Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Arburg Opens Shanghai 3D Printing Center to Expand Chinese Presence

ST Medical Devices

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German machine construction company Arburg opened a new Prototyping Center (APC) at its Shanghai site on March 2021, strengthening its presence in China and offering prospective additive manufacturing customers the chance to witness its plastic Freeformer machines live. The almost century-old company has four locations in China, from technology centers in Pinghu and Shenzhen to commercial offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai. This latest addition is considered a significant stepping stone for Arburg since the APC could eventually cater to the growing demand for 3D printing technologies in the entire Asian market.

The new additive manufacturing hub at Arburg Shanghai (which has been Arburg’s main site in China since 2004) is expected to satisfy a particularly high demand from the medical technology and packaging industries, which is why news of the opening was announced during a medical seminar. With its industrial Freeformers – designed for the mold-free 3D printing of plastic parts as one-off items or in small batches – production at this APC will be somewhat smaller than the original Arburg prototyping center at the company’s headquarters in Lossburg, Germany, but comparable in terms of its capability.

The medical FDA-approved material TPE Medalist MD 12130H is suitable for producing flexible, customized hand orthoses with Freeform. Image courtesy of Arburg.

As the third Arburg Prototype Center in the world, the investment builds on the group’s plan to have dedicated prototyping centers available to customers in each of the company’s key market regions. Just like the first two facilities in Germany, and Rocky Hill, Connecticut, the new APC will use a vast array of original materials to produce benchmark parts using AM techniques, working round the clock where necessary to meet demand.

Operating a total of four Freeformers, two 200-3X and two 300-3X will allow preliminary trials to be conducted so that potential customers can determine whether Arburg Plastic Freeforming is suitable for their desired parts, materials, and applications before they commit to a purchase.

Industrial AM with the Freeformer uses plastic granules processed in injection molding and is capable of 3D printing objects without support structures. The open system is suitable for very soft and certified original materials and is particularly suitable for demanding applications in the medical and automotive industries. However, to help current and prospective customers become more familiar with the technology, they will be given the opportunity to participate in Freeformer training courses and work with the machines on site.

The Freeformer 300-3X and Freeformer 200-3X from Arburg. Image courtesy of Arburg.

Arburg Managing Director of Sales and Services, Gerhard Böhm, said the company in Asia is experiencing growing demand for the Freeformer machines in applications that involve additive manufacturing of functional components made from original materials. He also considered the new Arburg Prototyping Center in Shanghai would enable a wider expansion and a better way to respond specifically to the local needs of the Chinese market.

The investment builds on the firm’s strong position in China, a country that has truly adopted 3D printing technology. In the last ten years, AM has thrived, heavily promoted by the government and local companies. It is becoming one of the largest AM manufacturing markets in the world. In 2017, the Chinese government issued the “Additive Manufacturing Industry Development Action Plan,” trying to make a national AM industry worth $3 billion by 2020. Just a year later, China’s 3D printing market was estimated to be worth $1.8 billion, and according to a report by Ernst and Young, 78% of surveyed Chinese companies in 2019 had already adopted 3D printing.

Arburg’s Freeformer system. Image courtesy of Arburg.

Arburg’s presence in the Chinese marketplace spans more than 25 years. During this time, the family-owned business has installed service technicians and sales along the entire “plastic belt” of the Pacific coast and the country’s center around Chengdu and opened its subsidiaries in Shanghai in 2004 and Shenzhen in 2006. During the Chinaplas 2021 trade fair, the Managing Director at Arburg China, Zhao Tong, said that industrialization is an important topic. Still, digitalization is a key harbinger in increasing production efficiency and offers an enormous potential far from exhausted.

The new Arburg Prototyping Center will initially serve customers from China, but plans are in place to add more machines and staff capacity so that availability can gradually be offered to the whole of Asia. The service team at the Shanghai site also undergoes training to keep enhancing their additive manufacturing expertise.

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