Kim Francois is the Corporate Business Development Director of Materialise China.
She has almost 10 years of working experience in AM of which 9 years as Managing Director of Materialise China. Recently she took up a new challenge at Materialise to be in charge of further expanding the business in China.
Nora Toure: Kim, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D Printing in the first place?
Kim Francois: My background is not at all related to AM. In fact, I studied sinology and office management. Before I joined Materialise I had never heard of 3D printing and I was one of the few hires without an engineering background at Materialise. Materialise was looking for somebody with knowledge of China and the Chinese market to make the cultural bridge. And there I was. I had dreamed of moving to China from when I was a little girl, so this was a perfect match. I packed my suitcase and off we went on a new adventure. Since then, ten years have passed and I fell in love with AM, the Chinese market, the dynamic way of living, the Chinese culture. In short: I love it ☺.
Nora Toure: Can you describe your very first experience with 3D Printing?
Kim Francois: In 2009, when very few people were adopting AM, we hosted a delegation of a Chinese university. They were true pioneers and today they are still doing AM research. The professor explained me what they had been doing during the last decade while non-stop smoking heavy Chinese cigarettes. At the end of the meeting, I felt dazed. Partly from the cigarettes but also from the enormous amount of new and exciting information I received.
Nora Toure: To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
Kim Francois: A few things come to my mind:
When Xi Jinping came to power in China, a new 5 year plan was announced which explicitly mentioned AM. As Materialise, we could feel the impact and we acted upon it. In 2012 and 2013 we set up an an exhibition space in our office with exclusive AM parts from our MGX design collection. MGX was a unique project to showcase the versatility of 3D Printing by inviting artists, designers and architects to work with us and create a pioneering 3D-printed design collection
We were located in a 1933 slaughterhouse, which is cultural heritage in Shangha and we got a lot of media attention through this exhibition. There was a certain vibe that came with it as well: the employees were super energized, we received visitors from all over the world and the media pro-actively contacted us. This exhibition really put Materialise on the map in China!
As Materialise’s mission statement is “to create a better and healthier world with 3D printing technology”, we run several charity projects in Africa. A colleague came up with the idea of doing a charity project in China as well. We made it happen and since 2016 we have influenced ten thousands of kids in West-China from the age of six till fourteen by introducing them into the wonderful world of 3D Printing by having Materialise China volunteers teach customized courses for primary school students who have limited access to new technologies. I participate every year in this project and it makes me proud and excited to bring AM to these kids in remote areas. They are always super enthusiastic, curious and you can tell that they enjoy every minute of it.
The Chinese AM market: in 2009 the Chinese AM market was limited to very few players and the majority of the market was not interested or not aware of AM and its added value. Since then, we have seen dramatic changes in the market: now TCT Asia is huge, AM is one of the key technologies promoted by the government in the Made in China 2025 plan, so the market has completely changed and there is a huge interest and curiosity to make it happen. The Chinese market has really embraced the technology very quickly and we see continued growth in this area.
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