As the white, cube-shaped machine begins to whir at the front of the room, a metal arm can be seen jerking back and forth through the box’s transparent front-facing panel. The robotic mechanism whirs as it works, and onlookers watch as the 3D printer creates a small figurine of a dinosaur out of melted plastic.
“I want to know how to design and print something like this,” said one student, hoisting a different 3D-printed figure of a skeleton mask in the air.
At the first class offered by 3D-printing company Arc Hub Pnh in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, five students learned the basics of the technology and how to incorporate it into their own businesses.
Arch Hub founder KiHow Tran, who is also the director of operations at the co-working space Trybe which hosted the class, began the presentation by giving a brief overview of the software and mechanics involved in the 3D-printing process.
Arc Hub began operating in the Kingdom in 2013, originally setting up shop at a local university with the intention of catering to local businesses that required printed materials.
It soon became clear that 3D printing was not as prolific in Cambodia as Tran had originally hoped, however, and the business soon turned most of its efforts toward teaching young entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts about the applications of 3D printing.
One of the students at Tuesday’s class, Chanpiseth Ly, said that he decided to attend because he was interested in using the technology to help him at his marketing job – although he admitted he wasn’t sure exactly how it could be used yet.
After the class, Ly said he would come back to talk more with Tran about how to best utilise the machine.
For others, like Lyhor Mom, there was a more obvious application. Mom’s sister is launching a new jewellery business, and he said the printer could help speed up the process of making models for new creations.
“For jewellery, we can sometimes use the 3D wax to [model] rings,” he said. “It would be good to learn how to use these machines to do that.”
Tran noted that 3D printing was often used in jewellery making, and could help speed the process of making wax models.
“3D printing is used a huge amount for jewellery making,” he said. “A jeweller used to have to chip away at these wax designs for over a week – but if you 3D print it, it takes just a few hours.”
Arc Hub Pnh’s 3D printer has already helped at least two startups create products in Cambodia so far.
Em Chanrithykol, the founder of Doy Doy, a toy company that uses 3D printing to create connectors to help make plastic straw models, attributed his success to a class taken at Trybe last year.
The firm also helped teach 3D-printing techniques to four young entrepreneurs who began 3D printing their award-winning rat traps following their victory in the Southeast Asia Makerthon in late 2016.
For Tran, the technology represents a chance to revolutionise a variety of businesses and sectors.
“Today, people are 3D-printing houses, 3D-printing gadgets and even trying to 3D-print jewellery straight onto people’s wrists,” he said. “We’ll all be dead by the time they make that happen, but it’s still cool.”