In August I braved the heat and humidity to travel to Shanghai for a few days, mainly to present our 3D printing research at the biannual Crossroads in Cultural Studies international conference, which this year took place at Shanghai University’s Brutalist Baoshan campus. There were various papers addressing aspects of digital technologies at the event, and helping to move discussions beyond essentialist and determinist views of technology.
Shanghai is also a very important centre for 3D printing and other technologies in China as the business Tier 1 capital of the country. It’s an exciting and dynamic megacity whose residents pride themselves on their open-mindedness, cosmopolitan attitudes and receptiveness to new trends. Perhaps it’s not a surprise to find two important locations for 3D printing internationally located in Shanghai: the 3D Printing Cultural Museum and China’s first makerspace, XinCheJian. I was fortunate enough to visit both places during my visit.
First on my list was the 3D Printing Cultural Museum, also located in Baoshan District, an industrial area of the city. The Museum is located in Wisdom Bay Industrial Park, a funky space for start-ups and tech businesses, where Materialise also has an office. The Museum is run by 3D printing design firm Xuberance, and in keeping with Xuberance’s aesthetic eye, houses many beautifully designed 3D printed creations, from clothing to furniture to medical objects, as well as research and education facilities. The museum is spread over five floors and includes two cafes which both have examples of 3D printed chocolate (only to look at for now, not to buy).
Then the following event I arrived at XinCheJian, which is located in a great spot in central Shanghai, not far from the famous Jing’an Temple. Every Wednesday XinCheJian hosts a bilingual (Chinese & English) open evening, where its multinational members present their current projects and give demonstrations. XinCheJian is a not-for-profit, member-run makerspace, which distinguishes it from many other makerspaces in China which are supported by the government or form spin-offs from educational institutions such as universities. What XinCheJian lacks in institutional funding, it more than makes up for in creativity. Its foremost project involving 3D printing is its hub for the Precious Plastic Project. This involves waste plastics being broken down and used as raw material to 3D print – and also construct using other manufacturing techniques – new, upcycled objects, such as a necklace. But like makerspaces throughout the world, 3D printing was just one technology used at XinCheJian, with members also presenting projects involving machine learning, robotics and hydroponic farming.
It was a great pleasure for me to be able to present my own 3D printing research and visit two excellent locations for 3D printing, occupying very different parts of the city and spaces of 3D printing activity, all over the space of a couple of days in Shanghai!