Is North Korea getting into 3D printing? Well…maybe. That would be big news indeed, considering that technology in the hermit country is, at least where the general public is concerned, rather sparse. But a recent trade show in Pyongyang, as documented in a video taken by DPRK 360‘s Aram Pam, shows that North Korea is at least talking about 3D printing. An organization known as the Pyongyang Machinery and Technology Exchange held court at a booth advertising a 3D printer, with a brochure reading:
“This equipment divides a 3D digital copy of an object into many different layers and later structures the layers in a designated order to produce three dimensional solid objects. This equipment is used for producing precise casts or molds.”
No 3D printer was actually on site at the trade show, however – only the brochure, which showed a picture of a printer that looks pretty familiar – right down to the MakerBot logo. While the brochure didn’t mention where the printer was made, it was pretty clearly a first generation Replicator, albeit with the company name removed (though not the logo). According to the brochure, the printer uses several different types of plastics, has a minimum resolution of 0.1 mm, and is capable of reducing production costs by 30 percent.
The brochure also mentioned Pyongyang University of Mechanical Engineering. According to the staff at the Pyongyang Machinery and Technology Exchange’s booth, while their business isn’t a joint venture with the university, it is related to the school. Universities in North Korea don’t typically develop businesses to market products developed from their research, though sometimes professors are hired by companies to share their technical knowledge.
“University professors with relevant expertise love getting pulled over to companies to consult (either on language or something technical) as it is a chance to earn decent money,” said Andray Abrahamian of the Choson Exchange, an organization dedicated to the development of business and entrepreneurship. “The Academy of Sciences is trying to set up an incubator to start new companies to develop marketable products – Choson Exchange is trying to support them in that effort.”
Whether that startup incubator might include companies involved in 3D printing remains to be seen. This is the first we’ve heard of the technology being used in North Korea, although according to Chan-Mo Park, the mystery MakerBot lookalike isn’t the only 3D printer in the republic. Park is the Chancellor of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which has its own printer, he says. The school uses it in its research and development center to develop prototypes such as, according to Park, a solar lamp.
As to whether North Korea will be joining the 3D printing world in any significant way – who knows? Like most things pertaining to the secretive republic, it’s rather difficult to find much information. It’s not terribly surprising that a couple of institutions should have 3D printers, but as of this time, it doesn’t look like any company is developing their own, despite what the Pyongyang Machinery and Technology Exchange might say. It just goes to show, I suppose, that MakerBot’s reach truly does extend to every corner of the world.
Below is a video (over an hour) of the 19th Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair from DPRK 360. The 3D printer and booth appears around 39:25 in this video. More photos can be found in the Facebook photo album. Do you think North Korea is serious? Discuss in the North Korea Poised to 3D Print forum over at 3DPB.com.
[Source: NK News / Images & Video: DPRK 360]