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Manufacturing group to build 3D printing innovation centers

By Cong Mu (Global Times)

09:07, May 14, 2013

A Beijing-based trade body told the Global Times Monday that industrial 3D printing will play a "very positive role" in upgrading Chinese manufacturing, echoing a survey of global executives who believe that the Chinese government needs to encourage more innovation to enhance its manufacturing base against the background of a global economic recovery.

Industrial 3D printing can easily create highly complex designs that are too difficult for traditional manufacturing technology, but it is not as good at mass production. So 3D printing will complement traditional manufacturing, not replace it, Luo Jun, CEO of the Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA), told the Global Times Monday.

"Over the past 30 years, 3D printing technology has already been applied in the aerospace, automotive and biomedical industries, and now the conditions are ripe for it to scale up," said Luo, who is also executive secretary-general of the China 3D Printing Technology Industry Alliance, formed by China's leading research entities and enterprises in the field.

The alliance plans to build 10 innovation centers for 3D printing technology in 10 cities in China in the near future, with a planned investment of 20 million yuan ($3.3 million) for each center. The centers mainly aim to serve manufacturers, and the AMA is calling for fiscal policy support from the government.

China still lags behind the US in advanced manufacturing, such as 3D printing of turbine blades for jet engines, according to industry insiders who said good policies are the key to improving China's manufacturing competitiveness in general.

"China can consider developing an industry-led strategic transformation plan to focus on technological innovation and differentiation. It can enact policies that bring in capital and technology-­intensive industries from developed countries and it should work on improving how to utilize innovations imported from other countries," Ricky Tung, co-leader of the Manufacturing Industry Group at auditing and consulting firm Deloitte China, said in an e-mail sent to the Global Times Monday.

"Going forward, (China) should continue to improve incentive mechanisms to cultivate technical leaders and promote deeper cooperation between enterprises and academic institutions," said Tung.

The consultancy's parent Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu released a survey of over 70 global executives Monday, many of whom agreed that China's current policies are supportive of boosting manufacturing competitiveness.

Improvements can be made, however, in the areas of innovation, policy implementation efficiency and environmental regulations, the survey found.

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