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XYZprinting wins Nikkei Asian Review award with budget-and user-friendly 3-D printer

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's XYZprinting established itself as a major international developer and manufacturer of 3-D consumer printers almost overnight when its first product, the affordable da Vinci 1.0, hit the market in early 2014.

XYZprinting Chairman Simon Shen shows off some of his company's 3-D printing products.

     With a price tag of $499 on Amazon.com, the da Vinci 1.0 became the top seller on the U.S. e-commerce giant's site soon after its debut. As a comparison, the cheapest model from XYZprinting's major U.S. competitor Makerbot sells for $1,375 on Amazon.

    Da Vinci 1.0 has won the 2014 NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW Award for Excellence for being both budget- and user-friendly. The Taiwanese company provides over 1,000 free designs for users to download and print.

     Since the da Vinci 1.0, XYZprinting has released three updated models: the da Vinci 1.0 AiO incorporates a scanner; the da Vinci 1.0A allows users to print with either ABS or biodegradable PLA material; and the da Vinci 2.0 Duo can print in two colors.

     In November, the firm unveiled a new food printer that can turn flour paste into cookies, replacing traditional baking molds and offering many more patterns to choose from. The new product is expected to become commercially available in the second quarter of 2015.

     In an exclusive interview with Nikkei Asian Review on Dec. 12, XZYprinting Chairman Simon Shen spoke of his company's current success and his ambitions for the future.

Q: Why did you decide to enter the 3-D printer business?

A: We have been in traditional printing for 15 years, making both inkjet and laser printers. [Shen is CEO of XYZprinting's parent company, New Kingpo Group, a major Taiwanese contract electronics manufacturer that makes traditional printers for HP.] But we saw that traditional printers would suffer from a slowdown in growth, so we thought we could use our solid experience to develop 3-D printers.

     We began exploring 3-D printers about two years ago and asked our clients if they would be interested but they thought the technology was still not sophisticated enough and the market too small. However, I thought we could not afford to wait any longer, so we started to develop the da Vinci 1.0 on our own.

     Besides the current filament technology our products use, we are also developing machines that use stereolithography (SLA) technology.

Q: What is your worldwide sales strategy?

A: We are mainly focusing on e-commerce channels like Amazon in the U.S and PChome in Taiwan because our target customers mostly rely on those sites for their shopping. We are now selling in many countries and regions, including the U.S., Europe, Japan, South Korea, China, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia and Iran. The U.S. is our biggest market at the moment, accounting for more than 40% of our revenue.

     While e-commerce channels are bringing in steady orders now, and most of our existing customers are designers and do-it-yourself enthusiasts, we believe the education sector has the potential to lead explosive growth in the use of 3-D printers.

Q: What are your shipment estimates?

A: We have started to ship the da Vinci 1.0 in mass quantities this past March, and we expect to ship close to 40,000 units [in 2014]. [This year] we hope to hit 150,000 units. Our goal is to ship a total of 1 million units in three years' time, or by the end of 2016. If we can realize that target, we will be able to become the No. 1 supplier of consumer 3-D printers in the world.

     (Our sales could benefit from) the Taiwanese government's initiative to equip every secondary and high school with a 3-D printer in 2015 for students to use in class.

Q: What is your company's strength against your competitors?

A: We have an advantage in the 3-D printing sector thanks to our long-term experience in making traditional printers and our mass production expertise, and we have a group of engineers with relevant expertise.

Q: What future products do you see XYZprinting coming up with?

A: We want to work on machines that can be used in the medical sector to print skin and blood vessels. But it will take five years before the technology can materialize.

Interviewed by Nikkei staff writer Debby Wu

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