While 3D printing may be touted as bringing manufacturing back to the United States, that doesn't mean the rest of the world hasn't taken notice of the technology. Earlier this week, a 3D Printing Experience Pavilion opened in Beijing's DRC Industrial Design and Cultural Industry Base, where visitors were able to see how 3D printers work firsthand. With a few hours to spare, they could even have their own head scanned and printed as a bust, which follows the 3D printing booth that opened in a Japanese mall last year.
Among the printed objects on display were custom phone cases, miniatures (including Aldebaran Robotics' NAO, which featured prominently at the Shanghai World Expo), and jewelry. Visitors who wanted to be scanned had to remain still for around 15 minutes for the process to be completed, whereupon their likeness was printed in single color ABS plastic – a process which takes between two to three hours.
3Ders reports that the 3D Printing Pavilion was spear-headed by Beijing company Suntop-Tech, which is the Chinese distributor of Stratasys' Fortus and Dimension 3D printers. Here are two of the public's frequently asked questions, and Suntop-Tech's answers, as reported by multiple Chinese news sources:
Q. Won't 3D printing lead to guns everywhere, causing chaos?
A. Guns require parts with very high strength tolerances, which 3D printers are unable to fabricate.
Q. Won't 3D printing lead to more counterfeited goods?
A. Counterfeiting is already a major problem, and the relatively high cost of 3D printers will likely deter "cottage counterfeiters" from using it.
Whether you believe those answers or not (a group in the United States is trying to print firearms), it won't be long before we begin seeing how China will use the technology. Suntop-Tech has launched a 3D printing website, 3drp.cn, which allows the Chinese community to buy and sell prints as well as upload their own designs, and will open ten stores across the country over the next two years.