China and the Future of 3D Printing
Kyle.Maxey posted on December 18, 2012 |

North America and Europe are capturing all of the 3D printing headlines these days, however in the near future, that might change.

At the 2012 International Additive Manufacturing Forum in Wuhan, China, Bo Su, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, said that the People’s Republic will establish organizations and use tax incentives to speed up the development of 3D printing technology.

China has already begun developing methods of 3D printing bio materials as well as ceramics forming and laser sintering. In fact, Huazhong University of Science and Technology is home to the world’s largest selective laser sintering machine, with a build volume of 1.2m by 1.2m.

While China is known around the world as the premier global manufacturing center, it has only just begun to gain a market presence in the world of additive manufacturing.  Currently, China’s market share stands at 8.6 percent whereas the United States commands a 38.5 percent global market share.

Professor David Bourell of the University of Texas at Austin believes that China has the potential to be the strongest player in the additive manufacturing industry saying, “3D printing is especially useful for prototyping and custom products. It will shorten production cycle and has great advantage in producing large thin-walled parts, honeycomb complex structural components and titanium parts.”

While the growth of China’s technological prowess will likely continue to increase, one has to wonder if additive manufacturing will be as beneficial to the Chinese economy as it is in North America and Europe.  3D printing, in its current form, is a prototyping technology. In the coming years, it may move into a position where it can compete with “finished product” manufacturing, but that times is still a ways away. Until China begins to turn itself into a more robust homegrown technology incubator and developer, it won’t be able to fully capture the benefits the U.S. and European companies are able to reap from the technology.

Read More at NZWeek

Image Courtesy of the Ministry of Science and Technology

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