Images By: Hanin Al Khadrawi
3D Printing is taking the world by storm. Although the technology has been around for almost two decades only now is its true potential being realised. In the Middle East people are quickly becoming aware of the advantages this technology can bring to everyday living. Abaad is one particular UAE company using its resources and imagination to develop 3D printing technology.
Launched in 2012 and headquartered in Abu Dhabi, Abaad offers state-of-the-art 3D solutions and services which include 3D scanning, 3D modeling and 3D printing and an initial investment of 1.6 million dirham has set the company up with a fully integrated 3D printing production facility.
The driving force behind the innovation and dynamism of the business are two young and energetic entrepreneurs and engineers. Juma Salem Alghafli and Younis Elias Alsulaimi are the founding bed rocks and the future of this young company. Juma is the CEO and Younis is the Managing Director.
Younis says: “Our field is engineering design and we were looking to implement a project through which we could utilize our full potential while at the same time find the opportunity to bring something totally new and amazing to the market.” He is aware how 3D printing opens up endless business prospects.
“We studied meticulously for more than three years to learn about the necessary requirements for implementing the project. The market is evolving and industries are looking for innovative solutions to enable them to develop products effectively. However in order to bring to market these solutions we have to build strong relationships with companies and businesses that have vested interest in 3D printing and its application and are willing to invest in this technology.”
He adds, ”we are confident that this cooperation would be a win- win solution for us and our partners. 3D technology is bound to thrive and will be more in demand as people and businesses become aware of its enormous potential. This technology can help individuals, students, researchers and companies introduce new ideas, products and concepts. From time to time we are presented with opportunities for collaboration and we study them carefully.”
Abaad is recognised as the first 3D service centre inside UAE offering 3D scanning, printing and other solutions commercially.
Younis feels Abaad is special: “There are companies that have 3D printing capability, but not with the ability to provide commercial solutions in the way we can. Our equipment and solution are very sophisticated.”
However It does beg the question; are markets in the Middle East in general and the UAE in particular ready to embrace this technology?
Younis believes it is: “In the past people relied on AutoCAD software and traditional methods to build 3D models. The process was expensive and painstakingly slow, but with 3D printing technology building models and prototyping is straightforward, speedy and less expensive and there isn’t the need for highly technical and specialised staff.”
For his part Juma believes many companies in the UAE prefer to outsource their 3D printing operations. “We have found that many companies are working on new products require on average only 3 to 5 models per year.
For them it’s not feasible to set up a 3D printing operation in house and there is a preference to outsource to companies outside the UAE even though the high cost of shipping and delivery makes this approach rather expensive and time consuming. Also there are 3D printing and prototyping projects that due to their sensitive nature must be handled by reliable, trustworthy and modern facilities in UAE.
We saw the opportunity and set up Abaad. Being a first is always challenging and entails risk. But now it’s clear to us that our gamble has paid off,” comments Juma.`
SO WHAT IS 3D PRINTING?
One of the major challenges the founders of Abaad had to face were misconceptions about 3D printing. “When we spoke to people about 3D printing they thought we are talking about 3D printed images. The idea of printing 3D objects can seem to be the stuff of science fiction. Even now many people are unable to grasp the idea of printing 3D objects. I believe the word printing is confusing for many people so changing this perception is proving to be a major hurdle for us,” Juma adds.
When it comes to application the sky’s the limit for 3D printing. The technology has found its way into all kinds of industry, construction, Aerospace, reverse engineering, education, manufacturing, ship building, healthcare, petrochemical and defence industries. Younis says 3D measuring, modelling and printing are perfect teaching aides.
Abaad is equipped with state-of-the-art 3D printers which can build precise, multi-material Prototypes. The printer prints as many as 14 material properties simultaneously in a single part.
This equipment is targeted at designers and engineers who wish to highlight the varying material components in complex or assembled products. It combines 16-micron, high-resolution layer accuracy with a tray size of 260 x 260 x 200 mm.
Abaad uses rubber like material for basic rendering using two cartridges, through a wide range of material or” ink” includes more than 120 materials, 100 of which are digital materials created as the model prints, allowing Abaad to effectively respond to almost any design concept. The device simulates diverse mechanical and physical properties, from rubber to rigid; opaque to transparent; and standard to ABS-grade.
For scanning operations Abaad uses a non contact measurement ScanArm system for product development, inspection, and quality control. The handheld device offers capabilities such as Cloud comparison with CAD, rapid prototyping, reverse engineering, and 3D modelling of free-from surfaces.
THE EXCITING FUTURE
There is an enthusiasm and excitement about Abaad’s young founders. They are already planning for the future. Younis says: “We recently visited the EuroMold exhibition in Germany and there is no doubt that what we saw truly inspired us. 3D technology is continuing to advanced dynamically. 3D printers are now able to churn out objects made of metals such as titanium and there are also 3D printers for production of ceramic objects that can be used in cosmetic dentistry. There is no limit to what 3D printing can achieve. We are determined to explore these new opportunities. “
Like most new developments, 3D printing has its dark side as well. The web is replete with news on the world’s first ever 3D printed rifle which has successfully firing rounds of live bullets. The Canadian maker of the firearm has vowed to improve it and post the blueprints online.
Juma recognises any technology has its downside. “But that doesn’t mean you should stop exploring new ideas and developments, as far as we are concerned 3D technology is something that can enrich and improve our lives rather than ending it,” Juma observes somewhat philosophically.