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Business  12, Jun 2014

Can 3D printing disrupt the manufacturing industry?

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In an exclusive conversation with e27, Pirate3D Chief Pirate Roger Chang talks about copyrights in 3D printing and additional technologies needed to aid it

Image Courtesy: Pirate3D

The last time we touched base with Pirate3D back in January, it had just expanded to Japan and South Korea, partnering with Keienu Trading Company in Japan and Alien Technology in South Korea to penetrate local markets. Since then, Pirate3D has expanded its offerings. Its online 3D design and app marketplace Treasure Island is also in development.

Pirate3D has compared Treasure Island to Google Play, with users able to browse 3D models and modelling apps, print objects with a single click, of course, provided they have a 3D printer. All signs point to Pirate3D’s intention of developing an ecosystem centred on the Buccaneer, using Treasure Island as an online marketplace and platform for 3D printing activities focussed on its product and creating stickiness with its user community.

e27 chatted up with Chief Pirate and Founder, Roger Chang, who spoke about copyrights in 3D printing, additional technologies needed to aid it and the company’s future plans.

Excerpts:

Also Read: [Infographic] Are 3D printers becoming Star Trek replicators?

How do you feel about the issue of copyrights in 3D printing? Do you think there are improvements to be made?
There will probably be companies and organisations that will attempt to implement some form of DRM on 3D printable objects. However, I believe this will just be a phase; eventually we will move past copyrights and make most designs freely available. In 1999, if I wanted to listen to a song, I had to purchase the artist’s CD or wait for it to play on the radio. In 2014, I can stream almost any song for free on YouTube or Spotify. Its a matter of innovating on the business model behind content delivery. Just as Napster completely disrupted the music industry, I am excited to see how 3D printing is going to disrupt manufacturing.

What do you see as the future method dominating the industry, given the expiration of SLS and SLA patents this year?
This remains to be seen. I believe that for the next couple of years, filament-based 3D printers will still dominate the consumer market. It is by far still the simplest and cheapest method available. Other methods are more complicated and can increase the costs involved with building and maintaining 3D printers.

Also Read: Singapore firm Prototype Asia sees potential in prototyping market

What additional technologies and services does 3D printing need to truly grow into it’s own as a sector?
What the sector needs to grow are design tools that will allow more people to utilise 3D printing. Autodesk looks to be focussing on resolving this problem (i.e. Audodesk 123D Make)

Currently, what are Pirate3D’s primary markets. What are your plans for developments in Asia, primarily Southeast Asia?
We are primarily focussed on the North American market. Within Asia, the clientèle is going to be somewhat different. Less individual disposable income means it is less likely the devices will be purchased for personal use. It will likely be more B2B within Asia.

What are the developments in store for Pirate3D over the next few years?
We’re looking mostly at market expansion and further R&D to enhance our products. We will also be exploring some of the other 3D printing technologies.

You started Pirate3D straight out of NUS as a fresh graduate. Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to move straight into entrepreneurship?
Get experienced mentors. It’s far less painful than having to learn lessons yourself and opens up opportunities in terms of networking. Other than that, YOLO (You Only Live Once).

Also Read: The Next Leap: 10 Technology trends that will shape 2014

Shiwen Yap

Shiwen Yap

Shiwen is passionate about exploring science, technology and entrepreneurship ideas and is an avid advocate of open source technologies and methodologies.

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