— The TCT Group (@thetctgroup) March 1, 2018

As you entered the hall for the fourth edition of TCT Asia, there was one booth that immediately stood out, that of GE Additive's. Crowds packed on to the booth from 9am on the first day to get a good look at the company's metal 3D printing technology, with both Concept Laser and Arcam technologies on display and working.

The interest is no surprise given last year's event and the 13 new metal 3D printing systems on show. TCT Asia speaker, industry expert and Chair of the Additive Manufacturing Association in the UK, Graham Tromans, said last year: “China has that manufacturing mindset and in China metal AM is seen as more of a manufacturing process compared to the plastic processes. The automotive and aerospace sectors are of the utmost importance to China’s manufacturing economy and that is why so many of the companies are developing metal machines. Despite the rise of Chinese machinery, the Western companies maintain strong sales in China owing to a more refined process.”

If metal additive manufacturing demonstrated its growth in China in 2017, in 2018 it thoroughly confirmed itself as THE manufacturing technology the Chinese market is interested in. Judging by the rebookings for TCT Asia 2019, that isn't going to change.

At the 2018 event, fellow editor Sam Davies and I took to the aisles to do a quick headcount of all the metal machinery and metal 3D printing companies. In the tally, we didn't take into account the many companies like Oerlikon, Sandvik Osprey, H.C. Stark, Aubert & Duval plus the endless Chinese companies showing metal parts made from their powders, we only ticked off physical additive manufacturing machines that produced parts in metal.

There were 38!

38 metal machines of all shapes and sizes all claiming a particular niche be it size, price, speed, gas flow, or even in the case of a relatively new Chinese company, DediBot, (the guys and girls with a 3D printing drone) multi-material powder bed fusion.

The feeling from conversations with western exhibitors like Renishaw, GE Additive and SLM Solutions was that although the Chinese additive manufacturing systems are often cheaper there's still a requirement for European level of expertise, evidential from SLM Solutions recent glut of sales into China.

The impression from the western companies is that many of the smaller manufacturing companies may go for a cheaper powder bed fusion technology, but bigger firms looking at global domination, the likes of keynote speaker from aerospace giant, COMAC, will want processes that have been honed over nearly two decades.

You only have to look at the floorplan and size of booths from those exhibitors as well as the likes of EOS and Trumpf to understand that the Chinese metal 3D printing market is hugely significant to western companies.

On the flipside, the Eastern companies, really upped their games this year. The likes of Shining 3D, Bright Laser Technology and Farsoon were centre aisle with huge open-sided booths, packed out demonstrating the many capabilities of its machinery.

And arguably the most impressive innovation on the show floor came from Farsoon whose CAMs technology proved a massive hit with both the working machines on the show floor having big SOLD stickers slapped on them during the final day.

Metal Additive Manufacturing is here to stay in China and the homeland technologies are catching up to western machinery, fast.

Source:TCT Magazine