Jun 3, 2016 | By Alec

The 3D printing revolution has been expanding at an incredible speed, and the technology is quickly being adopted by innovative makers from the far corners of the world. But perhaps the biggest testimony to the incredible impact of 3D printing technology, is that it has now even reached North Korea. Technology is traditionally slow to reach the almost completely sealed-off communist state; even the internet is only available to a handful of users. That makes it extra remarkable that reporters have caught a glimpse of a 3D printer being advertised by a North Korean university during a trade show in Pyongyang.

To clarify, no 3D printer was actually spotted during the event. Instead, the booth of the Pyongyang Machinery and Technology Exchange was simply using a brochure to advertise the product. Footage of the brochure and 3D printer was captured by the DPRK 360 project, an initiative to capture the many aspects of North Korean life through interactive virtual tours, videos and photography. Set up by Singapore-based photographer Aram Pan, it offers a remarkable view of life in the world’s most unusual state.

But this wasn’t just any 3D printer. As you can see in the image above, the brochure displayed a 3D printer model that bears an uncanny resemblance to the first generation MakerBot Replicator 3D printer. The shape, color (down to the black trim) and body seem to be completely identical; even the MakerBot three-pronged M logo is visible. In fact, only the MakerBot name is absent. This obviously casts a shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of the advert, which also doesn’t mention where the 3D printer is made.

The accompanying text describes the functionality of the 3D printer. “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,” the advert reads, further indicating that it can make objects with a minimum resolution of 0.1 mm. It even claims it can reduce certain production costs by 30 percent.

According to the DPRK 360, the staff at the booth argued that their technological venture is related to the Pyongyang University of Mechanical Engineering. In North Korea, university professors are sometimes hired to share their technical expertise, but research is rarely commercialized. But this is changing. “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. The Academy of Sciences is trying to set up an incubator to start new companies to develop marketable products. The Choson Exchange is trying to support them in that effort,” explained Andray Abrahamian from the Choson Exchange, a Singapore-based non-profit that has been training North Korean entrepreneurs since 2009.

What’s more, it is claimed that this 3D printer is not the only one in use in North Korea. The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a private university in Pyongyang, also supposedly has one in operation. “PUST has a 3D printer used in the R&D center to make prototypes such as a solar lamp,” PUST Chancellor Chan-Mo Park told NK News. As North Korea has been bogged down by industrial setback, it could certainly benefit from the small scale production opportunities offered by 3D printing.



Posted in 3D Printer



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