Saturday, February 2, 2013

Personal 3D Printing in Asia?

NEWSannouncements :: Here's something that is potentially exciting... Singaporean start-up company Pirate3DP has announced its plans to create 3D printers for personal use -- which I assume means affordable and easy to use -- and has received substantial seeding money from Singapore's Red Dot Ventures. According to SGE (Singapore Entrepreneurs), that seed money comes out to about SGD 589K (USD482K) which seems more than enough to create at least a next generation version of existing personal 3D printers, if not something substantially better/cheaper/easier-to-use.

The founders of Pirate3DP wants to make the 3D printer affordable for the masses. L-R: Tsang You Jun, Brendan Goh and Roger Chang (source :: SGE)

So far the website for Pirate3DP has little information about what exactly they have planned, except that they plan on revealing it all on April 15, 2013. Their Twitter account, @Pirate3D doesn't seem to be active, though that might change soon. It is unclear whether their printer will be open source like the MakerBot was, and RepRap and other printers are, but for it to be accepted by the maker community, it would almost certainly have to be.

SGE's article says...
"Geeks in Asia are well aware of the technology’s potential, but it might take years for the concept of 3D printing to filter down to the masses. But if and when the trend does catch on, Pirate3DP could very well be among the leading players."
And it seems for 3D printing to filter down to the masses in Asia, it will be the hackerspaces and the many design schools dotting the cities of Asia that will make that happen. People are going to want to learn how these machines work, see them in action, and have someplace to go if they get stuck using one should they eventually buy their own.

I'm excited about this because it is always good to have more people involved in actually driving the technology that makers and designers use no matter what country they're in, but it is nice to have such people doing so in your own backyard. Many projects completed by Helios Works have been done in Singapore and it would be great to swing by both Pirate3DP and Singapore's first hackerspace, HackerspaceSG during my next visit there. It wold be great if, by April-ish, Pirate3DP had an open source, affordable, easy-to-use printer I could even buy during my next trip.

I personally think the traditional business model of just creating a product and a standard marketing campaign will not work for something like this. Partnerships will have to be forged between those making and developing 3D printers, and those who are at the front lines of using them. Often these spheres intersect. The MakerBot for instance, was actually was born out of a hackerspace, NYC Resistor. The hackerspaces in other words, become a sort of hands-on showroom, and because MakerBot was open source, the hackerspace also provided crowd-sourced R&D.

The 3D printing revolution is said to be the opening shots of a Star Trek-like post-scarcity economy. For those involved in this revolution, they will have to adapt their thinking to these changing dynamics and abandon a lot of the traditional boundaries demanded by traditional business ventures.

Portabee, also Singapore-based.
 It should also be noted that there is at least one 3D printing company in Singapore already selling kits for around 500-700 SGD -- Portabee. The competition then, couldn't hurt refine and improve future offerings from both Portabee and Pirate3DP.

For things like Arduino boards, robotics, and electronics, we already have decent companies supplying them here in Thailand, but 3D printing still hasn't caught on. Someone nearby spreading the 3D printing bug, whether it works out well or not, could still be the start of something greater.  CNC is already big here, but for industry mainly, so there is no doubt that when a market is proven to work for all things 3D printed, it will flourish here as well, at least for SME's.