Shafiq Ali

Since young, he is fascinated with hands-on work and the idea that he could help out at home to repair and fix things. Now as an adult, Shafiq hopes to help others build and fix things through his latest start-up venture. He is a biological science-trained maker who recently started Mēkā, a retail and support service company involving 3D printing and the official distributor for Reprap-Walmart products.
SG Maker (SGM): What got you started on 3D printing and Mēkā studios?
Shafiq (S): I have always had a fascination with making & breaking things and trying to repair it. I used to buy little kits from craft stores and make stuff. I’ve put together things from nano-blocks to chains one link at a time. I also used to take apart electronics when my mom wanted to throw it out. Sometimes, I would scour the net for ideas and in early last year, I ended up watching a video of a Cupcake CNC. That was when the fascination with 3D printing began.
Since then, I have been doing a lot of research and reading. With the Makerbot craze and the relative novelty of the 3D printing industry, I decided to get involved from a business angle. I did my research and proceeded to start up with Mēkāmeka_static_logo which means Maker in Japanese.

SGM: What services do you hope to provide?
S: Currently, Mēkā is still perfecting the retail and support sections of the business. We have a sales channels for 3D printers and filaments. At this moment, we are trying to bring in a larger variety of filaments such as Laywood, Laybricks, T-glass and nylon. Ultimately, we hope to have a retail space where the latest technologies can reside and where people can gain access. We are also slowly easing into providing training and workshops incorporating not only 3D printing but design and entrepreneurship.

Photo Jul 19, 3 13 12 PMSGM: What kind of 3D printers do you use and reasons? What are the differences?
S: I have a RepRapPro Tricolor Mendel that I bought as a kit and built. It was important to do this in order for me to learn about the hardware, software and workings of the 3D printer. In every sense, it was a very intimate look. I recently also acquired a Makerbot Replicator 2.

Other than the difference in quality, the Replicator 2 makes some really beautiful high-quality prints- the biggest difference is in repairability. The RepRap is open-sourced and there is a very healthy community of hardware tinkerers always willing to help. While Makerbot has also built a vast community, the hardware and software have now been closed up. Making repairs and modifications can sometimes be difficult if you don’t know where to look.

SGM: What was the response so far from the general public regarding what you do?
S: It has been a mixture of both curiosity and skepticism. People generally want to be involved and explore the possibilities but at the same time they are also very skeptical about what good the technology is at the moment. Desktop 3D printing is still in the early stages and the general public has only been exposed to the “hype”. Most of the people I have spoken to are still unsure and very skeptical of the future of 3D printing. At this stage, 3D printing is a game changer but only a few people know that. That being said, there are many forward-thinkers, some of them artists,  who are very excited about the possibilities and have decided to embrace 3D printing.Photo Aug 05, 7 49 13 PM

Photo Jul 21, 6 00 19 PMIn the future, there may come a time where our online purchases would be made in the form of CAD files that can be printed conveniently in our homes. This statement usually draws a lot of skepticism. That is where I feel the technology can go and it is up to us to push it in that direction.

SGM: What do you hope to achieve with Meka studios/3D printing?
S: Ultimately, I hope to bring the company forward and develop and design products while at the same time sharing our resources with the community. In this way, we will also be doing our part to encourage the maker movement and entrepreneurship.

SGM: How do you describe yourself? 
S: I would say I am more of a maker. I have a fascination with creating. Building something from the ground up makes me really happy. From small-scale projects in school to building a business, I feel a real sense of achievement when it involves creating . I would very happily buy a kit and build something from a kit than envision something new from something old. Although I do enjoy taking apart items such as game consoles, speakers, modems and anything else, I don’t really put them back together after – so i can be classified as a tinkerer-destroyer in that sense. I am trying my hand at repairing stuff like the shredder that broke down last weekend.

SGM: How have your childhood or school days prepared you for this? 
S: When I was younger, my mom allowed me a lot of freedom to explore. She would encourage me to take a part things when they were broken. She is also a very hands-on person who did plenty of repairs around the house on her own. I think growing up in her shadow has been one of the best preparations. This led me to being like a handy-man around the house, always taking the chance to take apart and “repair” what was broken (and sometimes breaking things in the process).

Photo Jun 24, 2 28 33 PMI have a degree in Biological Sciences. My university education has shown me the advantages of research and exploration. No one has gone wrong with more knowledge. My background in science has also shown me that there is no problem that is too big. It is a matter of being creative and scoping out the right resources and approaching the problem from different angles.

SGM: What are your advice to those that are fearful of technologies, for exmple, 3D printing?
S: I encourage people to find out more before making a decision. I would urge a lot of reading. With the internet, we have access to a vast amount of information and knowledge.

Don’t just be a passive participant. Go out and question everything. There are many communities that one can reach out on social media platforms or through friends who are more well-informed.
The important thing is to be open-minded. Ultimately, every technological advance will give us reason to be fearful but there is also a lot of good that will allow progress.

Photo Jul 02, 8 27 17 PM
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