Sinterex, the first company to be licensed for industrial 3D printing in the UAE, is not going to rest on its laurels and aims to become a specialist in 3D-printed healthcare products in the Middle East.
Julian Callanan, Founder and Managing Director of Sinterex, speaking to TechRadar Middle East said that he was inspired to move from consulting into the world of 3D printing by a desire to produce tangible products with inherent value. Julian started his career as an analyst in a consulting and advisory company Infield Systems and later joined research firm IHS Markit before moving to Dubai.
Being based in the UAE is particularly beneficial for Sinterex for several reasons, Callanan said.
“First, the country is very open to new business concepts and ideas and developing a license is very simple with the support of the Dubai Economic Department. Second, the country is in close proximity to large markets such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan which provide export opportunities.
Third, logistics are very good from Dubai- “It is possible to be in Bahrain for next day delivery. Sinterex has a customer in South Africa who was waiting for two weeks to receive shipments from the US but now receives in just three to four days from us,” he said.
Dubai’s 3D strategy
His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, wants Dubai to become a leading hub of 3D printing technology by the year 2030 and wants about 25 per cent of Dubai’s buildings to be 3D printed by 2030.
Dubai government launched its 3D Printing Strategy in April 2016 with an aim to help cut costs in many sectors, especially construction, medical products and consumer products. Within the medical products sector, the focus will be on developing 3D printed teeth, bones, artificial organs and medical and surgical devices as well as hearing aids. The value of 3D printed medical products in Dubai is expected to reach AED 1.7 billion by 2025.
Wide array of opportunities
What made Callanan start Sinterex was purely personal after quitting his job. “I did an MBA to have an academic background and was looking for opportunities to start a business. At that time, 3D printing was gaining prominence. So, I saw an opportunity in industrial 3D printing, specifically, in the medical sector, which was working really well in Europe and the US,” he said.
Sinterex started production in February 2017 and the initial product was a metal 3D printed framework which then had ceramic built-up on top of it to make realistic looking teeth. Since then, Sinterex has broadened its offering to the dental industry.
The company offers 3D printed Surgical Guide which helps dentists place implants to an accuracy of 0.5mm. In addition, Sinterex supports Orthodontists to correct patients’ teeth and titanium-printed patient-specific implants.
Callanan said that 3D printing does not sit in one industry but across various verticals and added that health care made sense in the UAE as other verticals such as aerospace, automobiles and R&D are not locally present here.
“We work with dental clinics, maxillofacial surgeons and now with cardiologists and other medical specialists who are interested in capturing information about human organs in a 3D format,” he said.
“We haven’t done any kind of 3D-printed orthopaedics or hip yet but it is of potential interest. We are looking at working with hospitals in the second half and get some projects and larger accounts. We are working on a proof of concept project with cardiologists in Dubai,” he said.
Even though Callanan does not have a medical background, Sinterex has doctors, mechanical engineers, biomedical engineers, specialists in digital designs.
Future is not defined
“We need doctors to communicate with others in the medical language. I have very good concepts and ideas but I was struggling with my ability to convey and communicate with medical professionals properly,” he said.
Sinterex deploys different types of 3D printing technologies – metal, light and laser to convert photosensitive resin into a solid material, and using heat to melt plastics. One of the biggest challenges Callanan faces is to get the raw materials such as metal powder, chrome cobalt powder and photosensitive resins.
However, he said that the major thing about 3D printing is that the future is not defined or written yet and “we will be part of the story that defines how it works. “We focus on healthcare and there is a lot of innovation happening but it is not fixed on how it works. So, we can influence that if we get the strategy and materials right”.
Sinterex works with customers in seven different countries and exporting on a weekly basis to Saudi Arabia and South Africa. In terms of volume, Callanan said that Sinterx has 6,000 patients and its revenues are doubling every year.
Sinterex is looking for a “Series A” funding in 2020 to expand its business and to have newer machines.