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May 9, 2017

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Businesswoman marries technology and design

A Shanghai startup company is taking 3D printing beyond its usual use in aerospace, manufacturing and healthcare, and applying the technology to the design of everyday items like jewelry, cups and themed smartphone shells.

Every product displayed in the studio of Yunji Creative Design is made by 3D printers.

Yunji President Wang Ya, who comes from a background of cross-border commerce and psychological consulting, said she aims to add “emotional and fashionable” elements to the application of 3D printing.

It’s a pretty new concept in the domestic consumer market.

“I feel really happy and excited about it,” Wang said, sitting in her office near Chenghuang Temple and pointing to the array of 3D products that fill the room. “These are my children.”

She started the company in January 2015, and already Yunji products have targeted markets such as marriage, sports, jewelry, education and business gifts. It produces more than 100 different products.

The company’s products are so popular that Wang secured financing last year from a government-backed fund.

One of the earliest products were 3D-printed models of brides and grooms, which are sold by marriage organizers. The prices range from 1,680 yuan (US$243.50) to 2,580 yuan, depending on size.

Another product aimed at young families is a 3D-printed model of a baby’s hands and feet as a way of recording an infant’s growth.

“The service is not cheap,” Wang admitted. “But it’s offering a unique and emotional experience for couples and parents.”

The hardest part of the new business was convincing marriage companies and baby-care centers that the products would sell. At the time, 3D printing was relatively new and that made the sales pitch more difficult.

Wang, who studied in Russia at one time, said her experience in China-Russian trade helped her develop distribution channels.

Her unique pairing of design and technology finally attracted clients like Shanghai Museum and the Fudan University.

Wang said she spent considerable time learning everything about 3D printing technologies, including research to find the best printer suppliers. Yunji experimented with different materials in its custom designs, including gold, marble and ceramics.

The latest products were 3D-printed cups for a football league in the Yangpu District and 12 rings themed around Chinese zodiac animals like the tiger, dragon and monkey.

Wang said the next stage of development will focus on culture, entertainment, education and perhaps the property market.


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