Brothers Ki Chong and Ki How Tran have launched Cambodia’s first 3D printing startup, ARC Hub PNH. Their vision is to make Phnom Penh the next startup hub in Asia and to use 3D design and printing to improve the lives of fellow Cambodians.
Born in Los Angeles to Cambodian-Chinese parents, the brothers decided to bring 3D printing to Cambodia after realizing the gap in and scope of the market. In the US, Ki Chong was exposed to 3D printing while working for an aerospace company where 3D printing was used in manufacturing parts. The deeper he and his brother explored the concept and how it could be leveraged to promote the internal economy of Cambodia, the more that the idea to introduce 3D printing in Cambodia grew on them.
Ki Chong and Ki How believe that their startup presents an important opportunity for Cambodians to learn how to use powerful additive manufacturing technology in parallel with the developed world. Until now, Cambodians have been playing catch-up with the developed world when it comes to technological know-how. The Tran brothers want to level the playing field and empower Cambodians to help guide the country’s future. While other Southeast Asian countries have started using this kind of technology, ARC Hub is the first 3D design and printing startup in Cambodia.
The Tran brothers’ story is a unique example of how Reality Computing – the concept that explores how 3D laser scanning, 3D printing, reality capture, and 3D design are affordable, accessible technologies that anyone can use – has the potential to impact not only economies, but societies. As Ki Chong says, the interest among Cambodians and expatriates living in Phnom Penh is swiftly gaining momentum.
ARC Hub provides services including creating 3D printer-ready files for architecture, engineering, and product design. Customers email a drawing or picture and ARC Hub emails a 3D printable file directly back to the customer. For local projects, ARC Hub uses its own 3D printers to make scale models, prototypes, and other designs.
The 3D printers that ARC Hub operates in Cambodia are the Makerbot Replicator 2 and Rostock MAX. The team specializes in 3D modeling programs including Autodesk 3DS Max and Autodesk 123D Design. According to Ki Chong, 3DS Max is most frequently used by Cambodian designers, which helps when ARC HUB has to share designs and files.
Teaching 3D printing and entrepreneurship to kids
Five days a week, Ki Chong teaches 3D design and entrepreneurship to 50 low-to-middle income kids at the Liger Learning Center. The students are 11-12 years old and were selected from among 1,500 applicants, based on their intellect and ingenuity. His students have taught themselves how to use Autodesk’s 123D Design, which as free 3D design software works with both their needs and their constraints. Ki Chong remarks that the students have been enthusiastic about 3D design and printing, with the biggest challenge being making their ideas feasible in real life. The students recently presented their final 3D printed projects that they hope to use their new entrepreneurial skills to sell. These include a Healthy Water Bottle, an Egg Holder, and a student-friendly Pencil Case, which the students created blogs to showcase.
What’s next for the Tran brothers?
ARC Hub has been commissioned to create a 3D model Farmer’s Friend Biodigester system for the National Biodigester Programme of Cambodia. The project’s aim is to assist rural farmers by providing them with the Biodigesters. Nourished by household waste, the methane gas produced by the bacteria inside the Biodigesters’ biogas system may be used for cooking, lighting, and other energy needs. Waste that has been fully digested exits the biogas system in the form of organic fertilizer. ARC Hub has created two types of 3D models. The first is a demo model which can be split in half to show the inner workings of the system. The second model is made with a dual extrusion 3D printer (Makerbot Replicator 2X) and uses different color plastic to show the different materials of the complete system. The brothers would also like to develop 3D printed prostheses for victims of landmines in Cambodia; they aim to be part of an ongoing scheme to help rural communities.
Autodesk aims to track the progress of the Liger Learning Center students over the course of their training on 3D printing and entrepreneurship.