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Old Posted Jun 1, 2018, 6:13 AM
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Kaohsiung unveils first medical 3D printing cluster

By Lin Chia-nan / Staff reporter, in Kaohsiung

A man operates a 3D printing machine at Tongtai Machine and Tool Co’s factory in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District yesterday.
Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Hsu Yu-chin, second left, visits the Industrial Technology Research Institute’s Factory of Intelligent Additive Manufacturing Medical Devices (FoiAM) in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District yesterday.
Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times

The nation’s first 3D printing industrial cluster for medical devices has taken shape in Kaohsiung, the Ministry of Science and Technology said yesterday, adding that medical devices for body parts from head to toe can be created there.

The ministry in December last year unveiled the first demonstration site for 3D-printed medical devices and smart manufacturing at the Southern Taiwan Science Park’s (南部科學工業園) branch campus in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District (路竹).

The Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 12 launched a set of guidelines governing 3D-printed medical devices, making Taiwan the first Asian nation to establish regulations on such devices, the ministry said.

The ministry is this year to help local medical device developers obtain ISO 13485:2016 certification, which specifies requirements for medical devices, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Hsu Yu-chin (許有進) said.

There are 54 medical device developers at the science park, which has a campus in Tainan and another in Kaohsiung, with more than NT$9.28 billion (US$310.1 million) invested, the Southern Taiwan Science Park Bureau said.

The Kaohsiung campus has attracted key players in 3D printing and medical devices, such as dental implant maker Alliance Global Technology Co (全球安聯), joint prosthesis maker United Orthopedic Corp (聯合骨科) and machine manufacturer Tongtai Machine and Tool Co (東台精機), the ministry said.

Medical devices — especially dental implants — are one of the most popular applications for 3D printing, which can produce customized devices, Tongtai chairman Yen Jui-hsiung (嚴瑞雄) said.

While 3D printing cannot replace all traditional methods of manufacturing, it can boost the efficiency of materials, such as making aircraft components lighter or shoe soles more elastic by using printing powders made of different materials, he said.

While the aerospace industry has proven to be a niche market for 3D printing in other nations, Taiwan still lacks “bolder” industrial designers, as well as investors who are willing to support designers with groundbreaking ideas, he added.

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