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Overcoming High-Precision Challenges in Manufacturing with Solid Quality as the Foundation

By Korbin Lan
Published: Nov 02,2018

Chien Wei Precise Technology Co., Ltd. is undoubtedly the leader of the Taiwanese tool industry, and this is especially true in the domain of precision manufacturing. They are one of the few tool and machinery companies capable of crossing over from the field of IC semiconductors to ultra-precision optics.

Their success naturally comes from their excellence and solid machinery performance; however, refining this quality-based approach to research and development is a part of their company culture, and the person who paved the way for this excellent company culture is Chien Wei Chairman and General Manager Lee Cong-lin.

In 1981, Lee Cong-lin single-handedly founded Chien Wei Precise Technology and 38 years later, the company has transformed from an OEM parts manufacturer to a precision measurement and processing provider and has also undergone the difficult transition from being a general tool machine company to entering the domain of semiconductors.

Chien Wei already has the capability of providing specialized materials for semiconductors, IC sealing molds, punching dies and ultra-precision optics, optical disc modules, two and three-dimensional precision measuring instruments, and fixture grinders.

The Foundation was Laid with Parts OEM Manufacturing

SmartAuto: Chien Wei started its business from parts OEM manufacturing; however, the company subsequently crossed over into providing highly advanced semiconductor equipment parts and precision measuring instruments. If I may ask, what kinds of intentions and ideas enabled Chien Wei to stand out from the crowd?

Figure 1 :   An Interview with Chien Wei Chairman and General Manager Lee Cong-lin
Figure 1 : An Interview with Chien Wei Chairman and General Manager Lee Cong-lin

Lee Cong-lin: Chien Wei began as an OEM, and at the time two major southern exporting zones in Cianjhen and Nanzih were the drivers of precision processing development.

At the time companies such as Kaohsiung Electronics, Philips, Hitachi, and Mabuchi Motor entered the Cianjhen Export Processing Zone, and all of them were manufacturers of IC packaging, electronic capacitors and small precision motors. Equipment and production based factors led to demand for molds and precision components.

Essentially, if you just had the courage to invest in equipment, there were endless orders, and this created a booming era.

This stable foundation coincided with the opportunity to be contracted to manufacture simple measuring equipment and gave rise to the idea of developing measuring instruments, and that is how Chien Wei entered that domain.

At the time, a lot of people were not optimistic about this, but I threw caution to the wind and moved forward and seized the booming opportunities of the times from projectors, tool measuring machines, and two-dimensional image measurements to three-dimensional image measurements. This is what drove the beginning of the instrument market in Taiwan.

In addition, I also knew that perpetually doing OEM work could not be a permanent plan, and we needed our own products and brand in order to have a long-term position in the market.

SmartAuto: Willingness to invest large amounts of human and capital expenditures for R&D in the long-term is relatively uncommon in the machine and tool industry in Taiwan. What is your focal point?

Lee Cong-lin: I started from scratch and lacked financial strength; however, I needed a good deal of funding to set up a factory. At the time all of the profits went into borrowing money, equipment and factory loans. Everything was invested back into the company, and I went without sleep every night. I went through a very difficult period.

I used my brain to solve problems and longed for the day when I could have my own products. As a result, I would consider using imitation to make the equipment and instruments that I couldn’t afford to purchase even if the accuracy was poorer.

At the time the idea was to have the two mutually-complementary endeavors of being an OEM and providing product R&D in parallel because after having our own products we would be able to freely develop.

However, to do these things it was necessary to rely on huge capital and research and development capabilities; therefore, it could only be achieved through gradual transformation. In addition to interest, I also had to rely on my perseverance and persistence in order to have today’s product lines.

Chien Wei is a technology-oriented company, and we can only rely on market trends to think about the future. In addition to having instrument products as our foundation, we have also developed coordinate grinding machines, gantry machining centers, and vertical grinding machines.

To date we have also developed autonomous internal and external gear grinders as well as automation and robotic arms for RV reducers and have spend a lot of capital. The objective is to help the company find good development prospects.

There are Limits to Manpower and Material Resources – Taiwan Must Enter Industry 4.0 Step by Step

SmartAuto: Looking the industry trends, Industry 4.0 is stimulating a transformation of Taiwan’s machine tool industry while also bringing about new opportunities for so-called “smart machinery.” How do you see the development of smart machinery. What is your response strategy?

Figure 2
Figure 2

Lee Cong-lin: Although the development of Industry 4.0 has brought shocks to the mechanical equipment industry in Taiwan, it has simultaneously brought hopes and opportunities. This is because Taiwan is largely comprised of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with relatively weak financial strength and insufficient factory equipment.

The mechanical equipment industry does not have the same abundant human and financial resources as the electronics industry. Consequently, it will take a long time to popularize the development of Industry 4.0. Spending money one step at a time and being cautious of being hurt is the current situation for SMEs in Taiwan.

Taking Chien Wei as an example, currently we can only carry out equipment automation to increase efficiency and make up for the lack of manpower. It will still take time to fully import smart network controls.

Smart Auto: At this point precision machinery has begun to enter the stage of "ultra precision" machinery and is faced with accuracy challenges. How can manufacturers and tool machine operators respond to these challenges?

Lee Cong-ling: Currently Chien Wei’s equipment and precision processing can only be regarded as μ level and could not be considered “ultra precision.” We will have to reach the level of “nano-precision” before we can be considered “ultra precision.”

In addition, with Chien Wei’s current conditions, we are unable to perform ultra-precision grade plant and instrument configuration. From my own personal perspective, at present, "super-precision" processing can not yet enter into many fields, and there is only market demand in specific areas. Nevertheless, investing a lot of manpower into research and development is a necessary investment that costs money, but there are unforeseeable future profits.

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