Chinese executives donate 3D printers to Dothan

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Posted: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 10:57 pm | Updated: 2:03 pm, Wed Apr 2, 2014.

Inside the auditorium of Wallace College’s Cherry Hall, a man with 24 years of experience in the suddenly-erupting 3D printing industry wowed the audience with its implications, both present and future.

Outside, in the lobby, a new 3D printer churned out plastic animal designs.

It was a simple example of something that will radically change manufacturing, said Graham Tromans, a British-based industry consultant in Dothan on Tuesday to talk about “Additive Manufacturing” and its implications.

“Could it be the next industrial revolution? Maybe,” said Tromans, adding that it will more likely lead to a manufacturing revolution.

The 3D Printer now belongs to Wallace College, thanks to a donation from one of China’s leading 3D Printer manufacturers.

Liu Zhang, vice chairman and general manager of China’s Jiangsu Zijin Group Co., Ltd., made the presentation Tuesday to Wallace President Dr. Linda Young. Zhang also donated another 3D Printer to Dothan Technology Center and Principal Terry Scott. Zhang and members of his business team are in the United States to explore possible expansion. They were guests of the City of Dothan and the SoZo Group, organizers of November’s U.S.-China Manufacturing Symposium to be held here.

“This is just the beginning of a lot of activities over the next few months,” said Raymond Cheng, CEO of the SoZo Group.

Cheng said the printers cost about $10,000 each. Scott said he hopes to make the printer available to an array of students in the city school system.

“It’s very exciting. It is really opening my eyes to the broader applications of this technology,” Scott said. “We are really looking forward to letting a broad range of students work with this equipment in team-building exercises and other uses.”

Young said the printer will help Wallace students become more job-ready in a bourgeoning industry.

“We’re very grateful for this gift,” Young said.

Tromans lectured students and Dothan residents on 3D printing technology and talked not only about its current uses, but the future possibilities.

“We are sitting on something that will have a major impact on manufacturing in the future,” Tromans said.

The impact of 3D printing is already being felt in many areas. Computerized scans of objects are downloaded into a printer that uses loaded material to manufacture a product from the data. Tromans said some dentists are already using it to 3D print crowns and other implants on site. Specialists are 3D printing cranial implants and facial bone implants as well. He said as many as 3,000 parts on the current Boeing 787 Dreamliner were 3D printed. The “costume” worn by Robert Downey, Jr., in the Iron Man movies was primarily 3D printed as well.

“There are a lot of wonderful applications,” Tromans said.

The future, however, is even more intriguing. Mass manufacturing capabilities could change how many companies do business.

Schmitz said he was grateful to have the Chinese team in town this week.

“Obviously, we want to sell them on Dothan,” Schmitz said. “When they leave, they will understand Southern hospitality. They are looking to expand and we know it’s going to be very competitive. But, we are the first place they are visiting and we don’t have a chance if they never come here. So, we want them to know what Dothan is all about.”

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