cens logo

Digital Tools to Help Taiwan's Makers Better Survive in DIY Sector

Other makers have followed in Taiwan's footsteps

Dec 31, 2014 | By Steve Chuang


Digitization of hand tools has been an inevitable trend in the evolution of such products as computerization or information tech seems to take over greater control of everything from home appliances to cars. Taiwan hand tool makers, backed by the island's mature information tech  sector, are part of this evolution as they develop digital torque wrenches, screwdrivers and more. Such emerging trend is helping Taiwan's makers keep at bay rivals in China whose underselling capacity can be daunting. Also digital hand tools command better margins but require more advanced production technologies related to mechanical and electronic integration to ensure quality and reliability.

Digital hand tools is the answer for Taiwanese makers to take on the increasingly challenging global market for DIY (do it yourself) tools, where many competitors from China are succeeding by  dumping low-end but very cheap tools. China is reportedly the largest exporter of hand tools globally, with Germany and Taiwan trailing in No.2 and No.3, respectively.

To assist local manufacturers to go upmarket to fend off cut-throat competition, the Industrial Development Bureau under Ministry of Economic Affairs proposed a three-year project to  boost growth and development of traditional Taiwanese industries, for which ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute), a government-funded, non-profit R&D organization specializing in development of IT and electronic technologies, was commissioned to study and research upgrades of digital tools.

The project has been managed by Chen Chang-hsiung, product manager of Intelligent Machinery Technology Division of ITRI's Mechanical and Systems Research Laboratories. After three years of  development of high-end digital tools with higher added-value, Chen and the teammate Cho Chih-hua, ITRI's senior researcher specializing in electro-mechanical integration, were interviewed about the emerging sector and their research.

Chen Chang-hsiung, product manager of Intelligent Machinery Technology Division of ITRI’s Mechanical and Systems Research Laboratories, (left) and Cho Chih-hua, ITRI’s senior researcher and a member of Chen’s team, (right)Chen Chang-hsiung, product manager of Intelligent Machinery Technology Division of ITRI’s Mechanical and Systems Research Laboratories, (left) and Cho Chih-hua, ITRI’s senior researcher and a member of Chen’s team, (right)

Birthplace of Digital Tools
Showing Taiwan's first prototype of a digital torque wrench, Chen said ITRI is the birthplace of the digital tool sector and the sector evolved as consequence of Taiwan's mature development of hand tool and electronic manufacturing and IC (integrated circuit) design industries.

Inspired by popularization of  semiconductors in electronic devices, ITRI applied MEMS (micro electro mechanical system) chips to build Taiwan's first digital torque wrench in 2004, which consisted of a traditional mechanical model with tweaked  exterior and installed with a chip-integrated MEMS torque gauge.

Fabricated with nano-manufacturing process, MEMS integrates mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a silicon substrate that collects ambient data via measuring mechanical, thermal, biological, chemical, optical and magnetic phenomena precisely and accurately, hence assuring precise  torque due to being unaffected by ambient variations.

However, Chen conceded that  MEMS chip's prohibitive cost forced ITRI engineers to turn to  more economic alternative: strain gauge. Despite being a market failure, the first digital torque wrench clearly pointed ITRI towards development of the brand new product category, according to Chen.

Succeeding in applying strain gauges in digital torque wrenches and improving production methodologies with help of MIRDC (Metal Industries Research & Development Centre), ITRI developed several marketable models and invited 11 interested local hand tool companies to jointly set up Taiwan's first specialized maker of digital torque wrench, Eclatorq Technology Co., Ltd. in 2006.

The 11 shareholders, Re-Dai Precision, Sound Han, K&W Tools, J&K International, Proxene Tools, Savco, Tong Lee, Infar Industrial, Yih Cheng, William Tools and Quinn, of Eclatorq have received tech support from ITRI. Chen said that other  innovative hand tool makers as Stand Tools, Ke Hung, Matatakitoyo and Kabo Tool have followed in our footsteps to have given birth to digital tools in Taiwan.

