Date
30 March 2017
Advanced 3D printers can handle metallic particles and produce high-end products such as aircraft engines. Photo: HKPC
Advanced 3D printers can handle metallic particles and produce high-end products such as aircraft engines. Photo: HKPC

Why Hong Kong SMEs are too slow to dive into 3D printing

While the cost of 3D printing has been coming down fast and its applications expanding by the day, most things about it are little understood by most small Hong Kong entrepreneurs.

Their understanding of this new technology appears to be outdated.

More than 80 percent of respondents in a recent survey of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) are “not quite familiar” or “completely unfamiliar” with the technology.

The survey by the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) polled 800 SMEs in manufacturing and retailing, among others.

Their number one reason for not using 3D printing technology is cost, followed by lack of knowledge.

Actually, a 3D printer costs only a few thousand US dollars, plain ones even less.

Traditional manufacturing usually involves heavy fixed costs and demands scale to be commercially viable.

By contrast, the unit cost in 3D printing is pretty much the same whether you are making 10 or 10,000 units.

In addition, the technology is useful for prototyping and testing whether a new product will sell.

“The applications of 3D printing are dynamic, ranging from traditional mold production to retail, design, food and beverage, even in the biomedical sector,” Gordon Lo, HKPC director of business management, said.

While 3D printing is set to revolutionize manufacturing by doing away with expensive tooling and die casting, it is also tipped to reinvent retailing.

Finding out what products will sell is often costly and inaccurate.

But 3D printing “enables companies to create and deliver products in small quantities in real time, providing actionable insight into which products will actually drive demand”, writes columnist Brian Honigman in Forbes.

“For example, if a 3D model is well received, it can then be mass produced through traditional manufacturing channels to meet higher demand.”

HKPC will open the first one-stop 3D printing support center in Hong Kong to let SMEs experience 3D printing technology first-hand.

Lo wants SMEs to plunge in and help create new business opportunities.

– Contact us at [email protected]

RA

EJ Insight writer

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