Do you believe a house or a car can be printed (built) using a printing machine? Yes, these have been done using 3-D printers in the West and in China. They are as livable/drivable and as solid as the traditional house/car you know of!
The emergence of 3-D printing technology is said to initiate the third industrial revolution, bringing the world into digital manufacturing which allows for more personalized and small quantity printing and democratization of manufacturing. Just like our current printing of invitation cards and leaflets using the PC and printer, we will be able to do DIY-manufacturing- printing/duplicating our own toys, key chains, badges, vases and other household items based on our favorite designs or via scanning using a 3-D scanner and then print at the comfort of our homes.
How does the 3-D printing machine do it? Basically, it makes use of plastic, nylon, rubber and even wood materials and print through a layering mechanism. While our 2-D printer prints one layer on a paper, a 3-D printer keeps adding layers until a structure rises from the base (See diagram). As such, 3-D printing is also called additive manufacturing.
The items that can be printed via 3-D printing ranges from product prototypes (of factories), building models (of architecture firms), souvenirs/gifts items, miniature figurine, decorative Items to replacement for broken parts of tools and equipments.
Today, if you go to the college area in Subang Jaya, you will find a 3-D printing shop sitting in the midst of photostating and stationery shops, catering to students needs for final year project models and lecturers’ need for teaching tools.
A 3-D printer in Malaysia currently costs about RM4,000-RM20,000, the smallest of which is about the size of our desktop printer. However, the founder of this 3-D printing shop Pebble3D Sdn Bhd, Mr Helmi has even now made his own 3-D printer!
If you are an aspiring technopreneur, entering into such an emerging field can be a viable option as it is not a crowded field in Malaysia yet. Most of the 3-D printing business centered around Klang Valley and other advanced states like Penang and Johor. Thus, there is tremendous potential out there.
Of course, the challenges are there as there is not much awareness on 3-D printing among the Malaysian general public yet. Considerable marketing has to be done. However, an entrepreneur should be one who is dare to take the challenge and derive satisfaction from being able to strive to reach a new horizon. Many local factories now send their designs to China for producing prototypes. Though the cost of production in China in low, there is considerable transportation cost incurred. Making a mould locally is also costly. So, 3-D printing is an alternative for them. Moreover, 3-D printing’s ability to produce personalized items in small quantity is in line with today’s global trend of customized products and services.
Who is suited to venture into this field? If you are from the IT or design or engineering background, you are well-placed to enter this field.
The following websites will be able to help you to understand more about 3-D printing. The first provides thousands of models/designs which can be downloaded for printing. The second lists 3D printing services providers in Malaysia & worldwide.
There are a number of other opportunities in the business of 3-D printing/manufacturing – 3D design services, sales and repair of 3D printers and supply of 3-D printing filaments.
So, the opportunities are there for you to make a difference to yourself. Make a good study and survey and start the journey!
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA, June 2016
This post is also available in: 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified))