3D printing industry begins to boom in China

3D printing industry begins to boom in China


With products ranging from stem cells, shoes and mini-statues, 3D printing has started to boom in China amid the industry’s rapid development worldwide.

Qingdao Unique Products Develop Company announced that adipose-derived stem cells and corneal stromal cells exported via a biological 3D printer had survived for nine days.

Cell-printed tissues can be used for organ transplants or restoration, said Wang Hong, the chairperson of the company’s board at the 2014 World 3D Printing Technology Industry Exhibition, which opened on Thursday in eastern China’s coastal city of Qingdao.

The four-day event has attracted 110 3D printing companies, both from China and overseas and will showcase the latest 3D printing equipment, technology and products.

“Except for the laces, the sports shoe was directly printed out,” said Zhang Xuan, general manager of Qingdao AOD 3D Printing Company, a high-tech manufacturer of 3D printers.

The cost of materials for the shoe is only 40 yuan (US$6.50), Zhang told Xinhua at the exhibition hall, where products such as printed sports shoes, razors and bicycles are on display.

“3D printing will be a new growth area for our company. Many products can be realized through 3D printing and it will bring considerable profits,” said Peng Jun, manager of the printing department of Golden Laser Company in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province.

The global 3D printing industry’s output was about 12 billion yuan (US$1.9 billion) in 2012 and 20 billion yuan (US$3.2 billion) last year, according to China 3D Printing Technology Industry Alliance data.

China’s 3D printing output was 1 billion yuan (US$161 million) in 2012 and more than 2 billion yuan (US$321 million) last year. The sector’s output is expected to reach 4-5 billion yuan (US$643-803 million) this year.

The industry still has a long way to go, however, say industry insiders.

“Some people have a misunderstanding about 3D printing technology,” said Luo Jun, executive chairperson of the Chinese 3D Industry Association. “The technology is not omnipotent. Not all products can be printed out with a 3D printer, and not all things printed can be put into practical use.”

3D cannot replace traditional manufacturing, but can supplement it, he added. The technology can save costs and shorten time in the industrial design field.

Last August, researchers at an eastern China university printed out a kidney the size of a knuckle. The tiny kidney consisted of living cells and hydrogel. Hydrogel contains agar and sodium alginate, providing cells with a stable growing environment.

China lags behind other countries in the research and development of 3D printers for industrial or biological use.

“Our advantage is that 3D printing has attracted attention and participation of domestic enterprises,” said Luo. China is at an important period of upgrading traditional industries, which provides opportunities for 3D printing technology, he added.

3D printing is limited in its application market and materials, said Luo. “It still has a long way to go.”


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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