By gugganij (eigene Fotografie - own photography), via Wikimedia Commons
The Chinese economy is on track to replace the US as the world's number one financial power - and it is bringing 3D printing with it on its rise to the top of the pyramid.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, China is on course to surpass the US in three years, which means Barack Obama could well be the last President to rule the US as the world's biggest economy.
Interestingly, last week's World 3D Printing Technology Industry Conference in Beijing gleaned further information about the sector's advancement within this very timeframe.
Engineering.com reports that Luo Jun, Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA) in Beijing, predicted that revenues from China's 3D printing industry would reach 10 billion Yuan ($1.6 billion, £1.05 billion) by 2016. To put this into perspective, the Wohlers Report 2012 stated that the sale of additive manufacturing products and services worldwide will reach $3.7 billion by 2015 - meaning China will have more than one-third of the global market.
China is an early adopter of 3D printing, with decision-makers in Beijing pumping cash into 3D printing and additive manufacturing research and development since 1992. Furthermore, there are well established 3D printing university courses training the next generation of industry leaders up and down the vast Asian superpower.
There has been a significant rise in the number of 3D printer manufacturers in Asia over the past 10 years. Beijing Tiertime is one of the biggest home-grown companies and sells its products in their thousands to the US and Europe, compared to just several hundreds to its domestic market.
Tiertime's machines are attractive because they are more affordable than their West-made counterparts.
Lin Yuting, who works with Tiertime's marketing department, told China Daily: "Our company has nearly 20 years of history. Our products for home use are priced at 9,999 Yuan, while those for industrial applications are sold at 100,000 to 300,000 Yuan a set."
The mean price of the sorts of desktop 3D printer widely available in Europe and the US is around £1,500, which is more expensive than Tiertime's offering, which is equivalent to £1,045 - and the company's industrial machine estimates also undercut Western models.
Commenting on the growing 3D printing manufacturing industry in China, Luo Jun warned that these companies still have a lot of work to do to continue to the rise and rise of the Chinese market.
"What we need to do now is to integrate 3D printing technology with an ongoing industrial transformation and upgrade," he was quoted by Engineering.com as saying.
To help this industrial integration to progress, AMA has plans to build 10 3D printing innovation centres in 10 different cities across China.
This will complement the 3D printing university courses currently being taken at institutions such as Tsinghua University, Xi-an Jiaotong University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology and the South China University of Technology - and will further root the manufacturing technique as a mainstream.
Each new dedicated innovation centre will receive funding of around 20 million Yuan and will include education centres and showrooms where industry leaders can learn more about the technology and its developments.
In March 2013, AMA signed a deal to establish the first of these hubs in the heart of the Nanjin Economic and Technological Development Zone. This centre will house showrooms and education facilities in addition to a top-of-the-range research and development laboratory.
Developments such as these set China up as a formidable future 3D printing world leader and experts around the world have acknowledged the nation's potential to drive the industry forward.
Indeed, Engineering.com revealed that Chairman of the UK's Additive Manufacturing Association Graham Tromans stated that within three to five years, China is in the running to become the home of the world's largest 3D printing market.