Author: Yanwei Lin(林彥維)
The popularity of superheroes has swept across the world, especially the recent fight between Captain America and Iron Man. Underneath the armor, Tony Stark is a billionaire, genius, egomaniac, and also an impressive maker. He researched and made everything from armor to AI all by himself. The Mark I suit was even made while he was hiding in a cave with limited resources. He has indeed the wild imagination and the will to take actions makers in real life possess.
There is a group of people in Taiwan who formed the League of Iron Makers, aiming to make a real Iron Man with the power of the makers. They are not only doing this to look cool, their initiative is to make the world a better place! In this “Maker x Localized Manufacturing” project, we took the chance to explore their base of operation in Taoyuan, the Shiin Shern Co., Ltd.
On May 12th, when the new moon had just risen, we the visitors traveled through the intersecting paths of the field and arrived at the factory of Shiin Shern. At a glance, the factory looked tall and was built with sheet metal. Under the roof, “Safety First” signs were pasted all over the walls. The owner led us through a passage with various models of huge CNC milling machines on both sides that were still working. Beside these machines, there were barrels of raw metal, dust and arrays of complete products. Such a dazzling sight proves that the company has a high versatility of customer orders. To quote the proud owner of the company, Mr. Peilong Zhang(張沛隆), “there is nothing you can think of that I can’t make.”
League founded, located a Shiin Shern
What can Shiin Shern offer? As a professional CNC factory, their daily agenda is to make parts and units for industrial equipment, but from the big kennel they made for Mr. Zhang’s cat, you can tell that there really isn’t anything they can’t make. Whether it’s the price quotes for consumables or the flexibility and skill in production, Shiin Shern will always stand out among all the factories in Northern Taiwan.
The most attractive thing to the makers has got to be the small-volume, flexible manufacturing. For the factory, there will always be useless pieces of metal like spatulas, or copper strips that are going to be recycled anyway, but are still good material for the makers. Shiin Shern is more than willing to give them to the makers for much better purposes.
Speaking of the relationship between Shiin Shern and the makers, the story of the League of Iron Makers has to be brought up. Its founder Greg used to work at HTC, and he left because he couldn’t put up with the business model of blind cost control in favor of profit. He decided to go for creations of value instead of cost, thus the League of Iron Makers was born. With the referral from an old colleague at HTC, Mr. Ye(葉大), Greg got the chance to ally and reach a consensus with Shiin Shern, and made the factory their community base. They hope to improve the society and create technology of value, one step at at time, starting with the Iron Man helmet.
Mr. Ye shared with us his observation on the cultural differences of the makers of Taiwan and America, the most notable of them all is that Taiwanese makers prefer wood, while American makers prefer metal. It’s not hard to understand, wood is cheap and easy to work with, but this also means that Taiwanese makers still don’t get enough resources, and outside help.
“When countries with rich resources and equipment like America and Japan are already doing all sorts of challenges, like making strong robots, Taiwanese makers are still doing only the basic things with much lowered standards.” Said Mr. Ye. This is exactly why the League of Iron Makers is here, they want to raise the standards of their goals, so that more enthusiastic makers will join them, and accomplish the challenges with them.
Going for value, surpass the world
Greg thinks that going for value, instead of cost, is the key to get ahead of the world. The league has recently invested in researching the Firefighting Mark suit, and it is likely to get ahead of the world. This suit aims to protect the firefighters, and there will be tubes inside it to allow water to circulate and dissipate heat. Liquid nitrogen will be used at the same time for cooling. During the process, the pressure produced will also be transformed into energy, giving the firefighters more protection at the fire scene, and even the ability to move large obstacles.
Among the partners working on the Firefighting Mark, there is someone from the world leading supplier of titanium back panel, that is Mr. Minyan Liao(廖泯諺) of Fengyilong(豐義隆). He shared with us a lot on how Taiwan should compete with the world and his opinions on teamwork.
Both Fengyilong and Shiin Shern are located in Zhongli, Taoyuan, and they have been working very closely for a while. There was a time the titanium back panels they made together took up about 80% of the global sales. Even though their technology has been imitated by other companies causing their market share to drop, they are still in the leading position.
Mr. Liao has an interesting observation, he took Taiwan’s high species diversity as an example to explain why Taiwan should theoretically have abundant versatility in various areas, because of its high density in both population and resources. He believes that this is the best tool against large scale, one-off productions. He also took his own titanium back panel experience as example, to encourage everybody to be brave. Titanium back panel was extremely difficult to design, but eventually he still did it and mass produced it.
“Innovation is always going to be difficult, the key to success depends on your persistence.” Said Liao, “With today’s technology, as long as we bring everybody together, we’ll have a better chance to overcome difficulties, and get ahead of the world.”
Whether it’s the Iron Man helmet or the Firefighting Mark, it is still quite far from becoming reality, but these people showed no sign of doubt in their words and expressions at all. They still have a series of fascinating projects coming up, for example blowing up bricks from 15 meters away with a railgun is in their schedule, awaiting their research, production and implementation.
The League of Iron Makers welcomes new partners in the future, and as the company that runs the base, Shiin Shern also welcomes independent makers or creative companies that can bring along their design plans to join them. They even announced shortly after our visit, that in the areas of robots and energy conduction, as long as it’s for academic purposes or non-commercial works from makers, once approved, you can use the equipment of Shiin Shern for your works. This is indeed a tremendous resource and backup for the makers.
Hand in hand, the dream is just ahead
While us visitors were introducing ourselves to one another, we found out that we are all from different backgrounds, we have financial management, capital assistance, project management, hardware design and software engineering. It seems that all it takes is someone to just say the word, and a project team is there right away.
As the visit came to an end, the sight of everybody exchanging thoughts and business cards has proven to a certain extent that, it is important to have dreams, but more importantly, you have to go after them and find partners along the way. These are the factors that can make your dreams come true, and this is exactly what the “Maker x Localized Manufacturing” project is about. Through this project, factories and makers can meet and spark something beautiful, creating the value that can change Taiwan and touch the world.
There is something else about Tony Stark though, he is too egoistic to mention the name Ho Yinsen, the man who helped Tony made the first Iron Man.
Because of him, and the teamwork, Iron Man gets to fly out of the cave and shock the entire world.
This article is a repost from MakerPRO a social media platform for makers