For some time now we’ve been interested in detailing the 3D printing space in China, but it seems that it’s a lot harder to analyze. Every time we take a look there seems to be new 3D printers and new 3D printing companies.
That’s the norm in China these days: huge competition and a massive market. New companies pop up frequently. Sure, there’s a few notable 3D printing companies marketing popular devices in the West such as the FlashForge and Afinia’s products (which are manufactured in China), but there are many, many more companies.
The limited enforcement of intellectual property greases the wheels for these companies, meaning you frequently see duplicated technology. A frequently seen pattern is duplicates of MakerBot’s machines, particularly the Replicator 1, which was published by MakerBot under an open source license. So the Chinese companies have replicated the Replicator. But the non-open source Replicator 2 has also been copied. And so has the Ultimaker. And no doubt others, too.
The competition among Chinese manufacturers is fierce. If a new innovation appears, it’s rapidly copied.
While this may sound unfortunate, it actually may do some good. Due to the intense competition the quality of the machines is rising dramatically, since that’s one of the few characteristics that companies can compete with. We’ve read reports of machines that truly do work “right out of the box” and have reasonable reliability.
The question is, when will these advanced machines be permitted to be sold in the West?