When considering the advancements made through 3D printing technologies it is important to recognize the existing production market that can potentially see a real shift in the tides. In China, this market exists like nowhere else. With a reigning dominance on mass production and manufacturing, it’s quite interesting to watch additive manufacturing unfold as a real competitor in the field. As manufacturing processes move from outdated technologies to on-site production, industries are quickly adjusting. It may have taken a while but China will, unsurprisingly, eventually surpass the US in 3D printer sales as they steadily join the trend.
This leads me to one Chinese company who chooses to focus on the innovation of 3D printing technology as it gains market popularity in the real time. HORI, a 3D printer brand under Beijing Huitianwei Technology Co., Ltd, began developing their first 3D printer in 2011. Since then, their annual sales rate has increased by 5 times. The company has celebrated many additional milestones in the past five years thanks to a booming industry and an unwavering philosophy dedicated to pioneering the 3D printing field in China. After talking to HORI’s CEO, we learned more about where the company stands in the complex arrangement of emerging markets and aging ways of business. Read on below to find out more from our exclusive interview.
3D Printing Industry: Who are you? What’s your background?
Zhang Hongqiang: My name is Zhang Hongqiang, CEO of HORI. I have been working in electronic and IT systems for more than 15 years. Our key team members have worked together for 10 years. In 2005, we started in Zhongguancun, the Silicon Valley of China, in which we focused on software and electronic product applications. Since 2011, we have predicted the boost of the 3D printing market and developed our initial 3D printer and software.
3DPI: How did the idea of HORI 3D come to you?
ZH: Actually we noticed 3D printing long before our initial 3D printer was built up. Some of our IT tasks involved 3D designing. That is, until Mr Zhao – who has been in mechanical design and manufacturing for 30 years – came to me. After a short discussion, we realized that our research team is perfect for 3D printers. As more media reports, the concept of 3D printing expanded so fast. So we decided to begin our 3D printing business to meet strong demand in the future.
3DPI: What’s your ultimate goal, professionally and personally?
ZH: I like 3D printing very much, and always assemble and disassemble printers by myself. It’s interesting to find the products deficiencies we have. So personally, I want HORI to be the best 3D printing brand in the world. But professionally, I want 3D printers to be used everywhere in our daily life. As more kinds of 3D printers are designed and produced, our life will be changed by this magical machine.
3DPI: How many employees do you currently have and who are your key players?
ZH: As of now, we have almost 90 employees. They work in product designing and producing, IT programming, marketing, sales and after sales departments. Our factory covers more than 10,000 square meters with monthly production capacity up to 7,000 units. All those visible and invisible resources are controlled by our key members. This dream team will create more in the future.
3DPI: How will HORI contribute to the rapidly increasing 3D printing market nationally and globally?
ZH: HORI is a professional 3D printer manufacturer. Since 2005, we focused on 3D printing technology innovation, and are aiming to offer the best quality and high performance-to-price FDM 3D printers. We all know 3D printers are a tool, like computers. It allows people to realize their imagination. So this market was molded by how many people are using it in their daily life and work. To satisfy more kinds of demand, we developed seven series with different build sizes. Those models are applicable in education, design, art creativity, building modeling and so on. 3D printing techniques upgrade very fast. So our slogan is “Technique to the world”.
You should know that all the details of our 3D printers were designed and produced by HORI itself. We have the best research team, and we invest 60% of our annual profit into innovation. We’ve developed a slicing software, HORISS, which has been widely used. In the coming couple of months, we are going to release the new HORI nozzle system and new industrial models. Those continuously renewed products and software are our best contributions to the 3D printing industry.
3DPI: How do you think China differs from other contries who are affected by the rise in 3D printing products and services?
ZH: The 3D printing industry is young compared to traditional areas. China and other countries started almost at the same time to push this innovation. On the user side, they showed almost no difference. More and more Chinese users realize the creativity of 3D printing, and they have combined it with their work. It’s becoming especially popular with independent creators.
On the supplying side, China does have difference because China is the foundation of industry producing. The time has gone that “made in China” represents low quality. For the 3D printing market, there are many superior innovation teams in China, like HORI. They realize the importance of new techs and are willing to put them into practice. So the production ability of Chinese suppliers is stronger, and the quality and techniques are getting better and better.
3DPI: Does HORI face competition from mass producers in China? How are you combatting this?
ZH: Honestly, yes. But we should be clear about the structure of it. As a brand owner and manufacturer, HORI insists on researching and producing totally by ourselves. We have more than 20 products and design patents, and have independently developed slicing software. To some extent, most suppliers do not have such abilities and research teams. Our team members have worked together for more than 10 years. That’s why we can renew our hardware and software so fast, and it’s also the key to be a leading brand in 3D printing area.
3DPI: Do you think 3D printer providers like HORI are a significant theat to the large mass production market that China is know for?
ZH: Threat is not the role we want to play. Cooperation and close discussion with other providers is what we need. This is also the only way to expand 3D printing into more areas. HORI maintains good relationships with many suppliers. We are eager to learn more, to understand our deficiencies, and to listen to customers. We’d like to create more together with competitors, and would also like to share our experiences.
3DPI: Do you believe this change in production level will hurt or help China in the future? Why?
ZH: The change in production level will help China in the 3D printing industry. Let’s see, for example, the mobile phone market. Chinese brands are expanding so fast because of their good quality and new designs. But we all have to be careful about the vicious competition. Each brand owns a special spirit and company obligation. HORI aims to provide high performance-to-price 3D printers, which ensures better using experience and stability. We hope all the providers can insist on our special features, and make 3D printing a more popular and diversified market.