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China makes headway in 3D printing space

Posted: 06 Oct 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Lux Research? 3D printing? manufacturing?

Despite certain assumptions that 3D printing will weaken the foothold that China has established in manufacturing and export, the country is showing signs of readiness and acceptance with regard to the emerging technology. According to Lux Research, China is rapidly embracing 3D printing itself, and its sales of printers will grow four-fold to 37,800 printers in 2018, as revenues more than triple to $109 million.

While those sales are still small in absolute terms, the rapid pace of adoption of 3D printing shows that China also aims to be a future leader in this new manufacturing method. Indeed, the education sector, aided notably by government policy, will be the largest market in the near-term, growing at 39 per cent annually.

"While 3D printing has been touted as a way for Western economies to compete with China's manufacturing advantages, the Asian giant is also taking rapid strides to parlay its traditional strengths into 3D printing as well," said Richard Jun Li, Lux research director and the lead author of the report titled, "China's Growing 3D Printing Ecosystem."

"Far from being disrupted by 3D printing, China will thrive as its expertise in electronics, manufacturing and its growing domestic market make it a threat and an opportunity for aspiring 3D printing value chain participants," he added.

Lux Research analysts evaluated China's 3D printing ecosystem, consisting of scanners, printing materials, printers and printing services. According to the market analyst, the auto industry was an early adopter of 3D printing for prototyping globally, and China is no exception. China's automotive 3D printing sector will grow at 31 per cent annually, riding on the strengths of the world's largest car market.

In addition, China's 3D printing ecosystem has a notable gap in providers of quality materials. Domestic companies are unable to supply high-quality photosensitive resin materials or high-quality metal, ceramic and polymer powder materials. Lux Research also revealed that 3D printer makers in China shipped nearly 60 per cent of their production to overseas markets, competing on cost with leading global brands such as MakerBot, 3D Systems, EOS and Stratasys. Of the 21,550 printers produced by China in 2013, 12,810 units were exported.

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