idea to make them ergonomic and “really cute.” Tailift is also the only company in Taiwan to build CNC turret presses and is the largest manufacturer in the country for radial drills. The company also manufactures press brakes.

Yeong Chin Machinery in Taichung is the biggest CNC manufacturer in Taiwan and, as such, seems high-tech. The company too has its own foundry. It builds its own spindles in a temperature-controlled room. Yeong Chin builds machines that run from 3,000 to 30,000 rpm. It sells globally and produces about 2,000 machines a year. It has developed a PC-based controller that allows real-time monitoring of the machine tools. The company prides itself on being “green” — for instance, the building handles some of its electricity demands with solar panels.


Authored by: Leslie Gordon, Senior Editor, [email protected]

TIMTOS 2011, http://www.timtos.com.tw
Shieh Yih Machinery Industry Co. Ltd., http://www.seyi.com.tw
Wele Mechatronic Co. Ltd., http://www.welegroup.com
Ching Hung Machinery & Electric Industries Co. Ltd., http://www.chmer.com
Victor Taichung Machinery Works Co. Ltd., www.or.com.tw
Soco Machinery Co. Ltd., www.soco.com.tw
Keyarrow Co. Ltd., http://www.keyarrow.com
Dahlih Machinery Industry Co. Ltd., http://www.dahlih.com.tw
Tailift Co. Ltd., http://www.tailift.com
Yeong Chin Machinery Industries Co. Ltd., http://www.ycmcnc.com

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