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Business Insider: The 3D printing watchdogs

Martin Lansard, CEO and co-founder of Aniwaa, photographed last week in Phnom Penh.
Martin Lansard, CEO and co-founder of Aniwaa, photographed last week in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Business Insider: The 3D printing watchdogs

A nascent industry in Cambodia, 3D printing has been adopted by numerous technologically advanced companies for producing prototypes. The Post’s Robin Spiess sat with Martin Lansard, CEO and co-founder of Aniwaa, to discuss 3D printing as an industry and its possible future impacts in the Kingdom.

What services does Aniwaa offer?
Aniwaa is an information website which focuses on 3D printing and specifically on the hardware in 3D printers and scanners. We are a media site, and we write reviews about these machines which are offered in both English and French. We want to offer guidance to our users to help them find the right printers for their needs and budgets by providing them with information about 3D printers’ applications and capabilities. We came here three years ago and are fully committed to staying in Cambodia.

How do you make your money?
Because we are a media outlet with a very narrow audience, we monetise our website through advertising. So that is essentially how we’ve been able to generate some revenue. This started as a passion project, but since we’ve gotten traction we’ve turned this into a self-sustaining business.

We do not accept money from the manufacturers whose machines we review, because we want to be independent and unbiased. We don’t keep any of the machines we review, either, because we don’t want to be accused of being corrupt. On our website, we present information about hundreds of printers and scanners and if you want to buy a machine, you can click the link from our site to buy it.

How do you choose the machines you review?
Manufacturers usually contact us to ask that we review their products, because we are now such an established authority in this ecosystem. Many turn to Aniwaa to find reliable independent information on 3D printers and 3D printing uses in general. Typically, when we are contacted and asked to review a product, we have it shipped here, run tests on it for about a month and then send it back.

We’ve developed a good test protocol over the years, and we always print the same models so we can really see the difference between printers and test quality across them. If it’s not possible to review a machine here in Cambodia, my partner and co-founder runs tests in France. Our reviews are in-depth and unbiased, which manufacturers know in advance, so some choose not to request we review their products.

Who is your audience? Have you begun working on any Cambodia-specific 3D printing projects?
We typically have our audience in countries where 3D printing is already well-established, like the US, Canada and Europe. In Asia, additive manufacturing is really picking up, so we have some business in the region from China and Singapore. In Cambodia this is still a very nascent industry, and we don’t have any specific projects with a local impact yet, although we often work with ArcHub, which is the only 3D printing company in Cambodia.

How has the 3D printing industry grown recently, and how do you see it expanding in Cambodia and Southeast Asia as a whole?
Most often, 3D printing is used for prototyping today. In many countries, you can now print something on a cheap 3D printer that costs far less than a physical model created from other materials. I think part of the reason it hasn’t become incredibly popular in Cambodia yet is that here, you have access to cheap fabrication techniques which would cost far more in other countries. In other, more developed countries in the region like Vietnam and Thailand, 3D printing is more developed as well.

There is tremendous potential in the region. China is focused now on additive manufacturing which includes 3D printing of metal structures, and smaller countries like Singapore are also spending a lot on 3D printing technologies. Soon, with innovation, machines will be even cheaper and easier to use.

How do you see 3D printing making an impact across industries in the future?
The world is moving toward automation, and 3D printing is in that picture. It’s relevant less for mass production of a single object and more for custom jobs. But the concept of mass 3D printing production is also possible. It is becoming more expensive to ship things around the world, and eventually mass shipping won’t make economic sense. Relocalising industry through the use of smart production centres, with hundreds of 3D printers printing on-demand custom parts, could be the future.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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