Using 3D printing technology to print a house? Many might think that is merely a concept. But in fact, there are already relevant and mature technologies overseas bringing up a new industry. In Macao, there is also a group of young people who are using 3D printing technology to print “houses” with local elements. These printed “houses” attracted lots of buyers falling over each other to get one after they hit the market. So what is so special about these “houses”? In this issue, we will take you on a tour to these 3D printed “houses”.
Printing Macao people’s collective memory and culture
Good Farmer Production Ltd. was founded by a group of young people in Macao in 2019. As an emerging cultural and creative brand, Good Farmer Production makes good use of 3D printing technology to make small and delicate architectures from Macao. Alan Lou, one of the Good Farmer Production’s founders, is devoted to studying Macao’s history, which has been the decisive factor for him when choosing college programme as well as his career path. “I am hoping to resolve the deadlock between development and cultural preservation in the city through making architecture models,” Lou explained. “Using 3D technology to print out local architectures in Macao is also a way that allows us to preserve our collective memory and culture.”
But why using 3D printing technology to print models? “Our initial idea was that we could just make architecture models, like approaching some factories and asking them to make figures with us. But I didn’t have relevant experience and industry resources. I didn’t have any channel to look for potential manufacturers that I could work with. Plus, there wasn’t enough cash for me to do mass production. All these had made finding a manufacturer extremely difficult for me,” Lou recalled. “Then I noticed that 3D printing can also help us turn our ideas into actual products. I started to conduct research and collect more information on 3D printing. Eventually, I learned that 3D printing is low-cost while providing high efficiency. That’s why I decided to import 3D printers to build ‘houses’ for our brand!”
Encountering challenges and continuing to improve
For Lou, a newbie who had zero experience with 3D printing, the entrepreneurial journey had not been easy. Even looking for the right equipment and finding the correct use of it were difficult tasks. “In the beginning, we used traditional 3D printers. Simply put, they construct the model through layering. But the quality of the models they printed varies. The results couldn’t meet our expectation even after we polished them,” Lou said. “Later we came across stereolithography, and we have been using it ever since. Stereolithography is a relatively new 3D printing technology that uses light to cause the materials to cross-link together to form shapes. When compared with traditional 3D printing technologies, stereolithography provides more precision and prints faster. The models made by using stereolithography have smooth surface and details that match our expectations.”
Having the right equipment does not mean the production process of a model becomes easier. From the 3D design, controlling the printer, to colouring the model, all these parts of the 3D printing process presented lots of challenges to the team. Lou and his team had to constantly learn and make improvements, which enabled them to greatly boost their efficiency and work quality. “Souvenir models’ size ranges between 20cm and 30cm on the market. Our models, on the other hand, are small and delicate, with their figure size controlled within 12cm. The biggest reason for it is that we want to lower the cost and make sure most residents in Macao will be able to afford it,” Lou said. Currently, Good Farmer Production’s 3D printed architectures are priced at MOP120 each. It is surely difficult to maintain the price to such a low level after excluding the cost in labour, equipment maintenance, materials, colouring, packaging, etc.
Models that resonate with people in Macao
Good Farmer Production’s models are mostly sold and purchased through online platforms. There are also a small number of products consigned in touristic areas. “At present, most of our customers are residents in Macao. I believe people come to buy our products not only because we used edgy technology like 3D printing, but also because of their nostalgia sentiment towards Macao. Our products are not perfect at this stage. Our products more or less have some flaws of their own. But there are still lots of customers in Macao who are actively making purchase orders because our products resonate with them. It is pretty similar to people willing to spend money on going to a concert,” Lou said.
At present, besides producing its in-house models, Good Farmer Production is also responding to the demand for customised 3D printing. “Given the fact that we don’t have enough people on our team, we would need to halt the process of creating new products and shift our attention to studying the products of our clients,” Lou said. “But right now, we will focus on developing our brand and building up a brand reputation first. As for the demand for customised 3D printing, we would prolong the production cycle while making sure we can deliver quality results.”
Maturing the 3D printing production line
In the future, Good Farmer Production will strive to build an exchange platform for the cultural and creative industry besides continuing to design more 3D printed architectures. “Besides working on our brand’s social media, we are building up our official website as well. In addition to showcasing our products through these platforms, we are hoping to attract different cultural and creative product fans to share and exchange their opinions on our platforms,” Lou concluded, saying that expanding production scale is a key direction for the team. “We need to stabilise our production capacity, including the number of designers, production staff and equipment that we have. We need to build a more mature production line to standardise our production volume, quality, pricing, etc. Only through this way can we find more cooperation opportunities, expand our income source, and maintain healthy and steady growth for our brand.”
Good Farmer Production Ltd.｜www.goodfarmerproduction.com