Taiwan's manufacturers of machining centers enjoyed robust growth in sales in 2011 despite the impact of the European sovereign debt crisis. And through the first half of this year most of them received enough orders to keep their production lines busy. And now they have also called for the inclusion of machining centers in the Cross-Taiwan Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement's (ECFA) early-harvest list, which would allow the machine-tool product to be shipped to China with a year-to-year reduction of customs duties.
Considering that many of their competitors have already established production facilities in China, inclusion in the early-harvest list would make domestic manufacturers of machining centers more competitive, according to an industry insider.
Designed and manufactured domestically, machining centers are one of the most sophisticated aspects of metalworking machinery. Vertical machining centers made in Taiwan have earned solid reputations worldwide through quality and production capability. Over the past year, some manufacturers have claimed that they improved production through changing to other metalworking categories such as CNC (computerized numerically controlled) milling machines and CNC lathes. Machining centers are produced in the center of the island where industries such as metal sheets, key components, and surface treatment services are also located, which helps domestic manufacturers roll out both vertical and horizontal models.
Instead of using PC (personal computer)-based CNC controllers, domestic manufacturers of machining centers prefer such well-renowned CNC devices as Fanuc, Mitsubishi and Siemens, known for their high-performance. Some veteran manufacturers admit that PC-based controllers are not so powerful and don't belong in sophisticated machining centers. In Taiwan, the competitive-price PC-based controllers are used mainly in plastic injection molding, woodworking, and some kinds of textile machinery since none of these require as much machining accuracy as do metalworking machines.
Taiwan exported US$1.272 billion worth of machining centers in the first 11 months of 2011, up 51.6% from US$839.692 million in the corresponding period of the preceding year, according to customs-cleared statistics compiled by the Taiwan Machine Tool Foundation (TMTF). In the opinion of TMTF, this amazing annual growth was due to the influx of orders from emerging markets, especially from mainland China.
According to TMTF, Taiwan imported US$86.391 million worth of machining centers from abroad in the first 11 months of 2011, up 82.1% year-on-year from US$47.444 million. After sluggish performances in 2009 and 2010 following the 2008 global financial tsunami, Taiwan's machine-tool industry experienced robust growth in both imports and exports in 2011.
TMTF CEO C.C. Wang said that during the past year domestic manufacturers of machining centers have seen a steep increase in their orders, which is expected to continue in the coming months. But despite the influx of orders from emerging markets, domestic manufacturers still encounter unfavorable operating factors including insufficient supplies of key components and accessories such as ball screws, CNC devices and cast iron. And these insufficient supplies of key components have caused many domestic manufacturers to prolong delivery time.
Improving Machine Models
The MVC-series box way vertical machining center developed by Charles
The Taiwanese manufacturer Charles Machine Industrial Co., Ltd., well experienced in the long-term development of CNC lathes, produces large machine tools and has rolled out vertical machining centers featuring box ways. The company recently introduced two new models of vertical machining centers equipped with linear guideways and asserts that it has increased its manufacturing skill to launch higher-end machining centers that meet the requirements of customers of industrialized nations.
Company General Manager Hsieh Ping-huang said that the newly introduced vertical machining centers process metal parts and make molds and automotive parts. Charles manufactures machining centers and CNC lathes and has CE mark and ISO9002 certifications.
According to the company, it has exported engine lathes, or traditional manual-operated models, to European markets for more than two decades, and it's also the top producer of engine lathes in Thailand.
The company exports products to major outlets such as mainland China, Latin America, the United States, Canada and Africa.
With a foundry wholly owned by the company, Charles completely controls production quality.
Hsieh said that regarding the quality of the machining centers it produces, Taiwan has an advantage over rival producers from neighboring countries. "Taiwan can supply key components such as precision spindles to fit the needs of machining center manufacturers," he said. Most of the company's machining centers exported to the mainland market are used by the automotive industry there.
Almost all of the key components used in machining centers can be developed in Taiwan, Hsieh said, except for CNC controllers that are manufactured by brands such as Mitsubishi, Fanuc, Fagor and Siemens.
In addition to CNC machine tools, Charles also supplies Meehanite- cast iron that is supplied mainly to the United States and Japan. "We have found that cast iron and machine frames exports help us achieve more profit margin than do the whole-set machine tools," Hsieh said.
The company recently introduced the machining center MVC-1160G, an innovative vertical box way manufactured with Meehanite cast iron, stress relieved, and combined with scientific rib reinforcement to ensure deformation-free operations. Maximum stability is ensured, especially during high-speed cutting, through increased width on the column bottom of the box-type structure.
High-Precision Machining Centers
The CNC double-column vertical machining center is designed by Campro especially for wider machining applications.
