Unforeseen Delays: COVID-19 Disrupts China-based 3D Print Companies

By on December 26th, 2022 in Corporate, news

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The Chinese manufacturing industry could incur huge delays due to COVID-19 [Source: Fabbaloo / SD]

China-based 3D print companies are being hit hard by COVID-19.

To some, the pandemic is effectively over, as restrictions have been relaxed in many jurisdictions. That being so, the virus and its unceasing variants are still on the loose and affecting chunks of the population. Because of this some still take precautions, such as wearing masks in certain situations, or avoiding crowds. But in the West, the majority of activities are approaching “normal mode”.

That is not the case in China.

Early in the pandemic that nation decided to use a “zero COVID” strategy. The idea was to isolate and stamp out any infections before they could run loose on the population.

Western countries mostly did this too, but only as a stopgap measure to allow for vaccines to be developed and deployed. Once that happened, risks of catastrophe dropped and things opened up. That is not to say we’re not still having hospital capacity issues, because we all are. I’m just saying things could have been massively worse.

For some reason China continued their zero COVID strategy, seemingly without end. While a portion of their population has been vaccinated, it has been done with older locally-developed vaccines that are apparently far less effective on more recent COVID variants.

Their approach was extremely rigorous, sometimes making the cure worse than the disease. Entire buildings and malls would be locked down — literally “locked” and sometimes welded shut — while those inside would be quarantined.

Eventually, citizens began to protest that this mode could not go on forever, and the Chinese government relented and tweaked the rules to be less arduous.

But then that opened Pandora’s box: the extremely transmissible current variants inevitably found their way into China, and are now rapidly passing through everyone.

This is causing significant disruption to China’s manufacturing operations, as large portions of staff are absent, albeit temporarily. This phenomenon is affecting 3D print manufacturers as well. Consider this statement from BigTreeTech, makers of many 3D printer components:

“Dear valued BTT customers:

As you may have heard, many of the Covid regulations that were previously in place have now been relaxed in China. With the previous restrictions, many people were never exposed to COVID and therefore there was little natural immunity. As a result, the Omicron variant is now spreading rapidly, and many people are unable to work while they take some time to recover. At the moment, roughly 50% of the BTT/BIQU staff are ill and unable to work. As much as we would like this not to have an impact on our operations, it is unavoidable. We therefore ask for your understanding if you experience a delayed response from our sales or technical support staff. Product shipping times may also experience a delay, which is amplified by shipping carriers also experiencing staff shortages.

We endeavor to do the best that we can with the staff available to us and will work rapidly to catch up as staff are able to make it back to work. Thank you for all your understanding.”

I have heard anecdotally through contacts in China that other companies are experiencing similar scenarios. Some folks are able to do some work from home, but that’s not an option for those doing physical activity, such as assembling a 3D printer. There are very likely slowdowns at many 3D printer manufacturing operations.

In this case BTT/BIQU has publicly indicated the situation, and I’m sure their customers understand the situation and await developments.

There are other Chinese manufacturers that very likely are in the same boat, but not saying so. We may only see effects in unexpected delays or lowered response rates.

As it happened in the West, it will be eventually sorted out in China. But until that happens, you might expect to experience unexpected delays when interacting with Chinese 3D printer manufacturers.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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