Coronavirus crisis opens up new vistas for Middle East’s 3D printing pioneers

With global supply chains disrupted by extensive lockdowns and travel curbs, 3D makers everywhere have stepped into the breach to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers as well as ventilator parts and face masks for consumer use. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 July 2020

Coronavirus crisis opens up new vistas for Middle East’s 3D printing pioneers

  • In many countries, 3D entrepreneurs have stepped into the breach to produce PPE for medical workers
  • From medical gear to hygiene products, 3D printing is helping to turn the region’s COVID-19 tide

DUBAI: Qais Sabri and his colleagues at Jordanian startup Eon Dental have taken only a few years to show how Middle Eastern entrepreneurs can level the playing field and compete internationally.

The additive manufacturer sells its 3D-printed dental aligners to customers in the US, Germany, Singapore and the Middle East, and is now bringing its expertise to the fight against COVID-19 with 3D-printed medical equipment.

“3D printing has disrupted various markets that require a lot of industrial infrastructure and capital costs. It allows for dynamic and hyperlocal manufacturing across many applications, and that principle allowed us to pivot our 3D printing farms to manufacture spare parts for ventilators as well as testing swabs,” Sabri said.

“Our intention was to shore up the transient deficit in manufacturing supplies until larger suppliers catch up, but we’ve also realized there is a real need to control the supply chain locally. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of having manufacturing capabilities at the regional level.”




Qais Sabri and his colleagues at Jordanian startup Eon Dental have taken only a few years to show how Middle Eastern entrepreneurs can level the playing field and compete internationally. (Supplied)

With global supply chains disrupted by extensive lockdowns and travel curbs, 3D makers everywhere have stepped into the breach to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers as well as ventilator parts and face masks for consumer use.

Eon Dental has reconfigured its machines to be able to produce 3,800 ventilator spare parts per day in collaboration with the Royal Medical Services in Jordan. It has also designed and printed COVID-19 test swabs that have been accredited by Singapore’s Ministry of Health and are being tested across the health care community.

Similarly, entrepreneur Ruba Al-Nashash’s 3Dinova started out making gifts. Now the company not only 3D prints face masks but also produces elbow-operated door handles to limit the possibility of contact infections.

Immensa Technology Labs, a Sharjah-based spare-parts supplier to the oil and gas industry, has started offering clear plastic visors made from a special polymer that repels viruses and bacteria while providing 180-degree face protection.




One compant has started offering clear plastic visors made from a special polymer that repels viruses and bacteria while providing 180-degree face protection. (Supplied)

“We were able to produce the shields at competitive prices, with 100 percent of production in the UAE. Therefore, we as a country, do not need to rely on imports for such basic preventive tools,” said CEO and founder Fahmi Al-Shawwa.

Precize Group, a regional general trading company that distributes 3D printers, similarly shifted gear to make PPE. Hundreds of thousands of units were supplied to front-line staff in UAE government organizations, hospitals and pharmacies, said Lothar Hohmann, the firm’s president.

“In our production facilities, we have more than 100 3D printers at our disposal and are working 24/7 to ensure quick turnaround times as customers are always in a hurry,” he added.

While most additive products printed during the coronavirus crisis cater to medical needs, Precise’s latest line capitalizes on a new gap in the market, showing a possible way forward for the sector.

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As the economy opens up and people start socializing again, hygiene will be more important than ever. Precise’s answer is a range of sanitizing covers fashioned from Plactive — an antimicrobial nanocomposite made of polylactic acid and a copper additive. The material eliminates 99.9 percent of fungi, viruses and a wide range of microorganisms, according to developers Copper 3D.

“We have seen an increased demand for this product as the material self-disinfects, keeping it safe and clean when touched. Companies are looking to add protection on frequently touched surfaces such as switches, elevator buttons and door handles,” Hohmann said.

The product has drawn interest from hospitals, restaurants and banks. Precize is now creating face masks injection molded with Plactive, with the first units expected by the end of the month.




Overall, the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the growth of the 3D printing industry. (Supplied)

Overall, the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the growth of the 3D printing industry. Not only has customer exposure to products manufactured through additive printing skyrocketed, but the industry now recognizes how quick paradigm shifts can benefit business operations.

Sabri said the experience of resetting its printers has prompted Eon to invest in equipment with greater flexibility.

“When the next opportunity arises — whether from a virus or anything else — would we be able to respond as quickly? So the message is that the world is changing, and technology is opening doors to new opportunities. But as an entrepreneur, how can you come up with a value proposition that enables you to solve a problem quickly and dynamically?”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Greek PM calls for ‘sense’ from Turkey in East Med row

Updated 24 min 3 sec ago

Greek PM calls for ‘sense’ from Turkey in East Med row

  • Greek PM warns his country 'will not suffer blackmail'
  • Tensions between the two Mediterranean countries have been rising in recent weeks

ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday urged Turkey to show “sense” in a naval showdown in the Eastern Mediterranean over energy exploration which he warned could lead to a military accident.
Tensions were stoked Monday when Ankara dispatched the research ship Oruc Reis accompanied by Turkish naval vessels off the Greek island of Kastellorizo in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece also deployed warships to monitor the vessel, which is currently sailing west of Cyprus.
“We are vigilantly looking forward to sense prevailing, at last, in our neighboring country, so that dialogue may be re-initiated in good faith,” Mitsotakis said in a statement released by his office first in Greek, then in English with some variations.
“The risk of an accident lurks when so many military assets are gathered in such a contained area,” he warned.
The Greek PM said Athens would not seek to escalate the situation, but added: “No provocation will though go unanswered.”
Athens has demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Oruc Reis from what it regards as its continental shelf, and has asked for an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers on the issue.

“Our country never threatens but will not suffer blackmail either,” Mitsotakis said.
“We are not alone in this effort,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell said foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting Friday to discuss the eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon and Belarus.
The incident is the latest spat over energy exploration in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean, a frequent source of disputes between Turkey and neighbors including Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will fly to Israel on Thursday for talks, his office said.
Dendias is also to address the issue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Vienna on Friday.

A similar crisis last month was averted after Turkey pulled the Oruc Reis back to hold talks with Greece and rotating EU chair Germany.
But the mood soured last week after Greece and Egypt signed an agreement to set up an exclusive economic zone in the region.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said his country would step up energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and would not “compromise” on its rights.
Turkey has announced the Oruc Reis would carry out activities between August 10 and 23, in an area it considers its own continental shelf.
Mitsotakis on Monday conferred with his military chiefs and spoke with EU Council President Charles Michel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sounded a slightly more conciliatory note after a meeting with his own ministers later Monday.
“Let us all come together as Mediterranean countries and find a formula that protects all of our rights,” Erdogan said in a national address.
But Erdogan added: “We cannot allow (nations) to ignore a big country like Turkey and try to imprison us to our shores.”
The Turkish foreign ministry has said the Greece-Egypt agreement was “null and void.”
Egypt, Cyprus and Greece have likewise denounced a contentious deal, including a security agreement, signed last year between Ankara and the UN-recognized government in Libya.
Greece, Cyprus and Israel in January signed an agreement for a huge pipeline project to transport gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe despite Turkey’s hostility to the deal.