After successfully getting the Chinese Visa done at the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok, we were all set to travel to Shanghai. The first edition of Inside 3D Printing Shanghai took place over 2 days at the Shanghai Exhibition Center. The show was coined to be a large one, and I think the local partner did a good job attracting visitors to the exhibits and conference. The total number was estimated between 2500-3000 over two days.
3DPI team this time consisted Ari and myself, and our goals for this show were to get video interviews with a number of industry experts including Wim Michiels from Materialise, Harry Kleijnen from Philips, Lionel Dean from FutureFactories, Maltesh Somasekharappa from Wipro and Ian Gibson from Deakin University. The video interviews is somewhat new concept to 3DPI.TV and we are still learning to climb the ropes. Filming in a noisy tradeshow environment can be tricky and changing the location constantly adds a little extra challenge to it.
The whole trip was amazing. Cathay Pacific treated us well from Bangkok through Hong Kong to Shanghai and back. The hotel we stayed in was probably the nicest I have ever been in: Langham Xintiandi. Just simply amazing service. The room was fully automated, including dim lights that light up the floor automatically, in case you wake up in the middle of the night and get out of bed. Services included literally everything from shoe shining to great fitness & spa facilities. Hat tip to Christoph Rowen for this!
The first show day didn’t quite start for us the way we had planned. A tiny little part was missing from the camera tripod and we had to head out to look for a camera shop. It was quite an adventure. We happened to be close to a shopping mall area, so decided to try there first. Turned out that the malls was only for fashion items and clothing and literally didn’t have anything. Luckily we got directions from Leiko brand shop to a camera shopping mall. Again, 4-5 stories nothing but camera stores. As a westerner clustering all the same shops together doesn’t make much sense. I remember having this conversation with Wisa, when we first went out: why in so many places in Asia they put all the same item stores together, and not spread them around, say, area wise. I kind of get it, from the point that when people want to buy shoes they go to the shoe shop area… But I’m still in doubt that they would make better business by dividing territories. I could be wrong. Anyway it was a good way for us to walk around and see some Shanghai.
The show was well put together, but perhaps falsely seemed smaller in size, as it was divided into 2 floors. The first floor covered a large of the exhibitors, while the second floor had little less exhibitors, but focused on hosting the conference. The list of speakers was quite impressive, including one full track for the first day and two simultaneous tracks for the second day. Terry Wohlers opened with a keynote, delivering his standard quality. It was good to briefly catch up with Terry. The presentation were well-organized language wise. They had real time translators and real time headsets doing both ways English-Chinese, Chinese-English depending on the speaker. Also Q&As were translated successfully, that was quite interesting to see. Unfortunately I didn’t have chance to sit in the conference as our filming schedule was quite hectic. Seok Hwan You from ROKIT, who stated in Korea show that they will be the biggest 3D printer manufacturer globally by 2017 (I think he hopes that people would have forgotten that; I haven’t :) had interesting predictions for the future again this time. Although he slightly changed his focus away from ROKIT, saying that 3D Systems and Stratasys won’t be the two biggest in couple of years to come. He compared the 3D printer market to mobile phone markets and it’s early players vs. who run the show now. Remains to be seen. I’m not swiping that off, but there were players in mobile phone industry that remained in the leading position for quite a long time from the beginning. I guess it’s all about how the companies are managed now and in the future. Interesting discussion in any case. We caught up with Cyrus from 3D Tupo, who was presenting as well on 3D printing and e-commerce.
The exhibition covered mainly local companies and local distributors or local offices of the international brands. Materialise, EOS and Arcam had their local teams manning the booths. Stratasys and MakerBot official distributors were exhibiting. It was interesting to see, that so many local manufacturers and filament producers had made the way to exhibit. And that the same filament sales people who tirelessly approach through LinkedIn, were equally tireless face-to-face.
The state of 3D printing in China is in an interesting point at the moment. As it probably wouldn’t be unfair to say that China isn’t the most innovative country, but when something starts to get wind under the wings, things usually happen very fast, and in very large scale. This isn’t the case in only China, but other collective culture Asian countries as well. Many of the people I talked to in the event, seemed to believe that we are in the verge of something large happening very soon. It will be very interesting to see how it develops and who will be the big winners amongst the local players and the international larger 3D printing industry brands?
Overall we had a very successful show. Interviews coming live soon at 3DPI.TV. Was good to visit China, I hadn’t been there since I moved back to Thailand from Beijing 2007. It was really nice to see friends and familiar faces – new and old. Always good to see the Mediabistro team: Marilyn, Christoph, Stewart and Tyler! It was the last show of 2014 and ended the year in very positive feelings. I look froward to all the events in 2015, the first one in Singapore! Let me know, if you are interested in attending.
Final note: On the way back from the hotel to the Shanghai Airport we took to the Maglev train: top speed 430km/h. If you are going to Shanghai, that’s definitely worth a try.