Jan 17, 2017 | By Benedict

Over the last decade, Chinese 3D printing and 3D scanning company Shining 3D has made a huge mark on the Asian market with its metal and plastic 3D printers, as well as its EinScan 3D scanning equipment and range of 3D-related services. The company recently debuted its latest 3D scanner, the EinScan-Pro+, at CES 2017. The success of Shining 3D is, of course, no accident: behind every successful company is strong leadership, and Shining 3D CEO and co-founder Li Tao has helped to steer the Chinese company in the right direction since its formation in 2004. As vice-chairman of the China 3D Printing Technology Industry Alliance and chairman of the Zhejiang 3D Printing Technology Alliance, Li has near-unparalleled experience in the 3D printing industry, and 3Ders was therefore delighted when the CEO agreed to answer a few of our questions about his company, the state of the 3D printing industry, and what the future holds for all things 3D…

Shining 3D CEO Li Tao

3Ders: For readers unfamiliar with your company, could you tell us what Shining 3D is all about?

Li: Shining 3D has been focused on 3D technology for 12 years. Since December 2004, we have developed both 3D scanning and 3D printing technology, and now have more than 600 team members, of which one third are R&D staff. We believe that 3D technology will help innovation and customization on a large scale, so we dedicate ourselves to providing 3D scanning and 3D printing products to help more people benefit from the new technology.

 

3Ders: What has been the secret to the company’s success?

Li: As a high-tech company, the first important thing is the technology itself. We’ve been investing more than 20% of our revenue into R&D for the last four years, and our patents and copyrights have been increasing in number, especially over the last two years. We now have more than 150 patents and copyrights. Secondly, “high-tech” does not mean inaccessible: we work on making the 3D technology easy to use and affordable, helping more users benefit from our 3D scanning and 3D printing products. We believe that, by doing this, you create more value for people and gain more support from them.

 

3Ders: 2016 saw new 3D printers introduced from companies like HP, Carbon, and Nano Dimension. As an important 3D printing company yourself, do you think the industry is in a better place now than it was a year ago?

Li: Yes, for sure. That’s why so many good companies are joining the industry. We’ve seen more and more creative users making interesting products with 3D printers, and the application of 3D printing is expanding to direct manufacturing instead of just prototyping.

 

3Ders: How would you describe the state of the 3D printing industry in China?

Li: China is an important and fast-growing market for 3D printing, which is causing almost all brands from the 3D printing and 3D scanning industry to come to China. The government also encourages local scientific institutes and companies to develop technology and applications for 3D printing. This helps innovation in Chinese manufacturing, but also makes the Chinese market seem too crowded with heavy competition. The good thing, however, is that all local companies with unique technology grow faster year by year. At same time, the purchase power is shifting from education and government toward more and more industrial users, which are a big part of China’s economy and probably the biggest in the world currently.

 

3Ders: Shining 3D produces several kinds of 3D printer, including FFF, SLA, and even metal SLM and SLS printers. Do you foresee these technologies growing at a similar pace, or do you think some 3D printing processes will become more important than others?

Li: We all know that 3D printing technology has many types, and that each one has its specific application area. Our sales increased last year on every type of 3D printer. We cannot say which one is superior to the other, but in terms of revenue increase rate, the two fastest-growing categories are FFF printers for education and metal printers for industry. China has more than 41,000 schools and nearly 3,000 universities and colleges, many of which are starting to use FFF 3D printers for education purposes. Since these schools connect many families and industrial companies, this is a big potential market for 3D printer sales. Regarding metal printing: since it’s an important direct manufacturing tool, China has a huge customer base for its application.

 

Shining 3D produces 3D scanning products for the dental industry

 

3Ders: Shining 3D produces 3D printing, 3D scanning, and even 3D laser engraving equipment. These 3D technologies are all connected, but do you foresee ways in which they could better be integrated with one another?

Li: We believe that 3D scanning and 3D printing will become well connected in more and more applications. This kind of integration will increase the efficiency and possibility of mass customization. We have many customers who have adopted such crossover processes for earphones, dental products, orthopedic products etc.

 

3Ders: How would you evaluate the current state of the 3D scanning industry?

Li: The 3D scanning industry is growing pretty fast. It used to be a non-contact metrology tool for reverse engineering and inspection, but now 3D printing and VR have opened a wider gate for 3D scanning applications. We all know that designing a high quality 3D model can take a long time, even for a professional 3D designer. 3D scanning is now widely used as 3D digitizing tool to get high quality 3D data from real objects, creating high-quality 3D content for printing or virtual display. A well-scanned 3D model can therefore help a 3D designer a great deal.

 

3Ders: Shining 3D has produced 3D scanners optimized for use in dental applications. Will you be targeting any other specific fields in the future, or will you favor versatility over specificity?

Li: Shining 3D started with 3D scanning technology in 2004 for the purpose of customized products. We then developed high-accuracy 3D scanners for non-contact metrology. After 2010 we started to optimize the 3D scanner for the digital design and manufacturing of dental products etc. In 2015 we released the EinScan, which is designed to help more people get access to high-quality 3D scanning technology in an easy and affordable manner. As we sell 3D scanners for more applications, we do see more requirements for specific 3D digitizers: that’s why we also make OEM 3D scanners for our business partners in many specific applications. I believe that, in the future, 3D scanning technology will be developed in specific ways for individual fields. 3D scanning will be integrated into application-specific software, and the hardware itself will become as common as digital cameras are today.

Shining 3D's new EinScan-Pro+ 3D scanner

 

3Ders: Shining 3D launched the new EinScan-Pro+ at CES 2017. Could you tell us a little bit about that product? How does it compare to the EinScan-Pro?

Li: EinScan Pro+ is a new member of our EinScan product family. EinScan S is targeted at the education market to help more users get familiar with 3D scanning technology, and can create high resolution 3D content for 3D printers. It can also be used as a training tool for learning a 3D design software. EinScan Pro is a multi-functional 3D scanner designed to meet many professional-level requirements of 3D scanning. It can deliver either handheld 3D scanning or industrial-quality 3D scanning capabilities to engineers and designers. EinScan Pro+ improves upon the handheld 3D scanning capabilities of the EinScan Pro. We have equipped the Pro+ with our new patented technology to provide high efficiency together with high resolution in handheld HD scanning mode, which we believe will be loved by users who prefer handheld scanning.

 

 

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