Indigenously Produced Low Cost 3D Printer
3D printing has been around since the last two decades but was kept under wraps through patents. The moment the patents expired 3D printing began its steady boom. It was only a matter of time before the tech found its way to Pakistan. Ali Ahsan has taken it upon himself to put 3D printing on the map in Pakistan.
For those of you who don’t know what 3D printing is all about, Ali makes it super simple: “3D Printing is a technology which enables one to design a 3 Dimensional object on a computer and get a solid tangible model of it on his/her desktop in matter of hours. No machining, no tools, no crafting skill is required. This does sound like magic this is happening right now on someone’s desktop 3D Printer right now while you read this. This is most definitely the next big revolution after the internet, with desktop printers becoming more accessible its transforming we use to think about manufacturing and fabrication. Well I succeeded in making one a year back, it was insane fun to build and have so many things with this revolutionary machine that there is no turning back,” he explained excitedly.
Ali’s journey goes much further than many others. He first became inspired to create things by his father. “My father was a ‘maker’. He always enjoyed problem solving wanted to make life easier. We never saw electricians, plumbers, carpenter coming to our house, he use to do everything by himself and fortunately as a kid I always stood beside him carrying tools and watching what he is doing. That’s what made me a mechanical engineer, a little different as I was pre-trained by a full time mentor.
“It was a favour that I wanted to return by doing something similar for my own children. With 3D printing, I can’t tell you the exact moment it all started, but my wife and I spared a room (we call it the Maker Room) with all sorts of tools electronics. And that’s sort of where it all began! The first thing we made were LEGOs for my children and we ended up at LEGO Mindstorm. With an environment of learning you actually don’t have to teach they learn by mimicking you.
“After dabbling with LEGO Mindstorm a little and realizing the great potential that 3D printing had for the local scene Ali set his sights on something bigger. It wasn’t just enough to create toys for his children, he had to work on something that could do a whole lot more. “Today the world is sharing knowledge on a level that it’s considered as the next big revolution “The Maker Revolution.” Just as Linux was born, technical enthusiast created a group of open source 3D Printer, if you learn to understand how a 3D Printer works, with enough craze you might built one!”
It was then that Ali came across the Pakistan Innovation Foundation’s NIGC competition. This is a setup which basically helped put together a set of the brightest and most innovative Pakistanis and gave them a platform to do their bidding. Ali Ahsan used this opportunity to create a commercially viable 3D printer. His prototype is currently in testing phase with some remarkably promising results. “The PIF initiative is very unique, it’s not just a competition it’s a mentorship. What I learned from these workshops and from peers would have never happened if it would have been just a short event as a competition!” he explains.
With the project Ali hopes to actually achieve something bigger. His aim is to share his experiences with a younger audience – enthusiasts and students alike. “PIF (and my mentor Mr. Akhtar Hasnain) has actually helped me find a way to build an Eco system of innovation with 3D printing as our prime focus. 3D Printing unlike any new technology requires exposure and training with availability of hardware and software. With a proper Eco system we will make this a common skill all over Pakistan and will be printing like any other developed nation,” he explained.
But does 3DD printing have a real future in Pakistan. Ali is certain that it does. “We’re headed for self-reliance! Especially in terms of tangible product design and fabrication, just like desktop computers made a difference in the IT sector. Desktop 3D Printing is on the same path, in a decade people would be designing and fabricating products from their very own desktop. This means a lot: our engineering students could never show their design in working form. It remained in their computer as a CAD model. This year I helped students from engineering universities fabricate their Final Year Project using 3D Printing, we developed a fully functional prosthetic robotic arm. Architectural student also got a chance to present their design ideas in a tangible form and it was a game changer!”
But what is in the future of a young man that identifies himself as a ‘maker’? At the moment Ali remains focused on 3D printing. “There is lot in this arena to do. Since my first 3D Printer I am hooked for good and would Inshallah continue my research and development to make new better printers in Pakistan.” At present Ali is entirely focused on 3D printing and will most likely remain that way for a while. However, there’s a whole lot more up his sleeve which could translate into brilliant innovation later on.
“Need is a mother of innovation. I am not so sure but believe there is something out there that needs to be solved to make life better, when it all comes together innovation will happen. Till then me and those taking interest in 3D Printing will keep innovating through this machine for innovators!”