Exploring China’s Huge Potential

Image showing Lara Liu operating an ACEO<sup>®</sup> IMAGINE printer

Lara Liu operating an ACEO® IMAGINE printer during her training in Burhgausen (Photo: ACEO®; Wacker Chemie AG)

Lara Liu represents ACEO® in China – one of the most important 3D Print markets. We spoke with her during her training in Burghausen and learned how the Chinese market can benefit from ACEO® ‘s technology.

Lara, can you tell us about your professional background?

I studied polymer science and technology at Tongji University in Shanghai. After graduation I started working at a Japanese company for technical support adhesives and sealants, where I stayed for eleven years. In 2014 I joined WACKER as senior technical manager. In this role I was responsible for silicone rubber applications in healthcare, automotive, and the energy sector.

Working with silicones at WACKER, how did you first get in touch with ACEO® ?

I first heard about ACEO® in 2016, when a colleague from the sales department called to set up a meeting with our team. He introduced us to 3D printing with silicones at ACEO® and I was amazed to learn about the opportunities this technology brings for product design. I clearly saw the huge potential of such an innovation for many industries.

What do you consider the advantages of 3D printing with silicones?

I see two major advancements this technology brings with it:

  1. 3D printing dramatically reduces development time and costs when you compare it with injection molding. You can have your 3D-printed silicone elastomer part ready within 10 days, whereas you might wait around nine months for a mold to be produced.
  2. It is now possible to produce very complicated structures with ACEO®‘s 3D printers. This allows a new thinking in product design and R&D.
How come you joined the ACEO® team?

The local WACKER sales team had a vacancy and they were looking for someone who could support and represent the ACEO® team in China – a market with huge potential and interest for innovations such as 3D printing. My professional background is all about silicone rubber and so I thought I should give it a try. My mission now is to educate Chinese customers as both technical manager for silicone rubbers and sales person promoting new business opportunities.

How would you describe the silicone 3D printing market or demand in China? 

Chinese customers – just as any other customer – need to fully understand how 3D-printed structures can improve their products or solutions. I recently underwent onboarding training in Burghausen and am thrilled to have learned so much about ACEO’s applications – especially in the medical field.
In China, our economy is growing fast, and the government encourages the application of internet and new technologies across all industries – a program they call “Internet Plus”.

This is a great opportunity for ACEO® ’s web shop, where customers can easily upload their CAD files and receive their 3D-printed part within around 20 days.

In addition, this innovative technology gives us the chance to approach OEMs and discuss how we can help them improve their processes or products.

Last but not least, remote healthcare will be the future of medical care, which provides yet another angle for ACEO’s capabilities and certificates they obtained for medical. The State Council of China recently issued a guideline on the promotion of Internet Plus healthcare development to improve healthcare modernization management, optimize resource distribution, innovate service mode, improve service efficiency, reduce service cost and meet the increasing demand on healthcare. This guideline specifically emphasized the use of Bio-3D printing technology.

What industries could be most relevant for ACEO® in China? 

E-mobility is a fast-growing business, and it will soon be much more present in the Chinese market. As with any innovative technology, ACEO could add value with silicone parts such as connectors, gaskets etc.

OEMs as I mentioned before could benefit from less prototyping costs and less development time when using our technology instead of injection molding.

Healthcare is one of the most versatile industries for ACEO® ’s technology. With more and more investments in our country being made in the medical sector, I hope I can bring new solutions to universities or surgeons such as presurgical testing. I think bio-modelling is a particularly promising application as silicone elastomers enable more realistic models compared to other materials. Elastic bio-models enable surgeons to train operations and to prepare for specific patient situations as these models can be printed form MRI scans, including inner structures.

I also believe that our web shop is a perfect business model for this market and the young generation who will create our future.

What were your first impressions of 3D printing during your training in Burghausen? 

It was amazing – the knowledge my colleagues shared in the training, opened the road for me to future technologies. The dedication and passion of the ACEO® team is unparalleled, and I can take a lot of useful information for our customers home with me. I literally cannot wait to get the chance to speak with them now that I learned and saw what ACEO® can do.