The 3D Printing technology, which was born in the 1980s in the upper world, became a popular technology that everyone talked about in 2013-15. However, due to the lack of application of this technology, the entire 3D printing industry once entered a downturn. After several ups and downs, 3D printing gradually entered a period of steady growth at the end of 2018. Such growth is based on a better understanding of the application of this technology, and major companies in the industry have begun to share application cases in various fields.

Michael Agam, President of Stratasys South Asia, a well-known 3D printing company, Stratasys South Asia President Michael Agam is a true Industry 4.0 expert who has successfully designed and delivered smart manufacturing, big data and artificial intelligence for various traditional industries. Solution, praised by his peers as a change agent and business problem solving expert, he recently shared with us his unique insights on the Chinese market. 3D printing originated in the United States and thrived in Europe and the United States, but China’s 3D printing industry, which started relatively late, is developing very fast, mainly in the use of this technology in the industry and end-user applications.

However, the overall utilization rate and specific application cases in the Chinese market still have a certain gap compared with the European and American markets. But An Zhijie believes that China is now rapidly closing the gap in this regard. He first analyzed the impact of 3D printing technology and its industrial development on China’s entire industry from several aspects. Nowadays, what end users need is better products, which can be brought to the market at a faster speed. For manufacturing companies using 3D printing, it is necessary to keep up with the changes and growth of end users’ needs as soon as possible, and then launch newer products and designs to meet their needs. While maintaining rapid design iterations, manufacturing companies also need to continuously reduce production costs and increase design verification speed.

Whether it is design or production, it is necessary to maintain a high degree of flexibility to meet the various needs of customers. This is the core of why the 3D printing technology can flourish. For example, in the automobile industry, in the traditional manufacturing model, a new car is still hot after five years on the market, and there is enough time for research and development of new products. However, with the continuous development of the manufacturing industry, a new car can only last for two years at most, otherwise it will be overtaken by competitors’ products. For this kind of industry with ever-shorter product update cycles, auto manufacturers need to constantly innovate according to the endless demands, and constantly refresh the speed of design updates, in order to meet the needs of consumers in the market.

Furthermore, in terms of cost, Stratasys will also help customers to continuously reduce inventory costs and shorten the supply chain. They should put their eyes on the background of Industry 4.0 to see which inventory can be digitized, reduce inventory costs, and achieve on-demand supply. An Zhijie shared several application industries that Stratasys pays most attention to in the Chinese market, because the demand for 3D printing in these industries is relatively high.

One is the automobile manufacturing industry. As the update cycle of new models continues to shorten, the technology of 3D printing will be very useful in automobile design and manufacturing.

The second is the medical industry. An Zhijie believes that voxel-level 3D printing is the most advantageous in the medical industry because it can help print surgical guides and soft tissue-like auxiliary tools to help doctors practice and improve surgical skills.

The third is consumer electronics, such as the mobile phone industry, which launches a new model at least every six months, which will naturally use 3D printing. Finally, there is personalized customization. Different users from all walks of life want to use 3D printing to customize some limited edition products.

There is still a gap in the application of 3D printing between the Chinese market and the European and American markets, and even the Western market, and the challenges faced by the Chinese market are also different. As a very mature manufacturing country, Chinese users most value the total cost of ownership, the so-called TCO. Users are aware of the overall cost of the entire production process, so when using the 3D printing technology, the more consideration is how much the technology will account for.

But for European and American users, what they consider is a dynamic balance, that is, if the cost here has increased, it may be possible that the cost there can be reduced accordingly. There are various classifications of production costs, including direct costs and indirect costs, such as time. If it is produced or designed in the traditional way, it takes three weeks to manufacture a finished product, but if 3D printing technology is used to shorten the production time to three days or even three hours, it will greatly save time and cost, and the overall cost will also be reduced. . In addition to the different production thinking of users, which has affected the pace of 3D printing entering the application field, China is also facing a lack of professional knowledge and talents.

China has very mature technologies and talents in traditional manufacturing, but it is still lacking in additive manufacturing and 3D printing. However, this dilemma will be gradually alleviated under the implementation of government policies. Additive manufacturing technology has been greatly supported and promoted by the Chinese government at the policy level, including smart manufacturing in the digital field, etc., and China is also vigorously embracing Industry 4.0. With the vigorous advocacy, guidance and investment of the Chinese government, the utilization rate of 3D printing technology in China will increase greatly in the next few years, and it will continue to bridge it, even surpassing Western developed countries.

Link to this article:China's 3D printing market has "personality" and potential, but challenges are indispensable-Interview with An Zhijie, President of Stratasys South Asia

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