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Burl Al Arab
The UAE is one of the major Middle Eastern markets to be adopting and investing in 3D printing.
It seems that the race is on to adopt and develop 3D printing technologies around the world.
But while developed economies such as the UK, eurozone and US are struggling with their respective financial crises, investment honeypots such as the emerging markets of the Middle East may have the opportunity to overtake the West when it comes to the race to achieving effective 3D printing on a large scale.
So how is 3D printing technology being used in the burgeoning United Arab Emirates (UAE)?
Dubai and Abu Dhabi
The mind-blowing skylines of the UAE's two metropolises are enough to identify the Middle Eastern country as a major investment hub when it comes to new technologies. Indeed, the capital city of Abu Dhabi is home to one of the world's most famous technology parks, the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research & Training (CERT), which is a nucleus for research and development, and investment.
Unsurprisingly, the UAE is home to a great many 3D printing startups that are exploring the myriad ways the technology can be used across the manufacturing spectrum and beyond, as well as big firms adopting 3D printing for new projects.
One smaller operation is Dubai-based Precise Concepts, which has established a service called This Is Me. The company sells 3D scanned and printed figurines of real people with plastic resin and full-colour printing technologies that use phototexturing to add a lifelike appearance.
Precise director Lothar Lohmann stated: "At the moment very few people know about 3D printing and its potential in this part of the world, which means there is not yet a lot of demand. It is, however, growing."
And taking 3D printing into outer space is being explored in the UAE, as the Abu Dhabi offices of global architecture firm Foster and Partners is looking into how lunar soil from the moon could be used to manufacture building parts. This is based on the European Space Agency's plans, which is producing entire structures thanks to terrestrial 3D printing technology.
The National reports that in the UAE, some companies with financial stakes in the market have joined forces to form the 3D Printing Innovation Alliance to promote awareness about their developments and advances among both consumers and businesses throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Emerging vs developed
So how do 3D printing uptake rates measure up when compared to the rest of the world? According to market research firm Gartner, adoption rates among businesses in the Middle East were on par with Asia and Europe in 2012 at around ten per cent. This is a similar uptake to 2011 and indicates a solid demand for the technology. However, the US remains the biggest 3D printing investor, as adoption rates were at 15 per cent last year in the world's number-one economy.
Nevertheless, these figures have quadrupled from those recorded in 2009 and indicate a strong trend in favour of introducing 3D printing to mainstream manufacturing.