A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the German chemical sector is increasing its exposure to the Chinese additive manufacturing (AM) market. As I noted, that development appears to be part of a larger trend, involving the German economy’s growing dependence on Chinese imports.
In another example of this same dynamic, EPlus3D, a Chinese original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of AM platforms, announced that the company recently opened a new European base-of-operations, in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Also, at the same time as EPlus3D was doing the ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new facility, the company also held its first-ever global partners meeting, hosting over 40 of its partners from around the world for a two-day conference.
EPlus3D makes powder-bed fusion (PBF) 3D printers for both metals and polymers, as well as stereolithography (SLA) platforms. The company also has a range of software solutions, and a foot in 3D printing services and consulting. Over the last couple of years, in particular, EPlus3D has expanded its international operations, and the company now does business in an impressive 40 countries.
Moreover, the company does business with a notable list of corporate partners. Earlier this year, for example, the AM division of global steel giant Hebei JINGYE Group acquired one of EPlus3D’s EP-M650 metal printing platforms. In a post regarding that acquisition, 3DPrint.com’s Joris Peels wrote about EPlus3D, “Together with Farsoon, they exemplify a bold set of Chinese players who aim to conquer the [AM] OEM market for metals.”
The comparison to Farsoon now seems particularly apt, considering Farsoon’s expansion into the Middle East this past February. Interestingly, in terms of the form it’s taking, the increasingly large presence of the Chinese AM market in the Middle East, and now Europe, resembles the similar expansion — but going in the opposite geographical direction — of Western European companies into the Indian market. Given that I’ve long argued that the latter is likely part of a broader Western strategic buildup of India as a linchpin in an alternative to Belt-and-Road, I think the parallels between the expansions are far from coincidental.
Finally, concerning how China’s expanding role in the German AM market will play out in the near future, perhaps the most interesting angle involves how companies like EOS and EPlus3D are planning to coexist. It seems unlikely that EPlus3D would’ve set up its European headquarters in Germany without some sanctioning of that move in advance, by the established powers from Germany’s metal AM market, as well as Farsoon, whose European headquarters are also in Germany. In this sense, collaboration between the two sectors is only likely to increase, and, sooner rather than later, we should expect to hear of additional, more impactful developments bearing that out.
Images courtesy of EPlus3D