Founded in Taichung City in central Taiwan in 2003, Campro Precision Machinery Co., Ltd. is a machinery manufacturer created by a highly experienced R&D and management team. Currently the company specializes in the development and production of CNC horizontal lathes, CNC vertical machining centers, CNC double-column machining centers, and other types of high-precision machine tools. Although the company sells most of its products under the Campro brand, it also welcomes OEM/ODM (original equipment manufacturer/original design manufacturer) orders from abroad.
According to the company, all of its staffers have more than 20 years of experience in machinery R&D, production, quality control, marketing and after-sale services, and it is committed to research and continuous improvement. The company says it provides customers worldwide with diverse products thanks to its self-developed manufacturing technology.
Company President Kenny Tsai says that Campro currently distributes CNC horizontal lathes and CNC vertical machining centers and is capable of producing 15 to 20 CNC machine tools in Taiwan and another 12 in mainland China per month. Campro's machining centers have X-axis travel of 900mm to 2,200mm, and the 900mm X-axis travel model has become one of its most popular items.
Recently the company unveiled three new models: CQV (high-performance vertical machining center), CMV (high-speed mold making vertical machining center) and CPL (slant-bed type CNC precision lathe). All three of these models ensure top performance that provides its clients with a competing edge.
With the base of the machine reinforced by an A-type rib layout aimed at upgrading absorption capability of vibration and built on a box-type structure for excellent rigidity, the machine structure has been designed through the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) method and advanced three-dimensional software. The machine's counter-balance system is equipped with a guide rail for increasing stability and avoiding vibration during a high feed rate or rapid traverse, which ensures high machining accuracy.
With Taiwan as its R&D center, the company has extended operations to mainland China to better serve customers there, and across the Taiwan Strait Shanghai is the company's production and marketing center. And in China Campro has extended its business to Beijing municipality, Guangdong province and Chongqing of Sichuan province.
A year and half ago, the company moved production lines to a new factory with floor space of 12,000 square meters at the Taichung Precision Machinery Park in the Nantun District of Taichung City in central Taiwan that it fully owns. This modern factory will help it develop more state-of-the-art machine tools in the future, the company said.
Rigid Four-Box Way Vertical Model
The rigid four-box way vertical machining center produced by Benign.
Benign Enterprise Co., Ltd. has been supplying domestically made sophisticated machine tools since it was founded in 1975 and is one of Taiwan's most veteran traders of machine tools, relevant accessories and air tools. It supplies mainly machining centers, CNC lathes, drilling machines, milling machines and grinding machines.
Benign Vice President David Wu said that selecting high-precision machine tools to meet the special requirements of customers from around the world is one of the company's areas of expertise. Known for its Bemato brand, the company also helps customers source other items developed in Taiwan in addition to machine tools.
Depending on customers' requests, the company is capable of shipping products from either Taiwan or mainland China, and currently 93% of its goods are supplied from the island, with the rest shipping from China.
"Since domestic manufacturers of small-sized conventional machine tools have lost ground to China's competitors in terms of product prices, we have to ship some products from China," Wu said. "Currently, conventional machine tools made in China are priced 40% lower than those made in Taiwan."
"In contrast to manufacturers who focus on production, my company provides a variety of machine tools, and with decades of development we supply custom-made products to customers worldwide," Wu said.
Through cooperation with domestic satellite factories while making contracts with reliable medium and small-sized manufacturers for the supply of high-value-added machine tools, Benign has been successful in separating sales from production. An example of this is that the company has already shipped several models of five-axis machining centers to an Australian customer.
Insisting on consistent product quality has helped Benign develop a solid reputation in the global marketplace, the company said. And the company's technicians ensure 100% product quality by inspecting all ordered items before they are shipped.
After sluggish sales in 2009 following the 2008 global financial tsunami, Benign's sales started growing in 2010. "We'll also see sales growth this year because of the economic recovery worldwide," Wu said. "But I have predicted that in the next three years we won't reach the sales peak that we experienced in 1996 due to the global economy not having become strong enough yet."
The company has participated frequently in machine-tool exhibitions in Germany, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, Vietnam, Dubai and Russia.
Metal-Cutting Machine Tools
High-speed mini-type machining center developed by Primero.
Primero Machine Tools Corp. specializes in designing and manufacturing high-quality metal-cutting machine tools, including CNC milling machines, vertical machining centers and CNC lathes. It has the expertise to develop sophisticated machines for distribution worldwide, the company said.
With an in-house R&D team that provides innovative manufacturing ideas and technologies, the company is capable of providing customers with the professional and technical assistance that meet their needs.
All of the machines that Primero manufactures comply with strict international standards such as CE and EMC regulations. And the company has focused on quality-control procedures, including design, development, manufacturing and assembling.
The company recently launched a new product series: the KM-500L high-speed mini-type machining center with 550x400x400mm in X, Y, Z-axis travel. This machine features 24,000rpm in spindle speed with rapid federate of 48m/min and 0.8 seconds in tool change time.
(by Ben Shen)