We have mentioned Arc Hub PNH a couple of times on Geeks In Cambodia, but what does the duo behind the homegrown 3D printing startup really think about the Cambodian scene and the future of this venture? We managed to get founders and brothers Ki Chong Tran and KiHow Tran down to chat with us about everything that goes beyond the first dimension.
(This interview has been edited for clarity.)
Hello guys! Can we start with a short introduction of yourselves and your company, Arc Hub PNH?
Ki Chong: We’re brothers and originally from Los Angeles, although our parents are Cambodian-Chinese. Three years ago our father came to Phnom Penh to start a café, then our mother came a year after, followed by my brother. Finally, I came here about six months ago and we have been doing 3D printing here since then.
Were there any inspirations behind the venture towards 3D printing?
Ki Chong: When I was in America, I worked for an aerospace company, selling and exporting aircraft parts from America to Asia to all over the world. I found out about 3D printing because they were being used in aerospace and the more I read up about it, I thought that Cambodia could really use something like this. I sent some articles to KiHow because he was already here, and we just kept emailing back and forth, and then we decided to really do it. I sold everything in America during September, went to Singapore to join the 3D convention there first, and came to Cambodia to officially start everything.
Arc Hub PNH has only been in the scene for a few months, but has the reception towards this format of printing changed?
Ki Chong: It hasn’t changed much because the overall Cambodian population still doesn’t really know what 3D printing is. I would say that our company’s services are more familiar with the people who are involved in the expat or tech & startup community here.
We are really hoping to expand our company’s knowledge to the general public as much as possible. We have been doing this by engaging local schools with presentations, and attending open houses to know more people. The idea is to get Cambodia to embrace 3D printing.
Can you share with us some of the interesting 3D printing requests?
KiHow: When we first started, we wanted to develop things related to education and share them with universities. As time went on, we realised that people wanted a variety of different product genres. Right now we are working two-scale architecture models, after our collaboration with Cambodia-based Room Design Studio, where we helped them with a concept design for Our City Festival.
We are also doing smaller prototyping, like this client who wanted to build a laser gun with all the parts made by him in Cambodia, so when he found us at Development Innovations, it was perfect because he could customise everything now. Another thing is a prosthetic hand for finger amputees. We are also trying to create one that is both functional and cheap to make, so that we can collaborate with the homegrown universities who are interested in this field.
We understand that you guys have some big plans in store, like creating a 3D printer itself. Can you tell us more about this project?
Ki Chong: Making a 3D printer in Cambodia is one of our longer-term goals. We want to supply both the 3D printers and the materials needed for it, like the filament. We already have one 3D printer on order and that is going to be the basis of our design. The printer will come around July, and the separate parts needed for our own printer… who knows how long. (Laughs)
KiHow: Right now our team has four people including us, and we just do designs. I will be mainly responsible for assembling a team for the mechanical aspect, but we have been pretty busy with other designs so we haven’t really thought about it for a while.
Ki Chong: I think he can do it. He has already assembled one kit and he fixes the current 3D printer all the time when it breaks down. This is the reason why the 3D printer that is on its way to us is a much more simplified model with a concept that it is both easy to make, fix and reproduce. I don’t think the entire process should take more than a month or two.
KiHow: It takes more time to find the right people who are willing to learn something new. Hopefully we’ll see the deadline in August or September. We really want this printer to be a top-of-the-line 3D printer that will allow people to plug in and print their prototypes at their own convenience, making it simple and affordable.
It is almost fascinating how you guys are driven to introduce such technological practices in Cambodia’s society today. Are there any motives behind it all?
Ki Chong: I feel like it’s a good opportunity for people in Cambodia. In a lot of developing nations, they are always catching up with the rest of the world. Why not introduce technology that is brand new for everyone? So that when you learn about it, you are on the same pace as everyone else in the world.
When we go to conferences, we are easily one of the few people who are really familiar with 3D printing topics. [KiHow: We live and breathe it everyday!] We share our knowledge with our team and in turn, they share it with their local circles. That is the spirit behind everything we do.
Is there any visible market trend for 3D printing?
Ki Chong: Well, we hope it grows! It is a very new field and with technology changing so quickly, who knows? One week from now we could be making a human heart or a plane because everything moves so quickly.
Do you guys have any last advice for startups that want to come into the scene with ideas as fast and daring as 3D printing?
KiHow: Come and share?
Ki Chong: Just do it. There are no limitations because you are the first one in the scene. You will make the road for others to follow.