Submicron lathe breakthrough made

By Chen Chien-chih and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - Page 4

A mechanical engineering associate professor at the National Chin Yi University of Technology recently made a breakthrough in the country’s machine tool industry by manufacturing the first Taiwan-made hydrostatic guideway for a submicron-precision lathe.

The component plays an integral part in the production of a prototype submicron precision lathe unveiled by the school on Wednesday, with other major constituents also produced by Taiwanese firms.

Tsai Kuo-ming (蔡國銘), an associate professor at the Taichung school’s department of mechanical engineering who led the effort to built the hydrostatic guideway, said submicron-precision lathes are commonly used to produce parts of high-precision electronic devises, such as optical lenses.

Hsieh Chung-yu (謝忠祐), director at the school’s Advancement Center of Precision Manufacturing and Material Application, said the reason for their determination to construct a submicron precision lathe assembled from domestically made components, was the high maintenance costs and price of ultra-precision lathes imported from the US or Japan.

“The school had spent more than NT$8 million [US$275,000] purchasing an ultra-precision lathe from a US-based firm. However, because most of its major parts, such as the spindle, are restricted items in Taiwan, repairing the machine could cost as much as NT$1 million and take up to three months,” Hsieh said.

In an effort to address the country’s component supply challenges, Tsai decided to plunge into research on the manufacturing of hydrostatic guideways and pledged to build one in Taiwan, a goal he achieved after five years, Hsieh said, adding that Tsai has already received a patent on his manufacturing technology.

Tsai said that as Taiwan has had the ability to produce controllers and positioning measurement systems, the first Taiwan-made submicron precision lathe could hit the market next year for only NT$1.8 million.