IAA spoke with Lim Boon Choon, president of ASEAN, Korea, and India, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence on the recent opening of his company’s innovation centre in Singapore and their future plans for the region.
The new centre, fitted with a range of advanced hardware and software technologies, will help drive the regional shift towards autonomous smart manufacturing over the coming years, with many industries and governments pushing for digitalisation.
Furthermore, current events, such as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have only accelerated such shifts.
IAA spoke with Lim Boon Choon, president of ASEAN, Korea, and India, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, on the shift towards autonomous manufacturing and the opening of their new regional Smart Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Singapore.
Q: What are the priorities of the Smart Manufacturing innovation Centre?
Lim Boon Choon (LBC): I think our number one priority is to really be able to help customers. That means that the solutions that we are developing are designed to make it such that we integrate either production with metrology, production with design, or metrology with design and show how this workflow can improve the customer’s time to market and improve their product quality. That is our priority. To make a real difference to the customer’s production.
Q: More broadly, how do you plan on helping more regional manufacturers embrace Industry 4.0 solutions in their operations?
LBC: I think there are a few areas. One is getting the network. That is why partnerships are important. As such, getting into the network that people know that hexagon has this capability and has this service to support them.
Getting into the network also means, for example, helping the institutions like Singapore’s Nanyang Poly, Republic Poly and so on, and implementing their own versions of things like this.
We have programmes to help them. And we are also helping them in terms of the adult learning courses. We are also willing to give them our materials and so on, so that they can teach their students, they can teach the adults who are going there for advanced degrees or advanced diplomas.
Q: What are your plans for growth in Southeast Asia?
LBC: Southeast Asia is a very important area for us. Many Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even US companies are investing in manufacturing in this area.
Even though we see some level of reshoring for some of these countries, we are seeing a lot of movement of manufacturing into this region, but clearly, like Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, and with the last few years, the trade war between China and the US.
We also see a movement of mobile phone manufacturing moving from China into India into Vietnam into Thailand. As such, it is very important for us.
And that is one of the reasons why we are making more investments over here. Besides this innovation centre we are also hiring people for AI, developing this region into a Super Hub.
Singapore will be the first, and then we are going to try to duplicate these things in the other countries and replicate in Southeast Asia.
Q: You develop the technology behind autonomous vehicles, as well as, for example, 3D printing and that sort of manufacturing process. What is the breadth of your production expertise?
LBC: At hexagon manufacturing intelligence, we start off from the design part, where from the CAD drawing we can do the whole Computer Aided Engineering simulations for different kinds of materials and so on.
Then we also simulate the production process and how the part reacts in the different kinds of welding environments, and different kinds of production environments.
We also simulate the CNC machining, and we help the CNC makers do a better machining of their parts. And then the final quality inspection. We also have the quality management software that tracks what is happening to all the parts. We even have AI that allows the customers to try to optimise the use of their cutting tools.
All of these things are all integrated into one. This is our differentiation because we have many competitors and some of the competitors are good at software simulations, and some of the competitors are good at some measurements.
We like to believe that by combining these things, we can offer customers a new value proposition. For example, if they want to do Additive Manufacturing, they can simulate the printing before they print, so they do not waste their time and money.
As such, you simulate, make sure that it is good, then you print it. From there you can check your final product using our hexagon equipment as well.
We even have software that is used on 80 percent of the industrial city machines. It is a software called volume graphics. That software would also look into the interior structure of what you have printed to see whether it is strong enough, good enough, etc.
Q: In addition to autonomous manufacturing, you are also involved In autonomous vehicles and equipment such as LIDAR sensors and the software behind that, do you build those components as well?
LBC: In terms of autonomous driving. We are very often used by many of the companies doing autonomous driving. For example in Singapore, we are strongly involved with Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
We provide the software to simulate how the car will perform under different road conditions. We also have scanners coming from the Leica side, looking at the environment, looking at geospatial information on the maps etc. All of this is also Hexagon technology.
Q: I understand the automotive market is a very big market for Hexagon. In particular, the Electric Vehicle (EV) market is growing rapidly. How is your technology helping manufacturers in this space?
LBC: Yes. The automotive market is a very big market for us. We all know that EVs are the trend now. A lot of companies are going into EVs now. They have some challenges in terms of, for example battery production, and how to make sure the vehicles are safe, and that they last as long as possible.
Our solutions are being used by some of these battery manufacturers. Of course, in the EV car, the drive train, the motors and all those things have to be efficient.
Q: In terms of Southeast Asia, what are some of the challenges and prospects for autonomous vehicles, and e-mobility solutions more broadly?
LBC: In terms of autonomous vehicles, I see this as still at a very early point. Singapore is ahead in terms of testing in certain restricted places like in NTU with their autonomous buses and so on.
It is a very challenging environment to try to deploy this anywhere without restriction. And especially if you want to try and mix it with other cars that are not autonomous. As such, I see that as still early days yet, but EVs are definitely moving ahead.
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