Text: Thomas Masuch; Photos: HBD — 15 June 2020
As life in China returns more and more to normal, the SLM machine manufacturer HBD has already been firing on all cylinders since late February. »Business in China is getting back on track, but I’m afraid that overseas markets might need more time. I hope that the world economy’s recovery will be swift and strong after the epidemic, especially in Europe,« says overseas manager Nicolas Yao.
The company, which employs around 160 people at its two locations in Guangdong and Shanghai, is one of China’s leading firms in SLM machines, having sold over 100 machines in 2019. While its home country, with its important dental and molding industries, is still its key market, overseas sales are becoming more and more significant. Yao reports that after starting its international business in 2017, HBD managed to sell 20 machines to five different countries outside of China just two years later.
Since 2007, HBD has made a name for itself both in China and around the world. The company sold its first machine in 2014, and more recently, dental and mold making in particular have proven to be growth drivers. In the dental sector, mass production is the order of the day; meanwhile, more and more of the around 30,000 Chinese companies involved in tool and mold making are recognizing the importance of conformal cooling and acquiring the necessary expertise. »The potential here is huge,« says Nicolas Yao.
In order to further increase its market share and attract new companies to AM, HBD is not focusing primarily on offering the lowest possible prices. Its machines range from EUR 100,000 to EUR 900,000 for the largest units.
Important to establish new designs
According to Nicolas Yao, quality is much more important. »HBD employs its own experts in mold making to help customers improve their applications and establish the right processes,« he explains. This is where HBD faces hurdles similar to those of other manufacturers in the rest of the world. »For users, it isn’t easy to transition from a traditional manufacturing process to modern, integrated Additive Manufacturing without the assistance of metal 3D-printing vendors,« Yao continues. »You have to follow a different concept and realize that metal 3D Printing won’t completely replace your traditional manufacturing process; it merely complements CNC machining. It’s important to establish new designs here and come to terms with the more narrow range of materials available in the AM sector.« This process, however, is also becoming increasingly popular among China’s mold makers. HBD has thus won over many customers in the tooling industry, including the well-known home appliance manufacturers Gree and Midea.
»In addition, continuous innovation research and development is an important driving factor of HBD’s ability to remain highly competitive,« Yao states. For example, the hybrid additive technology LACM (Laser Additive and Cutting Manufacturing, an HBD invention) is now integrated into its metal 3D printers. »This makes these already popular units even more powerful,« the manager affirms.
- Additive Manufacturing
- Tool and die making