Stronger, lighter... defense materials development ‘startup’ emerges.

Keep an eye on ‘K-Defense’, a company founded by Taewon Park who worked for the Agency for Defense Development. 백정준 기자l승인2024.04.24l수정2024.04.24 12:48

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Amidst the rise of &K-defense* in the global defense market, &K-defense* startup SN TECH (CEO Taewon Park) is attracting attention from the defense industry. From just $3 billion in 2020, K-defense orders exceeded $7 billion in 2021, and then grew to a total of $17.3 billion in 2022 with a $12.4 billion (approx. KRW 16.75 trillion) export contract with Poland, attracting the attention of the global defense industry. In 2023, defense orders reached $14 billion, down slightly from the previous year, but the number of countries and types of weapons exported increased, and a spate of active export contracts set the stage for further growth. With this momentum and expectations, 2024 is on track to reach the $20 billion mark. South Korean weapons have been enjoying a privileged position in the global defense market, partly due to the fact that countries around the world are expanding their armaments in the wake of the wars in Ukraine and Israel, but also due to their superior performance and price competitiveness. This is thanks to steady investment and technological development in the defense sector in response to the military threat from North Korea. SN TECH (CEO Taewon Park), a &K-defense* startup that specializes in developing defense materials and conducting blast deformation tests and bulletproof tests to evaluate material performance, is attracting the attention of the defense industry.

 

▲ SN TECH / CEO Taewon Park

Conducting core test evaluations with core competencies in the materials field

SN TECH was founded by Taewon Park (Ph.D. in Engineering), a former employee of the Agency for Defense Development. Established in 1970, the Agency for Defense Development is the “heart of K-defense” and has been leading the research and development of military equipment and weapons in Korea. During his 30-year career at the agency, Park was responsible for the development of armor and radar materials for the K-9 self-propelled howitzer, K-2 tank, submarines, destroyers, and more.

Park says “I’ve been with the agency since 1987. I continued to work in the materials area, and the materials my team developed are still used today in the K-9 self-propelled howitzer, K-2 tank, submarines and destroyers. I started my own company in 2023 because I realized that there was a lot of R&D needed in this area and that I could continue to do what I was doing and contribute to the country when I retired.”

SN TECH has core competencies in the field of defense material development. It mainly conducts new alloy development, manufacturing process, and characteristic analysis in the fields of titanium alloys, aluminum alloys, magnesium alloys, high-strength steels, and Ni-base heat-resistant alloys applied to various weapon systems, and conducts blast deformation tests to evaluate submarines and other advanced materials, and bulletproof tests to secure the bulletproof performance of armor materials. 

Park says “We test the welds of underwater structures such as submarines and destroyers by exploding them under water or in the air to see if the deformation of the welds meets the specifications. We are also working with POSCO to evaluate the bulletproof performance of new armor materials to improve the performance of armor plates applied to destroyers, submarines, K9 and K2.”

SN TECH is also focusing on the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Using AI solutions, it is conducting image processing, data analysis, visualization, and optimization techniques, and performing object detection and change detection such as satellite photos. In addition, as part of material development using AI, it analyzes the shape of welds according to welding conditions to derive optimal welding conditions, and applies AI experimental techniques to optimize composition changes, heat treatment, and process changes when designing alloys. 

Currently, SN TECH is carrying out projects with defense companies such as Hanwha Ocean, Hanwha Aerospace, and POSCO. In addition, the company is planning to develop new materials and new processes with various defense companies, research institutes, and universities, and plans to expand cooperation with various organizations and research and development fields through continuous cooperation.

Park says “When we conduct joint research and development with domestic defense companies, we not only provide test results but also reports that include measures to improve performance, so customer satisfaction is very high. We are currently working with POSCO, Hanwha Ocean, and Hanwha Aerospace. We are working on projects upon request, and together with several organizations, we are planning tasks to improve the performance of current or future weapon systems or to develop new materials or new processes that can be manufactured in a more economical manner.”

 

Continuous research is needed to continue the K-defense industry boom

Currently, SN TECH is conducting bulletproof tests with POSCO to develop various new armor materials, and with Hanwha Aerospace to identify optimal welding conditions for heat-resistant materials for aircraft. The company is also conducting blast deformation tests with Hanwha Ocean as part of the development of carving materials, and is working with various other defense companies and institutions to develop new materials for future weapon systems. 

Park says “The demand for space materials and aviation materials is expected to expand in the future, and we are working on a joint plan with several companies to identify the current status of materials in these fields, which remain unexplored in Korea, and gradually build a foundation for research, testing, and production in Korea. We plan to expand our business areas in cooperation with other companies, and also focus on AI (artificial intelligence) to secure technologies and know-how in areas that other companies have not pioneered.”

Park emphasized the need for continued research to expand the impact of K-Defense.

Park says “The budget for science and technology development has been cut this year, and government projects have been greatly reduced, but we need to continue to support science and technology. We need to create an atmosphere where science and technology research and development can continue so that research does not stop.”

Park adds “There is a need for the government to create a policy to utilize people who have retired from the Agency for Defense Development to take advantage of their long-standing know-how and skills. It would be good if a system was created to facilitate exchanges between veterans and retirees and young researchers at the ADD to transfer know-how and conduct joint research.”


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