CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Northern Mindanao’s 3D printing industry is relatively new, with adoption hampered by misconceptions that it is an expensive technology.
At least that’s the impression Joseph Gaston got when he launched his 3D printing business in 2020, at the height of a global pandemic.
Gaston, a mechanical engineering graduate from Xavier Ateneo de Cagayan University, said the 3D printing industry is an emerging sector that has many practical uses for businesses and even academia.
“They thought it was very expensive, but with the growing number of 3D prints (services in the country), we now know that it’s actually affordable,” he said Thursday on the sidelines of a exhibition presenting the latest mechanical innovations.
Gaston’s main motivation is to integrate 3D printing to make learning more accessible to future generations, starting with making these machines available in local schools.
Two years ago, Gaston launched his startup, the ZYX 3D Printing Hub, in his residence. His first loyal customers are university students.
“These students have research projects or theses that require 3D modeling; some were for cosplay (costume plays),” he said.
Gaston’s interest in 3D printing began when he started tinkering with 3D designs in fifth grade. This curiosity culminated during his internship at FabLab Mindanao four years ago.
FabLab Mindanao is an innovation and invention center of Mindanao-Iligan State University Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT).
It incubates the business potentials of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) using scientific and technological research, among which is the development of prototypes for customer designs.
After his experience there, Gaston managed to buy his first 3D printer worth PHP 10,000 with the help of his siblings.
“Most of the printers and raw materials come from China, but there are already Manila-based dealers,” he said.
As for raw materials, Gaston said that China remains cheaper than European countries.
FabLab Mindanao is one of the exhibitors of the National Innovation Day (NID) held at SM Mall in this city from April 21 to 22.
Under the theme “Filipinnovation: Unlocked”, MSMEs and local academic institutions showcased recent innovations that have been adopted in the regional business sector. Other products on display also boast their commercial potential.
Gaston’s experience from the laboratory to the application itself, including his startup, has made him a success story for the FabLab.
Mylah Faye Aurora Cariño, director of the Northern Mindanao National Economic Development Authority, said partnerships between government and private industry are important to help MSMEs and researchers explore new innovative initiatives to help improve business communities.
“That’s why the government’s role is to provide our innovators (to be provided) with the right (working) environment, police and financial support,” Cariño said.
Almer Masillones, director of the Trade and Industry Department of Misamis Oriental, said she believed 3D technology could help MSMEs in the region.
“It (innovation) is seen as addressing the problems of our MSMEs, our challenges in industry. Innovation will create better products and better services using existing resources,” Masillones stressed.
In a recent statement, the Department of Science and Technology Region 10 (DOST-10) highlighted the importance of an innovation-driven economy.
DOST-10 said it funded PHP 1.3 million of research and development funds at the University of Science and Technology of the Southern Philippines (USTP) to provide optimized drop-off and pick-up routes using genetic algorithms.
One of its technology adopters is Dirt Bag, a startup offering digital laundry services and currently an industry partner in the project.
The outcome of the project will serve as an additional feature in the existing Dirt Bag mobile app to provide optimized routes to their delivery drivers.
For Gaston, the local 3D printing industry has not yet reached full maturity and many aspects can still be improved. On the one hand, he said running a large-scale 3D printing business remains a challenge.
“Since this is a developing field, there is so much to learn, and I need to track and optimize printers as much as possible,” he said.
Gaston said he was delighted that more people were interested in 3D printing, which encouraged him to go beyond providing products and services and become someone willing to help and help. train other aspirants in the field. (NAP)