Last week, leading Chinese 3D printer and 3D scanner manufacturer Shining 3D held their first Global Partner Summit in their new headquarters in Hangzhou, China. We were invited to attend the 3 days event and give a presentation about the 3D printing and 3D scanning industry.
Hangzhou is the capital and biggest city of the Zhejiang Province in eastern China. It is located at the head of the Hangzhou Bay, which separates Shanghai and Ningbo. Hangzhou has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China for much of the last millennium, due in part to its beautiful natural scenery. The city’s West Lake (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is its best-known attraction. Today, 9 million people live in Hangzhou and the city will host the G20 in September 2016, a major global event which will put it in the spotlight.
Shining 3D is probably one of the most exciting companies to watch in the 3D printing industry in 2016. Founded in 2002 by CEO M. Li Tao, the company grew from a small glass engraving business to becoming a major global player in 3D printers and 3D scanners.
Although we have been working with Shining 3D for a while, we were surprised by the scale and speed of its current growth. Here is a recap of our visit to Hangzhou and some takeaways from what we saw and learned.
- Shining 3D: tech startup culture, the Chinese way
The first day, the shuttle picked us up at the hotel with the rest of the 80 people group (mostly international resellers), and took us to the new Shining 3D campus. The new headquarters are located in a nice area of Hangzhou, a sort of industrial park with lots of nature and mountains. No polluting factory around, everything is brand new, modern and clean. Around 300 people work there, with teams from R&D to Sales and Marketing. The building even includes a factory for the Einscan 3D scanners.
We were impressed by the futuristic architecture of the new headquarters and the huge lobby area. A great attention has been put into the interior design, which reminded us of Google-like offices with sleek furniture, large open-spaces and a giant screen above the reception desk to showcase the company’s latest innovations. We felt as if we were in the new office of a Silicon Valley startup (or in some kind of spaceship!).
We were greeted by the Shining 3D team in charge of the event, and for many guests (including us) it was the first time they met in person with the people they had been working with via email or phone. One thing that many participants noticed is that the team included many women, something we do not often see in the male-dominated world of 3D printing. Although most of Shining 3D employees in R&D are male, it’s important to note that key positions in the company’s leadership, including Sales and Marketing, are held by women. The vibe was really nice throughout the three days and we could really feel the team was happy and proud to host their partners and show them the in and outs of the company.
Another striking fact was Shining 3D’s transparency. We were given a full tour of the office, from the Shining 3D Experience Center to the testing and product development areas, with almost unrestricted access to all the machines available. We were even able to test some of them ourselves. This high level of openness is pretty remarkable and definitely an important part of the company culture. Indeed, by giving lots of insights regarding their products and operations, Shining 3D intends to gather as much feedback as possible from its partners and end-users in order to improve the products and the company overall. We must admit we did not expect such an open approach from a Chinese company (remember that in China, Google, Facebook and several other services are blocked by the government).
- Shining 3D now covers the entire 3D printing spectrum
Shining 3D is already a well-established global player on the 3D scanner market. Their most notable success to date is the Einscan-Pro, a recently released $4,000 multi-functional handheld 3D scanner targeting both consumer and professional users.
Shining 3D also offer industrial-grade 3D scanners with their Optimscan series, suited for inspection applications, and consumer 3D scanning with the Einscan-S, a desktop 3D scanner under $1,000. Another fast-growing segment is the Dental 3D scanners, a market Shining 3D has been exploring for several years, with products such as the DS200+ dental scanner. For industrial applications that require portability the FreeScan X3 is also an interesting choice.
On the 3D printer front, Shining 3D is less dominant – at least for now. The Einstart-S, the company’s first foray into consumer 3D printing, is an interesting desktop 3D printer but it is still relatively unknown on the international market. On the professional 3D printer segment, several recent product announcements show the global ambitions of Shining 3D. They recently released their first industrial-grade SLA 3D printers, the iSLA series, which consists of 2 models: the iSLA-450 Pro and the iSLA-650 Pro. We’ve been able to test these impressive machines and we will write soon a full review. Spoiler: the iSLA 3D printers are quite impressive and likely to make waves in the industrial SLA segment.
Another major announcement is the upcoming launch of a new metal 3D printer, the EP-M250, using the SLM 3D printing technology and designed for the industrial market. Shining 3D also presented several production-grade 3D printers, including the EP-C3650, the EP-C5050 and the EP-P380, three SLS 3D printers (powder-based), for professional applications such as rapid casting of production of small batches of functional parts. It is now very clear that Shining 3D’s strategy is to cover the full spectrum of 3D printing applications, offering products and services for each category.
Besides, the company not only focuses on gaining ground on hardware, they also see 3D models as a key strategic component of the 3D printing value chain. To set a foot in the highly coveted world of 3D models platform, Shining 3D launched 3Dker.com, their own 3D models platform (currently only available in China). The difference with other platforms for sharing 3D printable files? 3Dker focuses on 3D models generated by 3D scanning (vs models created using 3D software). The company’s vision is that 3D scanners are easier to generate 3D models than existing 3D software which often require a steep learning curve.
Oh and in case you’re wondering, Shining 3D also has a foot in bioprinting, with an investment in Chinese 3D bioprinter Regenovo. We told you they’re everywhere!
- Is Shining 3D the future 3D printing industry leader?
All in all, this first Global Partner Summit left us a huge impression. Although we knew the company was innovative and starting to become an important player in many countries, we were surprised by their ambitious development plan and its execution by the Shining 3D team. This manufacturer really stands out not only among Chinese manufacturer but also on a global scale. While many of their Chinese competitors struggle to launch products beyond copycats of western best-sellers, Shining 3D relies on heavy R&D investments to bring innovative products to the market. The Einscan-Pro illustrates this aggressive strategy: Shining 3D tackles a category with a big market potential (handheld 3D scanners) by offering a product with a value proposition comparable to competitors, at a fraction of the price.
Shining 3D is also well-positioned to overcome two major challenges often faced by Chinese 3D printing companies: the difficulty to market their solutions to an international audience and the challenges of building a strong global distribution network. These two elements are key to grow beyond their local market, and Shining 3D understood that early. They already work with more than 80 resellers worldwide (26 countries were represented during this event!). The company also hired experienced consultants to help them penetrate key markets in the US and Europe, and they plan to open offices in these regions to support the existing resellers and grow the brand locally.
Shining 3D definitely seems on track to become one of the global leaders in 3D printing. With products lines spanning across all key categories, combined with strong R&D efforts, a forward-thinking leadership and a strong company culture: all this could make Shining 3D the ultimate global 3D printing company. One thing to keep in mind: other companies who tried the same strategy have failed (3D Systems and Stratasys). And they were not even involved in 3D scanning. Will Shining 3D be able to keep a startup spirit while becoming a big global 3D printing company? Will its bet on industrial-grade 3D printers pay off? Future will tell, but one thing for sure is Shining 3D has a huge potential and stars seem aligned for the Chinese brand to takeover the world.
To be continued!
I you want to learn more about this event and Shining 3D we recommend you to read this article on 3DPrintingBusiness.Directory.
We also took a lot of pictures of the 3D Experience center at Shing 3D Headquarter:
- Aniwaa presentation: trends and figures of the global 3D printing and 3D scanning industry