Stratasys AP Ltd., a leading 3D printer manufacturer, is looking to benefit from China’s switch from manufacturing to innovation.
“If China is only about manufacturing, there would be less of a need for a 3D printer. But there are actually fantastic movements in China for companies dealing with product design,” Jonathan Jaglom, general manager for Asia Pacific and Japan, told the EJ Insight.
“Product design means everything. We have clients doing the zippers for your bag, watches, jewelry, pens, tables, anything you see around you have product design in it. A lot of local industries are growing and doing their own design in mainland China,” he said.
“With our 3D printers, our clients could create models or prototypes of their designs and make better decisions to perfect them before bringing them to manufacturing.”
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. It is achieved when successive layers of materials are laid down in different shapes, colors and textures.
China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (201-2015) has a lot of discussion about boosting innovation in the country, and “we can definitely feel that with the increasing number of design companies and growing demands for our 3D printers”, Jaglom said.
“The world of only manufacturing is changing to a world of also design, not just manufacturing.”
China is the fastest-growing market in the world for Stratasys Ltd. which owns Stratasys AP Ltd. NASDAQ-listed Stratasys Ltd. was formed in 2012 by the merger of Stratasys Inc. and Objet Ltd.
Stratasys Ltd. posted a loss of US$26.95 million for 2013 compared with a net profit of US$8.49 million in the previous year, according to NASDAQ filings. The company has headquarters in the United States and Israel.
In a global and competitive market, the key is how fast you can bring your product to market before your competitors do, Jaglom said.
And one fundamental advantage of a 3D printer is its ability to save time. The product designer can print the sketch in a few hours and do functional tests on the physical model.
If it turns out that the design is not right, the designer can go back to the sketch and make adjustments.
“They can find the mistakes very quickly by having the physical model in their hands”, Jaglom said.
A 3D printer, which can cost up to US$500,000, can save up to 30 days in production time and prevent huge design flaws. “In that sense, I think that [our printer and] the materials required are cheap,” he said. “They bring the designers so many added values that the cost is really insignificant.”
Also, it can help artists create more new ideas and ensure the confidentiality of their designs. These are all done on demand inside the production house without the capital investment of a production line, he said.
“Most of our customers are design centers for consumer goods and we only engage in B-to-B business. About 90 percent of applications are about prototyping,” he said.
However, Jaglom said insufficient awareness of the technology among companies in mainland China remains a big challenge for Stratasys.
“A lot of them may have some insights into what 3D printing is, but they only have a basic understanding and we need to further explain the value of 3D printing to them,” he said.
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