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A*STAR SIMTech Nanotechnology in Manufacturing Initiative (NiMI) to Overcome Challenges to Tap Market Potential

Published on 2010-10-13. Author : SpecialChem

Singapore -- Thirteen companies, ranging from local enterprises to MNCs, in the areas of coating, instrumentation, materials, clean energy, testing, inspection and certification are members of the initiative to exploit new market opportunities in the global nanotechnology market worth more than US$ 2.4 trillion in 2015.

The Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), launch the Nanotechnology in Manufacturing Initiative (NiMI). Supported by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and SPRING Singapore, this initiative explores nano-materials for industry applications and addresses challenges in the adoption of nanotechnology for manufacturing. To date, 13 companies: 3M; CEL Coatings; Gaia Science; Haruna (S); K-Solar 3G Technologies; Pidilite Innovation Centre; PJI Contract; Shimadzu (Asia Pacific); Sunny Instruments Singapore; Toray Industries Inc; TÜV SÜD PSB; Vestas Technology R&D and Wangi Industrial are participating in the initiative.

Importance of Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology, which involves techniques to observe, manufacture, manipulate, evaluate and characterise particles to create new materials, enhanced functionalities and nano-products, revolutionises the way we make things. Impacting a myriad of industries from aerospace, automotive, chemical, energy and environment, food, information and communication, medicine and health care, security and transportation, nanotechnology offers many possibilities. It provides cheaper and cleaner energy, cleaner water, lighter and stronger materials, faster, more powerful and energy-efficient computer, exponential increase in information storage capacity, self-cleaning surface and reduction or elimination of pollution.

Market Potential and Challenges

Estimates of the global nanotechnology market in 2010 range from about US$ 15.7 billion to US$ 1 trillion. By 2015, the market worth is estimated to be more than US$ 2.4 trillion (Source: Nanotechnology: A Realistic Market Assessment; 1 July 2010; BCC Research). This underscores the importance of raising awareness of nanotechnology in Singapore, equipping the industry with the skill sets and know-how to handle the special instruments and adhere to the Environment, Health and Safety regulations. In the Nanotechnology in Manufacturing Roundtable Discussion in April 2010, participants from the manufacturing industry have highlighted the technological and engineering issues relating to scalability, quality and reliability of adopting nanotechnology in manufacturing, as well as the need for closer collaborations amongst the government, academic and industry players to bring down the high cost associated with nano-materials, special equipment and tooling.

Dr Lim Ser Yong, Executive Director of SIMTech, said, "SIMTech invests in this field of research for manufacturing enterprises to tap on the institute's existing know-how and infrastructure resources to stretch their limited resources and sharpen their capabilities. This initiative enables industry to partner with SIMTech in innovative R&D to develop value-added nano-materials and manufacturing processes to cope with nanotechnology in manufacturing to develop feasible and optimised high performance products with enhanced functionalities. The collaboration among government agencies, research institutes and industry in lowering the R&D development cost for industry accelerates the adoption of nanotechnology. Industry can then explore new grounds and venture into high-value and high-tech manufacturing, an avenue to grow and diversify the local manufacturing industry."

SIMTech has integrated nanotechnology in its research activities in manufacturing technologies. These encompass machining, joining, forming, and surface functionalities, as well as characterisation. Some examples are laser fabrication and nanobump arrays, lead-free nanofillers solder composite, powder injection moulding with nano-size fillers, superhard nanocomposite Physical Vapour Deposition coating and photocatalytic Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles coating.

PJI Contract Pte Ltd, a leading specialist in surface protection coatings for oil and gas and the pharmaceutical industries, licensed the SIMTech water soluble Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticle self-cleaning technology. The company has invested to commercialise the technology for functional application. One of SIMTech's researchers is seconded to assist PJI Contract in the production of the TiO2 solution.

About NiMI

NiMI aims to develop industry capabilities, enhance manufacturing competitiveness, and share knowledge and best practices in exploiting nanotechnology for manufacturing. NiMI will facilitate collaborations and synergise R&D efforts among industry partners. In its first phase, NiMI will focus on the application of nanotechnology in the processes of forming, joining and coating. Specifically, these translate into the development of high performance complex composites for automotive applications; large area carbon nanotube growth; development of lead-free solders with nano-fillers for use in the electronics industry; nano-adhesives for improved performance; nanocomposite physical vapour deposition coatings and modular-based profilometer, to name a few. Characterisation of nano-materials to observe, evaluate and test the structure and reliability of the materials is an important aspect of the initiative.

"NiMI will help enhance Singapore's nanotechnology ecosystem by providing a platform to bring the technology from the lab to market. By bringing the companies together at pre-competitive stage, NiMI will be able to tap on the resources of public and private sector in helping solve the pertinent manufacturing challenge faced by the industry," added Mr Bernard Nee, Executive Director, New Technologies, Singapore EDB.

"The NiMI initiative will enable the companies to leverage on each other's complementary strengths, to create commercially viable high-value nano-enabled products. This partnership will act as a springboard for the growing community of the Singapore-based nanotech cluster to add value to their existing manufacturing capabilities. IE Singapore will continue to support the growing nanotech clusters, to bring Singapore-made nano-enabled end-products to the global marketplace,'' said Reginald Wee, Group Director (Technology Business), IE Singapore.

The NiMI initiative aligns with the Government's renewed commitment of developing Singapore into one of the most research-intensive and entrepreneurial economies in the world and the push for closer partnerships between industry and research institutions (Source: Research Innovation Enterprise Council, 17 September 2010).

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

A*STAR is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovative-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences, and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and seven consortia & centres, which are located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis, as well as their immediate vicinity.

A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, hospitals, research centres, and with other local and international partners.

About the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech)

The Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) is a research institute of the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). SIMTech develops high value manufacturing technology and human capital to contribute to the competitiveness of the Singapore industry. It collaborates with multinational and local companies in the precision engineering, electronics, semiconductor, medical technology, aerospace, automotive, marine, logistics and other sectors.

About International Enterprise (IE) Singapore

International Enterprise (IE) Singapore is an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry spearheading the development of Singapore's external economic wing.

Our mission is to promote the overseas growth of Singapore-based enterprises and international trade. With a global network in over 30 locations and our "3C" framework of assistance - Connections, Competency, Capital, we offer services to help enterprises export, develop business capabilities, find overseas partners and enter new markets. At the same time, we work to position Singapore as a base for foreign businesses to expand into the region in partnership with Singapore-based companies.

About the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB)

EDB is the lead government agency responsible for planning and executing strategies to enhance Singapore's position as a global business centre and grow the Singapore economy. We dream, design and deliver solutions that create value for investors and companies in Singapore. In so doing, we generate economic opportunities and jobs for the people of Singapore; and help shape Singapore's economic future.

Source: A*star

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