Exclusive Interview: Creality CEO Ao Danjun on Shipping 5.3 Million 3D Printers

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Starting as a small company and growing to become the largest producer of 3D printers worldwide, Creality has been a big influence on the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. The firm’s printers have improved drastically since initial models and, now, Creality is moving up in the world. Higher quality and more expensive machines with more features and software are all now being launched. Given its influence, it’s strange that almost nothing is known about the company. To ameliorate that, we’re happy to give one of the first interviews ever with Creality CEO Ao Danjun, who co-founded the company in 2014.

In the Google Teams interview Ao seemed shy, humble, and soft spoken, while also confident and full of ideas. He’s clearly brilliant as well, with some very ambitious plans for his firm, which celebrated its 9th birthday on April 9th. I started by asking him how the firm got started.

“Creality has four founders, all 3D printing enthusiasts, who met at a 3D printing exhibition in Shenzhen in 2013. All had the same perspective of and belief in 3D printing, so we formed Creality in 2014,” Danjun explained. “From the start, the focus was on consumer-grade printers. We wanted to target only this segment and, through this path, make 3D printing more inclusive. We wanted to impact everyone’s lives not just that of a few businesses. The main element to success for us was that we listened to consumer voices. We keep listening now to our clients to keep quality high and build what they want and need. We talk a lot to users and use reviews, especially negative reviews, to improve our products. User feedback is important to us. The first few years were difficult, but now the company is healthy and growing. Today, our focus is still to continue to make great consumer grade 3D printers that will feature in any consumer´s life. We also want to make professional and industrial grade 3D printers to power. But our focus is on making 3D printers as accessible and popular as 2D printers.”

But how exactly did Creality emerge from thousands of Chinese 3D printing firms to become one the of the biggest?

¨We managed to keep costs low. We also did prototype and verification in house. During the design phase, especially through design for manufacturing, we were able to reap rewards. Then, through quality, economies of scale, and having large enough factories, we grew. Later, we used standardization and automation in our factories to reduce costs. We also have our own factories, and we have done this since the company’s foundation. We started with a 20-square-meter workshop and now we have well over 150,000 square meters in Shenzhen, Wuhan, and in other cities. Since our foundation, we have manufactured and sold 5.3 million units, with 1.5 million units being sold last year. This year we hope to sell 3 million 3D printers. ¨ 

I wanted to know more about Creality´s vision and goals. Danjun told me:

¨We see ourselves as having one core with two wings. Our one core is to deliver custom 3D printer solutions to different groups and industries. One wing is the Creality Cloud, which encompasses mobile, downloads, firmware, and social interactions. The other wing is the Creality Ecosystem, which is our 3D printing-related product platform, other products and things like our partnership with BASF Forward AM. ¨ 

How do you see the 3D printing market evolving? In what applications and industries are you focused on?

¨A 3D printer is just a tool. We want to popularize it so that it can be accessible to everyone. We want the 3D printer to be connected with lots of industries. We’re making specific machines for some industries, such as footwear and dentistry. But, it is also important to increase awareness and access to 3D printing. In the future, we expect a more consumer-focused offering. We don’t only want expensive products but better products and better price performance ratios. We will still focus on the maker consumer and make products that are usable by everyone later on. ¨

It seems that to do this, you’d have to make the market bigger. How do you hope to do that?

¨In consumer electronics, you need a low price. That is the trend and, over time, prices for products tend to be lower as well. What we have been focusing on is ease of use. That is our future. We have put much effort into this. We have not only paid attention to the product but also on 3D modeling, software, and hardware. This takes time, patience, persistence, and excellence. We are still at an early stage. We hope to eventually make everything more reliable and accessible.”

I asked Ao if he has any advice for young entrepreneurs who want to build international businesses.

¨The best advice I can give is to always listen to your users´ voices. Secondly, deliver on good quality. The third piece of advice is that when starting and maintaining a large company, the road is a long one. Things will go wrong. There will be ups and downs. The important thing is to consistently keep doing the right thing. Stay calm and over time you will succeed.”

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