SIMTech-NUS to Launch Joint Labs in Natural Fibre Composites and Large Format Machining

A*STAR SIMTech and NUS Faculty of Engineering have launched two joint labs in Natural Fibre Composites and Large Format Machining to boost R&D in manufacturing and support the local industry needs. New scholarships are being provided to develop talent for these labs.

The Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering jointly inked an agreement today to launch two Joint Labs, in the areas of Natural Fibre Composites and Large Format Machining, to move the local precision engineering industry into high value-added manufacturing.

This collaboration builds capabilities and develops technologies to help the complex equipment, aerospace, and marine & offshore clusters. The SIMTech-NUS Joint Labs also serve as platforms to nurture R&D manpower for industry, transforming them into centres of excellence in their respective technical areas to benefit more industry sectors. Twenty PhD scholarships will be provided to develop R&D talent for manufacturing research conducted in the Joint Labs.

Dr Lim Ser Yong, Executive Director of SIMTech said, "The Joint Labs with NUS are long-term collaborations to conduct systematic fundamental research on specific research themes to develop advanced manufacturing technology in SIMTech. The Joint Labs in Natural Fibre Composites and Large Format Machining will help to build the foundation of a robust track record in the thematic areas of practical industrial significance, advancing research and honing the skills of R&D manpower for the local manufacturing industry."

Said Professor Chan Eng Soon, Dean, NUS Faculty of Engineering, "We are pleased to have this opportunity to help in nurturing a pool of R&D talent contributing to Singapore's value-added manufacturing."

Harnessing Materials Science to Boost Manufacturing

Combining expertise in materials science and engineering, and materials processing and manufacturing, is essential in the development of cost effective manufacturing of high performance natural fibre composites for high-tech applications. The use of fibres such as flax, hemp, jute or sisal in the composites industry are currently limited by the availability of a durable semi-finished product or structural component with consistent quality for high-precision and load-bearing applications.

With NUS' expertise and SIMTech's experience, the Natural Fibre Composites Joint Lab can contribute to manufacturing R&D and meet the demands for natural fibre market as it is expected to grow with a cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11 per cent over the next five years, due to the need for light-weight, cost-effective products and push for sustainability[1].

The SIMTech research team has been working on natural fibre composites since 2009, building its expertise working with various natural plant fibres such as woodfibre, sisal, flax, jute, kenaf and nano-cellulose to develop composite materials for applications in the construction, automobile and food packaging industries. The NUS Engineering team, comprising staff from the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, have been focusing on resin formulation, surface modification, composite structure fabrication, simulation and characterisation.

Enhancing Machining for Precision Engineering

1. Source: 2011 Lucintel Report

With the growing demand for machining from the aerospace, oil and gas and medical devices industry, the Global Machine Tools and Cutting Tools Market report in 2013 by Frost & Sullivan revealed an annual market revenue growth of US$15.72 billion in 2012, and forecasts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2 percent over the next five years.

The Large Format Machining Joint Lab, which includes expertise in machining and tool development, complex parts machining strategy and in-situ machining process monitoring from SIMTech and the Department of Mechanical Engineering of NUS respectively, provides comprehensive fundamental and applied research to support local industry needs.

The Joint Lab will tackle the challenges faced by the industry such as distortion, inaccuracy, high aspect ratio, and harsh working environments that can cause tool failures in the machining of large and complex components, mainly on difficult-to-machine alloys for various marine, oil & gas and aerospace applications. As such, the Joint Lab aims to be a leading research centre in large format machining science and technology, training the future workforce to support high value machining of large parts with complex surfaces, high precision thin-walled structures over large areas and machined features with extremely high aspect ratios.

This lab focuses on the development of cutting-edge technologies and competencies enhancing the competencies of local precision manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul companies. This will increase Singapore's economic competitiveness through the localisation of high value manufacturing of large and complex parts.


Annex A - Technologies developed in the Joint Labs

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector agency that fosters world-class scientific research and talent to drive economic growth and transform Singapore into a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy.

In line with its mission-oriented mandate, A*STAR spearheads research and development in fields that are essential to growing Singapore's manufacturing sector and catalysing new growth industries. A*STAR supports these economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry.

A*STAR oversees 18 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research entities, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis, as well as their vicinity. These two R&D hubs house a bustling and diverse community of local and international research scientists and engineers from A*STAR's research entities as well as a growing number of corporate laboratories.

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About the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology

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.

For more information, please visit

About the National University of Singapore

A leading global university centred in Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore's flagship university, which offers a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise.

NUS has 16 faculties and schools across three campuses. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 37,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.

NUS has three Research Centres of Excellence (RCE) and 23 university-level research institutes and centres. It is also a partner in Singapore's fifth RCE. NUS shares a close affiliation with 16 national-level research institutes and centres. Research activities are strategic and robust, and NUS is well-known for its research strengths in engineering, life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences and natural sciences. It also strives to create a supportive and innovative environment to promote creative enterprise within its community.

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1. The Joint Lab in Natural Fibre Composites

To support growing industry applications, this Joint Lab develops manufacturing technologies such as:

  • effective fabrication process for structural thermoset natural fibre composites
  • surface modification technology
  • hybrid natural fibre composites fabrication technology
  • biodegradable polymer-based natural fibre composites compounding technology, design, fabrication and simulation for applications.

The Joint Lab aims to:

  • reduce processing costs and to improve the quality, consistency, and efficiency of natural fibre composites used in manufacturing
  • increase the sustainability of composite materials, their manufacturing processes, the products, and ultimately the businesses that use them
  • develop manufacturing technologies for economic production of natural fibre composites, understanding structure-processing-property relationships for performance customisation
  • design and fabricate novel and new natural fibre composites for emerging applications such as thermal and acoustic insulations.
  • catalyse the creation of a lead market for new technologies, products and services in Singapore that can create employment and growth by entering fast-growing worldwide markets with a competitive advantage.

2. The Joint Lab in Large Format Machining

The Joint Lab will focus on difficult-to-machine materials like super alloys which are mainly used in high temperature, high pressure and corrosive environment, and develop the following technologies such as:

  • high aspect ratio deep hole drilling
  • nonconventional and hybrid machining
  • knowledge-based 5-axis machining
  • machining with distortion-free or distortion compensation
  • in-situ process and tool condition monitoring

The Joint Lab aims to:

  • build up global competitive capability in Singapore on extremely high aspect ratio deep hole drilling of nickel alloys
  • develop smart machining technologies for large complex parts and to improve quality, consistency, accuracy and efficiency
  • create novel machining technologies on large material removal rate tackling on existing exotic materials and emerging advance materials
  • nurture advanced workforce on large format machining to support local industry
  • establish a full manufacturing supplier chain to foster high value-added new business and create employment locally


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