ITRI developed the prototype of Taiwan’s first digital torque wrench.ITRI developed the prototype of Taiwan’s first digital torque wrench.

Built-in Bluetooth
To enhance functionality and added-value of digital tools, Chen's team has further tapped ITRI's cutting-edge know-how of IT to build digital modules with wireless data transmission via  Bluetooth to have developed a Bluetooth integrated module.

In charge of researching related technologies and developing the module, Cho said that application of Bluetooth is key to further enhancing digital tool's reliability, because the wireless technology enables daylong remote control of  torque applied to each digital torque wrench with such module, so incorrect torque is immediately detected and stored on computer.

Real-world experience tells us, he added, incorrectly torqued fasteners undermine structural strength to sometimes result in devastating accidents like airplane crashes. This is why we chose to  apply Bluetooth in digital tools so  deviations in torque due to either physical or operational error is minimized via remote control.  The module should boost Taiwan's status as digital tool expert, said Cho.

In addition to upgrading digital tool's functionality, the digital module facilitates mass production of digital tools and enhances qualitative consistency. The module is designed for most specifications of digital tools. In other words, manufacturers don't need to redesign and change specifications of existing models and hence can easily boost  capacity and maintain stable quality, said Cho.

With respect to torque accuracy of strain gauges compared with MEMS chips, Cho said strain gauges, since its debut in 1938, have been greatly improved with increased resistance. Most strain gauges had resistance of around 350ohm/m, but has been raised to 1000ohm/m. So torque is more precisely detected through strain gauges with wider resistance range. With strain gauges featuring improved resistance and lower cost than MEMS chips, why not adopt them for better functionality-price ratio?

The prototype of Taiwan’s first digital torque wrench was developed by ITRI.The prototype of Taiwan’s first digital torque wrench was developed by ITRI.

The ITRI has aided Ki Hung to apply the module in torque tools, all of which are certified by its  European and U.S. clients to be  launched next year; while such successful development of digital torque tools is expected to be duplicated in other tools. Cho revealed that they have developed other kinds of digital tools to be probably debuted in the next one to two years.

Raising Production Value
Chen believes that production volume of digital tools is very likely to surge soon, due partly to global demand recovery and partly to Taiwan's time-tested reputation as manufacturer of high-end hand tools with fine quality and affordability to attract more buyers worldwide.

Citing General Motor's intention to outsource over one million digital torque wrenches from  Eclatorq for its trucks two years ago, Chen said that the inquiry, despite being canceled due to disagreements on quotation, still proves Taiwan-made digital tools have been recognized by a major  automaker.

Besides, digital hand tools will drive growth in production value of the Taiwanese tool industry. Considering unit prices of digital torque tools are about five times that of traditional mechanical models, Chen said such tools are expected to replace 5% of total exports of traditional models next year, to generate export value 10-fold more than those replaced. A clustering trend in development of the digital tool sector in central Taiwan will soon emerge, because more operators will seize  the business opportunity to more upmarket and differ from competitors from emerging countries.

Local Makers
The major Taiwanese digital tool maker with own brand in the global market is Eclatorq, who leads the sector in Taiwan with annual shipment of around 20,000 different kinds of digital tools, including digital torque wrenches, screwdrivers and  pullers. It makes digital tools with maximum torque of 850n/m and provides online calibration platform and free software for download.

Eclatorq leads Taiwan in supply of digital torque tools by shipment.Eclatorq leads Taiwan in supply of digital torque tools by shipment.

Stand Tools is also notable for its determination to work on MEMS-integrated digital tools, being  perfectionist in torque to apply MEMS chips in digital torque wrenches, in a bid to take advantage of the microelectronic component's higher precision of torque measuring than that of traditional strain gauges.

