QINGDAO, June 20 (Xinhua) -- With products ranging from stem cells, shoes and mini-statues, 3D printing has started to boom in China amid the industry's rapid development worldwide.
Qingdao Unique Products Develop Co., Ltd announced that adipose-derived stem cells and corneal stromal cells exported via a biological 3D printer had survived for nine days.
Cell-printed tissues can be used for organ transplants or restoration, said Wang Hong, board chairman of the company at the 2014 World 3D Printing Technology Industry Exhibition, which opened on Thursday in east China's coastal city of Qingdao.
The four-day event has attracted 110 3D printing companies at home and from abroad and will showcase latest 3D printing equipment, technology and products.
"Except for the laces, the sports shoe was directly printed out," said Zhang Xuan, general manager of Qingdao AOD 3D Printing Co., Ltd, a high-tech manufacturer of 3D printers.
The cost of materials for the shoe is only 40 yuan (6.5 U.S. dollars), Zhang told Xinhua at the exhibition hall, where products such as printed sports shoes, shavers and bicycles are on display.
"3D printing will be a new growth area of our company. Many products can be realized through 3D printing and it will bring considerable profits," said Peng Jun, manager of the printing department of Golden Laser Co., Ltd in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province.
The global 3D printing industry's output was about 12 billion yuan in 2012 and 20 billion yuan last year, according to China 3D Printing Technology Industry Alliance data.
China's 3D printing output was 1 billion yuan in 2012 and more than 2 billion yuan last year. The sector's output is expected to reach 4 billion to 5 billion yuan this year.
But the industry has a way to go in China.
"Some people have a misunderstanding about 3D printing technology," said Luo Jun, executive chairman of the Chinese 3D industry alliance. "The technology is not omnipotent. Not all products can be printed out by a 3D printer. And not all things printed can be put into practical use."
3D cannot replace traditional manufacturing, but can supplement it, he added. The technology can save costs and shorten time in the industrial design field.
Last August, researchers at an east China university printed out a kidney the size of a knuckle. The tiny kidney consisted of living cells and hydrogel. Hydrogel contains agar and sodium alginate, providing cells with a stable growing environment.
China lags behind other countries in the research and development of 3D printers for industrial or biological use.
"Our advantage is that 3D printing has attracted attention and participation of domestic enterprises," said Luo. China is at an important period of upgrading traditional industries, which provides opportunities for 3D printing technology, he added.
3D printing is limited in its application market and materials, said Luo. "It still has a long way to go."
Editor: Yang Yi