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A quick draw

A quick draw

3D printer, CAD+T Middle East, Design technology, RAK Ceramics, SUN Studio

With the advancement of technology in all fields of work, interior design has not been left behind.

Sun Studio has brought the world’s first 3D printer to UAE that can print even on water. It aims to earn AED 25 million during the first year of its operations.

Using a new Russian nano technology, the 3D Neo UV-LED printer creates a three-dimensional image with successive layers of material via ultra violet printing. The studio, based on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, has been opened by Sun Innovations and UAE-based IT firm, PRO TECHnology.

“Flat-bed printing is a kind of printing technology that has been around for many years. Sun Innovations has invented a new technology based on that, using a new kind of ink and LED units, that allows us to print on any surface imaginable,” said Jamal Maraqa, managing director, PRO TECHnology.

“The opening of this studio signals the entry of 3D printing technology into the Middle East region,” said Vladislav Mirchev, founder, Sun Innovations.

“The Neo UV-LED printer can be used for design visualisation, prototyping/CAD, metal casting, architecture, education, geospatial, healthcare, retail and entertainment,” added Mirchev.

Maraqa agreed and said the printer is invaluable because it can print on any kind of material, like glass, wood, ceramic, canvas, textiles, ceilings, water, mobile phones, laptops and mirrors, at a lower cost, and can print on between 10-30m2 surface per hour, depending on the image used.

“Take glass, for example. It takes about three minutes for the printer to make it look like stained glass, but costs less than 1% of the amount when it’s done by hand,” he added.

The printer is eco-friendly with mobility because of its built-in wheels and its low power consumption. It also uses environmental friendly UV-curable ink, which does not emit harmful odours and elements like traditional solvent ink.

“The limit with this technology is the imagination of the interior designer,” added Maraqa.

In other technology, the region has already seen the benefits of digital printing as used by RAK Ceramics. Digital printing is printing from a digital-based image directly to the materials, and there is no contact with the tile surface.

“Since the inception of the company, it has been the principle embraced by the management to invest in modern and innovative technology available in the ceramic industry.

RAK Ceramics is taking every feasible initiative and consistently upgrading the production facilities to cater to and meet the demand of the global market,” said Jaya Kumar, chief operating officer, RAK Ceramics.

It can deliver high-definition print quality, maintain print consistency by avoiding shade variations, and can print on any surface. In addition, tile manufacturers benefit from better productivity and operational efficiency.

“One of our creations, Nanopix digital printing, has been particularly crucial in strengthening RAK Ceramics’ competitive edge and market dominance in high-growth and emerging markets,” said Abdallah Massaad, deputy CEO, RAK Ceramics.

“The most recent series we developed and offered to the market are produced using the latest technology available in the ceramic tiles industry.

Unique press punches that create special surface effects, inkjet printing, high definition digital printing, glazed-polished high gloss finish were integrated into the production lines to produce innovative, artistic and natural looking products,” added Kumar.

He said digital printing has an advantage over printing on textured punches, with RAK Ceramics having 12 such machines. With design development done through the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key/Black) standard, it is easy for RAK Ceramic’s designers to adjust the colour while making its collections.

Using the digital ink printer, the Stone Art Series, Rajasthan, Tropical and Travettino designs have been created. RAK Ceramics is running its digital printing facility at full capacity due to demand.

The advantages of using such technology include stability of the images, reduction of pigments and reduction in stock of printing pastes, elimination of screens, screen rollers and engraving devices, an easier testing method at lower cost, ability to reproduce natural stones, pictures and drawings, and presence of high definition decoration.

“There are many more advantages but digital printing cannot always substitute traditional methods, especially when we need higher thickness of paste to obtain an embossed effect and strong colours on the surface area,” added Kumar.

Apart from the production process, designers are also taking advantage of modelling technology in the form of CAD+T software, aimed at interior design and interior manufacturing, with its drafting modules based on AutoCAD.

“CAD+T helps designers to organise themselves. The technology allows them to work faster to handle more orders at the same time,” said Marina Schwarz, managing director, CAD+T Middle East.

She pointed out the CAD+T rendering module and online panorama renderer as an example. “The online panorama rendering module is a presentation software for the photorealistic presentation of an idea through to its animation.

The biggest benefit is that it creates renderings 10 times faster than AutoCAD 3D Studio, and has an automatic daylight renderer, which saves lots of time.”

An application for construction/engineering has now been released: the CAD+T Construction Engineer Professional, which is based on Autodesk Inventor, a 3D parametrical system. “This gives our clients the opportunity of profiting off all the benefits for Autodesk Inventor within the interior business as it understands edges, finishes, and profiles,” said Schwarz.

“Most of the designers today start with a 2D concept drawing, most of the time done in AutoCAD 2D. Then they start again to build a 3D model for the rendering. And if it finally comes to production, they have to make shop floor drawings, and end up creating the same information thrice,” she added.

Schwarz said with CAD+T software, designers can start to draw in 2D, with the 3D model automatically generating in the background. The 2D layouts, such as the plan view and elevation can be generated automatically from the system as well.

The 3D model can then be used for renderings or shop floor drawings, where designers have to add construction details. “With this process you can increase your performance by at least 40%,” said Schwarz.

Even with these forward steps, there are certain challenges to working in this industry in the Middle East. According to Maraqa, the only challenge here is spreading information about the technology.

“There is a high demand for technologically advanced products in the interior design market, but we need to inform people. Once designers see the usefulness of a technology, like the 3D printer, they come back as it enriches their business,” he said.

Schwarz said the challenge of integrating new software into a company is always the setup and training.

“That’s why CAD+T focuses strongly on this. We set up a project plan with our clients. So far we have had a lot of interest with all designers and draftsmen due to the AutoCAD interface, as they can still use the same shortcuts and commands. As more or less everyone in the interior design business is trained on AutoCAD, we achieve short training times and lower training costs,” she added.

Kumar agreed there were challenges in the Middle East, especially related to the global market’s connection with the region.

“Over the years, the Middle East market has grown a lot, and customers are becoming even more demanding as they catch up with the global trends. It becomes a challenge for RAK Ceramics to meet the higher demands of its customers. This is why one of the tools we employ to keep us successful is integrating technology in design,” he said.

Maraqa said, as an application, while printing technology has reached its potential, innovation will be seen with materials and trying to develop ink that mimics gold and silver accurately.

“Seeing the dynamic market we are in, we expect rapid evolution in design technology. The creative imagination of designers and architects, plus the support of technology developers and equipment manufacturers will keep growing,” said Kumar.

Schwarz agreed design technology needs to evolve but believes the market will change on a long term basis. “Due to increasing competition in the market, companies are already, and will be, forced to do more projects at the same time, but trying to receive the same turnover as before, with lower margins.

This is only possible with proper software and organisation. Companies which start improving their technology, and the ones who do it early, will be the winners in the end,” she added.

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