The company trusts MEMS-integrated digital torque wrench for being impervious to ambient conditions to achieve reliability. The maker also claims its torque wrench to be more cost-efficient for needing only one MEMS sensor instead of four strain gages; while the simplicity in design also  reduces defect rates but enhances measuring accuracy. Such  religious adherence to perfection has enabled the company to find markets in Europe.


Industry Reports

K, the leading global plastic and rubber trade fair (Photo courtesy of Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann)

K, The World's Leading Trade Fair for Plastic and Rubber Industry

Jul 24, 2020

2019 K Show, the leading global trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry, had been held in Düsseldorf on 16-23 October, 2019. There were 3,330 exhibitors from 63 nations proved impressively: plastics continue to be an innovative, indispensable material. But they also unanimously underscored the necessity of having operational circular economies along the complete material chain and to this...

Photo courtesy of CENS

Digital Healthcare & Technology at the Heart of Las Vegas CES 2020

Jul 14, 2020

■ Hubert Chih The number of healthcare exhibitors at the 2020 CES in Las Vegas increased significantly by 23% from 2019. According to the analysis and report by the CES organizer, digital healthcare and technology were the focus in the healthcare exhibition. In addition to the continued expansion of healthcare coverage, the reduction of healthcare costs, the improvement of effectiveness and th...

The Taiwan Hardware Show sees global buyer attendance. (Photo provided by Kaigo Co.)

Taiwan's Hand Tools Seeking Opportunities Amid Global Crisis

Jul 10, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, most of the international hardware shows slated for this year has been moved to 2021. However, as Taiwan’s efforts combating the new virus has proven to be successful, the 2020 Taiwan Hardware Show (THS) will continue as scheduled, beginning on Oct. 13 and ending on the 15th at the Taichung International Exhibition Center, thus becoming the only sh...

Industry In-Focus

SINOSTEEL Corporation: Rising price in Steel</h2>

SINOSTEEL Corporation: Rising price in Steel

Jun 05, 2020

Brazil’s new crown pneumonia epidemic has rapidly increased. Brazil’s Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, is facing an out-of-control impact. The market is worried that iron ore production and sales will be affected. new highs. Experts from Sinosteel (2002) evaluated that steel prices will rise steadily under the effect of rising costs, with a promising outlook. According to a legal p...

Apple Invests Millions in LED Plant in Taiwan</h2>

Apple Invests Millions in LED Plant in Taiwan

Jun 01, 2020

Apple is considering to invest over US$330 million in a factory in northern Taiwan to manufacture both LED and micro-LED displays for its iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and other new devices. Apple is teaming up on the new factory with Epistar, Taiwan's top LED producer, and Taiwanese LCD panel maker, AU Optronics. The plant will be located in the Longtan branch of the Hsinchu Science Park and Appl...

Taiwan Machinery Was Applauded in COVID-19</h2>

Taiwan Machinery Was Applauded in COVID-19

May 18, 2020

What the epidemic showed was the amazing flexibility of Taiwan's machine tool industry. Taiwan, which has allowed the semiconductor industry to specialize in the past, has finally realized that these machine tool industries with amazing strength are the "invisible champions" of Taiwan's economy. In early February, three companies -- Habor Precision, Tongtai Machine & Tool and Taiwan Takisawa -...

Supplier News

With professional technics and rigorous quality control, Kung Hsing gains high-reputation in the industry</h2>

With professional technics and rigorous quality control, Kung Hsing gains high-reputation in the industry

Jul 23, 2020

Kung Hsing Plastic Machinery Co., LTD., founded in 1972, is the brainchild of the company President Tsai Chin-lien’s over 48 years of experience in designing and producing extrusion machines. The firm stood by its belief to uphold integrity and offer the best quality and services, eventually becoming a leader in the extrusion machinery industry in Taiwan. Kung Hsing currently has two factories; t...




Jul 21, 2020

■ Tseng Lung-nan Intype Enterprise has built up 55 years of experience in producing extruders, though the firm is placing greater consideration on rapidly degrading of the global environment. In the past 20 years, Intype has become an active contributor to building up a global ecosystem, enabling them to reuse the products manufactured by their own extruders and avoid further waste. The firm t...


