Chengdu's 3D future


Helping hand: an artificial limb printed at Wiki-factory's Chengdu office



Helping hand: an artificial limb printed at Wiki-factory’s Chengdu office 

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As a regional hub for western China, Chengdu is favoured by a batch of national strategies, including the go-west campaign, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Tianfu New Area.

Many foreigners have already seen the business opportunities and decided to invest or start businesses in the Sichuan provincial capital. Nicolai Peitersen, a Dane who used to work for the Central Bank of Denmark and J. P. Morgan in London, and business partner, Christina Rebel of Spain, plan to set up a 3,000-square-metre innovation base in Chengdu, offering professional training programmes and 3D printing equipment to innovative and creative personnel.

The duo are co-founders of Wiki-factory, an online platform set to launch in May that will allow users to create, modify and collaborate on 3D designs and hardware projects.

“Similar to (online Chinese marketplace) Taobao, Wiki-factory works as a platform,” said Ms Rebel, explaining that customers can upload a design, customise what they need through the platform and find a franchisee to fabricate or print it with a 3D printer. She said she believed this new model of production had huge market potential.

On the ball: 3D objects printed at Wiki-factory in Chengdu

“It shortens the supply chain and enables people to customise products according to their personal needs, rather than choosing from a variety of massproduced products,” she said. WikI-factory has offices in London, Beijing and Chengdu, and Mr Peitersen said he and Ms Rebel had focused on China because they believed China defines the world.

“If it works in China, it will impact the world,” he said. “We set up an office in Beijing because we need to get support on a national level. But you also need an area to actually do projects.

“The Chinese government policy to develop western China into a growth engine was the reason why we chose Chengdu,” he added.

Wiki-factory has partnered with the China Youth Development Foundation, and plans to launch Printing the Future, an entrepreneurial programme, in five provinces and cities. Chengdu tops the list.

Chengdu is full of opportunities and is a perfect place for starting a business

“Chengdu has a very long history and is an emerging creative city,” Mr Peitersen said. “It’s full of opportunities and is a perfect place for starting a business.”

He said support from the city authorities had also been very important. “The Chengdu government encourages innovation, and what we do is innovation. This is a key reason why we prefer Chengdu,” he said, and added that he would like to co-operate on some big projects with the government in the next two to three years.

He said he was optimistic about the development of 3D printing technology in Chengdu, and that the new technology would accelerate the city’s development.

In June, Chengdu will become the first city in Southwest China to hold the World 3D Printing Technology Industry Conference. The event, which has previously been held in Beijing and Qingdao, is expected to draw more than 1,500 guests and 200 3D printing companies.

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