For average Joe (or perhaps Ahmad in our region) 3D printing is still something that belongs to the realm of science fiction. It has yet to impact our day to day life but engineers and designers have been using large and expensive 3-D printers for nearly three decades. It has been used and still is used for prototyping and other industrial applications. But during past few years manufacturers of 3D printer are trying tirelessly to push the technology into consumer market space.
The desk top models are already available in consumer electronic stores across UAE and other capitals in the region. But it is still considered a hobby reserved for geeks. And to be honest it seems that at consumer level, only young people who are passionate about video games or super heroes are using this technology to pay tribute to characters they cherish. Take Rashin Al-Haqbany for example. He is from Bahrain and co-founder of Quest Realty and MakerBuild Construction. He is a big fan of Crytek’s video game series, 3D printing was the perfect solution in allowing him to create the game’s famed Nanosuit.
A slew of printing and other companies that are not necessarily involved in world of graphic arts are offering 3D printing services in our region. Here’s a recap of some of the major companies who are offering 3D printing services and equipment to the region.
Protechnology in UAE is a major distributor of Cube 3D printers and consumers can buy one from Jumbo outlets. The mono colour printer costs 5900 dirham and each cartridge is selling for 250 dirham. The printer uses ABS and PLA plastic cartridges. It’s a plug and play 3D printer for children and adults and it’s not designed for industrial use. The entry level Cube was officially launched during Gitex 2012 and its bigger brother Cube X was introduced during Gitex 2013.
The Bakery in Beirut is run by a French Architect Guillaume Credoz who is also an artist and entrepreneur. His Fab Lab in Beirut has become a favorite destination for architects, students, designers and renegade innovators who want to create complex 3D objects and models. On the other hand Abu Dhabi based Abaad is offering 3D printing services to companies, institutions and governmental organizations in UAE.
Another high profile 3D printing supplier in the region is D2M Solutions. The company is a technology supplier to the Middle East industrial sector and a Stratasys Platinum Partner.
D2M expanded its operations in UAE with the opening of its new division, Paradigm 3D, which is dedicated to offer professional 3D printed parts on-demand service to the Middle East region. The company has been providing 3D printing services since 2009, but has recently increased its range and number of in-house Fortus 3D Production systems.
Callprint Dubai, the Emirates arm of the UK group Callprint has also been extremely active in responding to the fast changing economic scene by investing in one of the largest and most sophisticated 3D printing facility in Dubai.
Callprint is focused on offering services to construction industry. The company prints 3D architectural models for single buildings right through to vast cityscapes
Callprint Dubai initially saw in Dubai the potential for its managed print services and the way these could be linked into the network of its 19 individual locations spread around the world.
Commercial printers are gradually warming up to the idea of 3D printing. Arab Printing Press (APP) which is one of the biggest commercial printers in Lebanon has selected Mcor IRIS as its colour 3D Printer. Mcor Ltd is manufacturer of the affordable, full-colour line of 3D printers.
The company’s 3D printers are used by ordinary business A4 and letter paper as the build material. Established in 2004 with a team of specialists in the area of 3D printing the company operates internationally from offices in Ireland, the UK and America.
Mcor also announced that it has added More Than Printing (MTP) as its Authorized Reseller in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Ivory Coast.
Another printer who has already invested in 3D printing solution is NDigitec in IMPZ. The company is a large format print provider.
Another sign that tells us 3D printing is gaining traction is the first 3D Printing Exhibition and Conference UAE which will take place during 20 and 21 of May 2015 in Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.
Top global brand such as Microsoft, Xerox and Omni 3D are among exhibitors. Top notch speakers and experts from NASA including Anjan Contractor, co-inventor of 3D food printer for NASA’S long duration space missions and Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis director of craft, USC and NASA innovative advanced concepts (NIAC) fellow are delivering presentations during the event.
3D printing to shape the future of Dubai Metropolis
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, recently unveiled a fascinating and bold plan to construct a $136 million museum, innovation lab, and invention hub located in the Emirates Towers area near Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai.
The government plans to use advanced 3D printing construction techniques to help build the curved, oblong, oval-shaped structure of the museum. The exact techniques which will be utilized have yet to be revealed, but 3D printing will play a rather crucial role.
Gulf Print embraces 3D printing technology
Branching out into 3D printing will be a key focus at Gulf Print & Pack 2015 as more details are announced of this show’s debut Print & Pack in 3D feature area. Taking place at Dubai’s World Trade Centre between 13-16 April, it is being run in partnership with D2M Solutions and Stratasys.
D2M Solutions will participate at Gulf print and will put a spotlight on 3D virtual design, 3D scanning and 3D printing in the highly competitive consumer packaging sector for the ultimate in packaging design and functionality. The company has experts to take show visitors through all the stages of developing new packaging, from the 3D virtual design concept, or reverse engineering of an existing packaging product for the development of packaging molds or new packaging products; through to 3D printing of prototype packaging, or prototype packaging molds.
Mike Simmonds, event manager at Gulf Print & Pack commented: “We are delighted to have D2M Solutions on board for this year’s show. The Print & Pack in 3D feature area is a valuable addition and must see for visitors to this year’s event. 3D printing is already used for blow molding, thermoforming and vacuum forming, particularly for prototype packaging molds. In addition, this advanced technology is being utilized for short run products and product trial approvals as it can produce packaging on demand, as soon as required. Interest in 3D printing is growing significantly and we hope to demonstrate just how straightforward and uncomplicated having a 3D printing capacity can be, as well as highlighting its commercial value to a printing business.”
What future holds for 3D printing technology in the region?
3D printing or additive manufacturing is used in many industries including health care. When it comes to 3D printing sky is the limit; You can create prosthetics and aircraft components using 3D printing technologies. But these products are produced in low quantities and they are customized for specific applications. As far as consumer market is concerned the 3D printing technology still has some catching up to do.
For the vast majority of people, 3-D printing may remain an upstream, out-of-sight industrial process. Only Star wars fanatics and geeks with lot of cash and free time are likely to pursue desktop printers. For rest of us printing is still a two dimensional process.