YFCM Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Lauded in the field of Modified Cars for its Flexibility </h2>

YFCM Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Lauded in the field of Modified Cars for its Flexibility

Jul 14, 2020

■Hsiao Yung-le Yifeng Technology Co., Ltd. specializes in the research and development of carbon fiber transmission shafts and the manufacture of carbon fiber related products.The carbon fiber material has the characteristics of lightweight, impact resistance, fatigue resistance, and corrosion, and chemical stability is quite high. The product type is increasing in the extensive range with an ...


Insiders' Views

Caption: Pictured from front row, third right, Changhua County Government Economic Affairs Department Director Liu Yu-ping, County Magistrate Wang Huei-mei, Secretary Chen Bo-tsun pose in front of the exhibition booth. (Photo provided by CHCIA)

Changhua County Government Shores up Biz-Matching to Global Buyers

Nov 18, 2019

■Yang Feng-Chun In a bid to assist manufacturers in Changhua County to expand their market reach overseas against severe competition in the globalized market, Changhua County Government has been an active player in pushing for a makeover and innovation of its local small and medium-sized enterprises. This is done in hopes of establishing stronger connection with international markets. An ex...

Paul Master offers high-quality chassis and engines parts for passenger cars, trucks, and industrial trucks. (Photo courtesy of Paul Master)

Paul Master Builds Reputation with Auto Chassis and Engine Parts

Nov 18, 2019

Founded in 1980, Paul Master Auto Parts Co. is headquartered in Taiwan, a professional manufacturer of chassis and engines parts for passenger cars, trucks, and industrial trucks including forklifts. General Manager Terry Liang said the company has its own professional design department, which provides customized products and specifications for global buyers, including automobile steering and...


Nan Hoang Traffic Instrument Co., Ltd.</h2><p class='subtitle'>Taiwan First brakes Technology Co., Ltd. </p>

Nan Hoang Traffic Instrument Co., Ltd.

Taiwan First brakes Technology Co., Ltd.

Sep 04, 2019

Nan Hoang Traffic Instrument Co., Ltd is one of the major manufacturers of automobile friction materials in Taiwan and globally. Chairman Austin Cheng has implemented the double-arrow strategy this year - own brand of “YangPo” is adopted to focus on global channels while the “NHC brand focuses on improving market shares in global markets, such as Europe, America, Asia, Australia, and the Middle E...

Exhibition Highlights

Koelnmesse (Beijing) Co., Ltd.

Announcement on Postponement of China International Hardware Show 2020 (CIHS 2020)

Jul 10, 2020

In view of the continuous spreading of COVID-19 all over the world and the latest epidemic prevention requirements of China and the government of Shanghai, in order to guarantee the health and safety of exhibitors, purchasers and professional visitors, China National Hardware Association and Koelnmesse have prudently decided to postpone China International Hardware Show 2020 (CIHS 2020) from Augu...

Automechanika Shanghai 2020 creates channels for cross-sector collaboration</h2>

Automechanika Shanghai 2020 creates channels for cross-sector collaboration

Jun 16, 2020

This year, Automechanika Shanghai continues to serve the entire automotive value chain by offering opportunities for information exchange, marketing, trade and education. Both vertically and horizontally, from OE, vehicle production to the aftermarket, it incorporates all elements of manufacturing, supply networks, services, new business models and information technology. Companies across the...

Messe Frankfurt (Shanghai) Co Ltd

CAPAS defers to 2021

Apr 20, 2020

Following the Chinese Government’s initiatives to prevent and control the COVID-19 outbreak, the organisers of the Chengdu International Trade Fair for Automotive Parts and Aftermarket Services (CAPAS) have announced the defer of the show’s 2020 edition. The fair, originally scheduled from 21 to 23 May 2020, will now be held from 20 to 22 May 2021. In China, the State Council issued an announc...