Remember when SLA was expensive, slow and inaccessible? Largely thanks to Chinese hardware manufacturers, industrial grade SLA technology using basic materials is now both affordable and efficient. Enough so that it can be used for the production of durable display models. Shanghai Digital Manufacturing gave a clear confirmation of this trend by using its industrial SLA systems to 3D print a giant installation for one of Nike’s flagship stores in Shanghai.
China has dozens of hardware manufacturers. They take consolidated technologies like stereolithography, filament extrusion and laser sintering/melting and mass produce it, leveraging scale economics and a giant internal market to truly democratize additive manufacturing. This may seem counter-intuitive. AM was made for mass customization and to re-distribute manufacturing away from giant production centers. It is still so – and most of the innovation in AM still takes place in Western markets such as Europe and the US – however it mainly Chinese companies that are rapidly adopting this technology for true mass production.
It is a fundamentally different approach. While westerners limit the use of AM waiting for the technology to prove it is “ready” for production, Chinese companies just go ahead and use it to mass produce parts. While western companies demand and develop more and more materials, Chinese companies take a handful of proven materials that and use them to meet 95% of parts demand. If they need higher resolution and better surface finishes they use SLA. If they need durability they use nylon and SLS. If they need metal they use SLM. If they need low-cost systems to teach 3D modeling and digital manufacturing in schools they use FFF. Simple as that.
SDM needed to make dozens of sports shoes and balls for an impactful installation inside Nike’s flagship store. The models had to look nice and last for at least a few months. So they turned to their industrial stereolithography capabilities and printed them out. The result is quite stunning. However what may seem even more stunning is the ease and simplicity that the company conveys.
Just do it
Shanghai Digital Manufacturing Co., Ltd (SDM) was founded in 2004 as a high-tech enterprise and a learning center in Shanghai. The company focuses on R&D, manufacturing, sales of high-tech 3D printers and 3D scanners. It is also a provider of 3D printing services. The company’s HQ is located in the industrial area of Brilliant City, in the Pudong district, adjacent to many first-class international companies. It also has established branches and offices in the cities of Chongqing, Xiangtan, Tianjin, Ningbo, Shenzhen, and Changsha.
SDM currently has more than 70 workers and more than 20% of them have a Masters or Doctor’s degrees. Its industrial SLA series of 3D printers and white-light scanner were researched and developed internally, leading to Dr. Zhao winning the National Awards for second class Scientific and Technological Advancement and the Shanghai Award for Scientific and Technological Advancement. SDM also developed an SLM metal 3D printer, a series of industrial FDM printers and a ceramic 3D printer. The company now owns more than 20 patents for technological inventions and software copyrights.
Since its foundation, SDM’s mission has been described by the claim “Digital Manufacturing Changes the World”. The company now provides high-quality products and services to a variety of domestic and international enterprises, colleges, and science & research institutions. These include Shanghai Jiao Tong University, General Motors Cooperation, Chengdu Aircraft Research Institute, Senyuan Group, Central Academy of Fine Arts, The Fourth Military Medical University. Applications for its technologies cover a variety of industries including industrial manufacturing, medical, cars, robot, aerospace, education and scientific research, expositions, culture creativity, and mass customization.
*The images in this article have been removed due to claim by 3D – Aaron