One week after the Singapore workshop, equipped with my Chinese visa, I crossed the border from Hong Kong to what could be the global capital of 3D printing along with most other kinds of technology: Shenzhen. From the outset of the project, we were certain that China would be one of our fieldwork sites. Aside from the fact that many 3D printers are manufactured there, there is a growing movement among the Chinese creative industries to adopt and utilise 3D printing, backed by encouragement and incentives from the Chinese government, including the Make in China 2025 scheme.
We had previously pondered as to which Chinese city to conduct the 3D printing workshop, and had also considered Beijing, the political capital, and Shanghai, another hub of 3D printing activity. But it became increasingly clear that Shenzhen was the obvious choice, as the technology capital of China and the home of 3D printing.
Another draw to Shenzhen is that it is our project team member Jiajie Lu’s hometown! Jiajie is well connected to the creative industries in Shenzhen, and along with Mr Yunlei (Yuri) Ge from the University Creative Park in Shenzhen (where the workshop was held), did a fantastic job of recruiting participants for the horizon scanning workshop.
We had ten participants from a variety of backgrounds: intellectual property lawyers in private practice, 3D printing industry representatives, creative industries representatives and university researchers. The workshop was mostly conducted in Mandarin (with a few comments in English from me).
We are still in the process of transcribing and translating the data, but again can offer a few initial insights as to our findings:
- According to our participants, 3D printing first emerged in Shenzhen around 2011/2012 and the early industry segments to adopt it were DIY (makers) and education
- China has already experienced patent litigation concerning 3D printing in Zhuhai
- Participants pointed to the expiry of patents around 2012 which they viewed as facilitating Chinese industry’s production of 3D printers; they also viewed that ‘fairer’ use of patents in the future was necessary in order to harness the socially beneficial aspects of 3D printing.
- The main industries where participants saw 3D printing being used and being useful were aviation and education; food printing was also mentioned!
- Medical 3D printing was not mentioned so much by participants compared to the Singapore workshop; one discussion among participants on this topic related to Chinese cultural attitudes to organ transplants and body modification, which they viewed as needing to change before Chinese people would accept any 3D printed organs or body parts in the future.
Xièxie (thanks) to everyone who gave their precious time to participate in this research. Thanks again to Yunlei (Yuri) Ge from the Shenzhen University Creative Park for his assistance.
Please contact me (angela.daly AT qut.edu.au) or Jiajie Lu (Jiajie.Lu AT hotmail.com) with any questions about this work.