AM in China - Focus: Part 1

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Whilst China and the USA are likely to compete more than collaborate through the emerging AM led technological revolution, both countries face challenges in industrial ethics, copyrights and crime: A deepening of their cooperation may aid both to overcome the odds...

The rapid rise of 3D printing has brought about changes in the market. It is widely used in industrial manufacturing, scientific research, aeronautics and astronautics, defence and military industries, biomedical engineering, construction, cultural - and creative industries, education, heritage preservation, food processing and the auto industry. Besides, it has also been given full play in industrial design, animation, education and medical services.



As the first country to start research and development into 3D printing, the United States deserves its leading position in the technology. It also deserves two of the world's leading 3D printing companies, Stratasys and 3D Systems.

Stratasys has acquired Israeli company Objet, and 3D Systems has bought Z Corporation and Vidar Systems, all three of which are well-known 3Dprinting brands, consolidating their positions in the industry.

The two American companies have an R&D budget of $10 million each and acquired technologies and patents from external sources either through contracted development or direct purchase to gain access to core technology and continue to be the global leaders in 3D printing.

"In comparison, 3Dprinting started in China only recently.
Although the sector has made progressive achievements, the level of R&D and commercialisation is far below that of the USA."


Moreover, the US government pays close attention to 3D printing technology and regards it as one of the most important supporting technologies to revive its manufacturing. It has already spent $30 million to build a national-level R&D centre for 3D printing additive manufacturing and plans to spend another $500 million for 3D printing.

In addition, US President Barack Obama has proposed an investment of $1 billion to establish an innovative nationwide network for manufacturing, comprising 15 manufacturing innovation institutions, to stimulate innovation and growth in manufacturing, boost the domestic economy and create more jobs.

To promote the industrialisation process of 3D printing in China, Asian Manufacturing Association joined hands with Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Tsinghua University and leading Chinese 3D printing companies in October to establish an industrial association for 3D printing technology.

China accounts for 21% of the world's total manufacturing value, surpassing the USA's 19.4%.

The USA will try to regain a dominant position in manufacturing via 3D printing. Some US magazines have even projected that the future of manufacturing is in the US rather than China because of its technological advantage in 3D printing among other things.

Therefore, a new round of competition between China and the US is likely in the Additive Manufacturing-led technological revolution - but since both countries face severe as well as casual challenges in industrial ethics, copyrights and crime, they may have to deepen their co-operation to overcome the odds...?