Electronics manufacturers were the main event at the Maker Faire in downtown Cairo’s Greek Campus, as most of this year’s workshops and panels focused on helping young ‘makers’ turn their manufacturing businesses into successful and scalable models.
Last year’s inaugural event featured underwater robots, educational ‘Robot Fights’ from CORD, and a trade fair exhibiting some extremely interesting ideas coming out of Egypt’s universities.
This year there were still robots, both submarine and flying, but the items on display were a little quirkier and cosplay - where people dress up as their favourite fictional characters - had become a feature.
A giant Iron Man suit towered over the campus and Rey from Star Wars - otherwise known as Angela Bermúdez in costume - entertained the crowd. There was a glove that translated sign language movements into their corresponding words, and virtual reality games provided by Gigabyte.
Cake pops - because cooking is as much ‘making’ as designing a 3D lamp shade -were also a big hit with the punters.
It included 150 exhibitors, 50 workshops, 15 activities for children, and 35 panels featuring Egyptian and foreign experts, such as Maker Media founder Dale Dougherty and Open Bionics cofounder Samantha Payne.
3D printing to benefit the medical industry
The best attended workshops and panels at the Maker Faire focused on 3D printing, and up-and-coming industries in the region.
In particular, panels discussed the prosthetics industry as an important use of 3D printing. This type of production can lower costs and better match individual patient needs.
Open Bionics COO Samantha Payne, a US company which creates prosthetic hands, advised 3D printing companies to "move towards the medical sector, which is still fresh and needs a lot of awareness".
"3D printing saves time and effort for both doctor and patient. The former will be better prepared for any surgery requiring prosthetics or amputation before going into the operating room; the patient no longer has to go to that room more than once when facing an amputation or any other prosthetic related operation."
Launching a global manufacturing business from Egypt
Design and how-to-make sessions made up part of the discussions but advice for those wanting to turn their ideas into businesses were some of the key talks.
Misr El Kheir’s GESR ran a session on product development, and Integreight founder Amr Saleh outlined a checklist of the tools and resources that came in useful when running a hardware startup from Egypt - or anywhere in the Middle East.
Given that most makers tend to manufacture their final products in China, he said these 11 platforms would be most useful to budding entrepreneurs.
Reddit to communicate with potential clients while developing the prototype.
Instapage to create a landing page for the product and create a database of those interested in it.
NOA Labs to get price and volume quotes from manufacturers in China.
Stripe Atlas to register your company in the US and open a bank account there.
Kickstarter to check the popularity of the idea and launch a crowdfunding campaign.
Product Hunt to build hype for the product online.
Celery for receiving pre-orders.
Easy Ship for shipping from Hong Kong to the rest of the world.
Pandadoc for templates of legal documents, contracts and agreements.
Intercom to communicate with customers on your site.
China is still the world’s manufacturing hub and as such it’s the location to which most entrepreneurs look for their production needs.
Electronics design consultant Khaled El Boushi said engineers should document all the stages their product goes through, including design, electronics, and mechanics. "You have to make sure the design does not get in the way of development, and that it answers users' needs when it comes to user experience and design.”
He recommended using design templates to document codes, algorithms, programs, parts, and purchases. "Those are mandatory steps if you plan on communicating with factories in China to manufacture there," he said. "You have to talk to more than one factory to get the best quotation.”