Mar 6, 2018 | By Benedict

Chinese Rapid Prototyping company 3ERP wants to change the way you think about 3D printing and advanced manufacturing in China. The Guangdong-based company has worked with huge names like Lamborghini and Bosch, and says its products stand up to the strictest Western standards. We spoke to 3ERP founder Ronan Ye about his company, the state of manufacturing in China, and lots more.

Ronan Ye started 3ERP in 2010

For readers who haven’t heard of 3ERP, could you tell us a bit about your company?

We started up as a trading company with four people in 2010, buying from suppliers and selling to our overseas customers. Even though we were small, we set up a rule that quality comes first. In a short time, our customer base began to increase significantly.

We started having some problems when our suppliers became busy, however. Their quality would drop and they would not be willing to handle the complex projects that we needed. That’s why we invested in our first factory in 2013—in order to have better control of quality. We opened our second factory last year in order to have more capacity for our orders, and we now have over 80 employees. 

The rapid prototyping company now has over 80 employees

3ERP stands for 3E Rapid Prototyping. What is the “3E” part all about? 

Excellent, Efficient, and Economic. 

What did you do before starting 3ERP? And why did you decide to enter the world of rapid prototyping?

When I graduated from college, my first job was in sales for a ceramic tile company. After about a year, I had an offer from a rapid prototyping company in Dongguan [in Guangdong Province, South China], and I joined them after the interview. It seemed much more interesting than selling existing products. 

3ERP is headquartered in Guangdong, but caters to an international client base. Where do you get most of your business and what kind of companies do you work with? 

Most of our clients are from Europe and the U.S., where we have worked with several large companies. Some of the projects we have completed from those regions have been for famous companies such as Lamborghini, Bentley, Land Rover, and Bosch.

You provide several manufacturing services, one of which is 3D printing. What kind of 3D printing equipment do you use? 

We provide SLA 3D printed parts, since we have a partner who has over 20 SLA machines. The price we get from them is better than running one or two machines ourselves. 

3ERP's services include SLA 3D printing, CNC machining, casting, and molding

Describe for us the 3D printing industry in China. What sets 3ERP apart from other rapid prototyping or 3D printing companies in the country? 

SLA 3D printing is one of the most common ways to get prototypes made in China, because a number of Chinese companies produce SLA machines and materials equal in quality to Western ones. But in terms of SLS, SLM, and DMLS, I think we are a bit behind.

From our perspective, if we have to import the machines and materials from abroad, that means there is no point in making these kind of parts in China, which is why we don’t currently invest in these technologies. Once high quality Chinese-made machines become available, however, we will invest in those machines for sure.

3ERP says its rapid prototyping services are a cut above its Chinese competitors

At the moment, we are mainly offering CNC machining services. The machines we have in-house are very precise, mostly 4- & 5-axis milling machines. The machine tolerance is +/-0.005 mm, so we can achieve a tolerance of +/-0.02 mm, while most of the Chinese prototyping companies are still using old-style machines, making prototypes with tolerances of +/-0.1 mm.

Over the last few years, many Chinese companies have started to produce and market FDM 3D printers. These are useful for printing sculptures and things like pretty lamps in PLA, ABS, and other filaments, but I think they’re still far away from industrial use. They’re more like an expensive fancy toy. Currently, users can’t even get that much out of them because unless you’re a designer or engineer, you can’t even 3D print the designs you want. If a Chinese company manages to create software that is simple enough for everyone, then I believe the Chinese FDM market will grow considerably.

What turnaround times can 3ERP offer on 3D printed parts and other prototypes? 

Around five days to two weeks depending on the project type. 

3ERP has worked with customers around the world

You’ve worked on some pretty out-there projects, including shoes for Lady Gaga! What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on at 3ERP? 

We deliver thousands of projects every year, so it’s difficult to decide which is the most interesting one. But this diamond-cut Lamborghini model is a pretty good indication of what we can do.

A Lamborghini model made using CNC milling technology

What do you think additive manufacturing will look like in 10 years? 

As we know, additive manufacturing has become an important method for producing prototypes quickly—and often at a lower cost if you are producing small batches. For example, some customers will order just a few sets of medical devices, customized cars, or aerospace parts: additive manufacturing is well suited for these applications.

On the other hand, for some complex parts you absolutely have no other option besides 3D printing. But a lack of material options and a lack of efficiency in large-volume production is the main weak point for additive manufacturing at the moment. I imagine engineers will sort this out within the next 10 years, which will transform additive manufacturing and make it much more significant for industrial applications.

In my opinion, however, additive manufacturing, CNC machining, and injection molding will move forward in parallel, with each manufacturing technology continuing to play its own important role. Take the plastic water bottle, for example: you can make it in few seconds by blow molding, and you might need millions of units. So what’s the point spending hours printing it?

3ERP founder Ronan Ye thinks 3D printing, CNC machining, and injection molding will grow in parallel

Learn more about 3ERP's rapid prototyping services here.



Posted in Interviews



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