Interview: Dr. Chaw Sing Ho, Co-Founding Managing Director of NAMIC (National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster) 🗺

Blog Influencer Interviews

Chaw Sing Ho is the co-founding Managing Director of NAMIC (National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster), a Singapore government initiative to catalyze innovation and scale industrial adoption of additive manufacturing technologies. By focusing on industrial applications and translational R&D, together with commercial strategies to co-create innovative products and services, the national initiative aims to position Singapore as one of the leading digital manufacturing hubs in the era of digitalization and smart factories. Since its inception two years ago, NAMIC has raised more than $24 million in public-private funding to support various AM initiatives across industry verticals.
Prior to NAMIC, he oversaw IP Innovation Strategic Partnerships at HP Singapore. Before that, he was the global head of manufacturing supply chain operations and product innovation for the consumer inkjet supplies business in HP. Chaw Sing started his career in the semiconductor industry with Chartered Semiconductor and Globalfoundries, where he undertook various leadership and customer-facing roles in technology development and engineering operations.

Chaw Sing holds a doctorate in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a Bachelor’s (honors) degree in Electrical Engineering majoring in Microelectronics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He is an avid inventor with several US/international patents. An advocate for 3D Printing and its role in the new economy, he has spoken in various forums and workshops. He mentors a number of start-ups in the digital and healthcare space. He sits on a number of advisory and expert committees and is an appointed mentor under the GE Digital ASEAN Startup and Partner Program. He is personally interested in nurturing deep tech start-ups, as well as advancing STEM education and engineering as a profession. In his free time, he enjoys sports, movies, reading, and spending time with his family.  Dr. Chaw Sing Ho will be a speaker at 3DHEALS2020. 

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?

Chaw Sing: My first serious encounter with 3D Printing was in 2011. I was responsible for business operations in HP back then. We had a skunk work unit in which engineers would spend some of their time trying new ideas that could be turned into new businesses. 3D printing was one of them.

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing?

Chaw Sing: I was offered the opportunity to start NAMIC in 2015. This is a Singapore government initiative to drive the national 3D printing industrialization strategy and implementation. We focus on technology translation and commercialization for industrial applications. We leverage on our publicly funded research institutions in this space and other adjacent technologies, such as robotics, VR/AR, to accelerate value capture in our industries. We have an industry vertical approach to map sector pain-points and develop customized blueprints to accelerate 3D printing adoption for each industry. The enablers for any technology towards mass adoption is that it must be accessible, cost-effective and practical. 3D printing has come a long way since its rapid prototyping days, and I believe the technology is now at the stage where it can benefit the world in a big way, especially for the medical community and improve patient outcomes.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing?  

Chaw Sing: There are many examples. Doctors from India and China, who have successfully used 3D printed parts for patient-specific implants, surgical tools, and pre-surgical models for better patient outcomes. Regenerative medicine with 3D printed tissue and organs is the holy grail. In the US, Anthony Atala from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, with the first printed ear and kidney. Dr. Jonathan Morris from Mayo Clinic is another. The ability of the Mayo Clinic doctors to have 3D printed models for pre-surgical preparation has helped lower surgery complications, reduce patient costs, and improve patient outcomes.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?

Chaw Sing: Besides my family, the knowledge that I make a difference to people and the industries I am supporting.

Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?

Chaw Sing: Unnecessary bureaucracy. Polarizing opinions are driven by people with different agendas. Changing the mindset of people and businesses. These are not showstoppers but pose challenges nonetheless. My approach is to focus on the business value proposition and end objective. Focus on the customers. Engage pro-actively. Gain buy-in. Never give up. The process is always a means to an end.

Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

Chaw Sing: For personalized implants i.e. in orthopedics, the technology is ready. However, it is still early days for 3D printed tissue/organs. More needs to be done before it becomes mainstream in regenerative medicine. The routes to conformance will always be a hurdle, but this is a needed process between the medical community, businesses, as well as regulations to safeguard public safety. Being able to progress quickly where obviously there are no better solutions is desirable from a patient outcome perspective. More collaboration among the research and medical communities, establishing standards, will be key to more mainstream adoption in the medical industry.

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?

Chaw Sing: No wars – not in any part of the world. Less inequality in the world. More affordable healthcare, especially for the underprivileged. Medical cost is increasing everywhere. There is too much poverty in the world. We need to start thinking of ourselves as humanity first, and not the notion of nationalities and borders and religion.

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?

Chaw Sing: Make a difference and impact. Don’t make a living.

Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be?

Chaw Sing: “3DHeals will help improve your lives”

Jenny: What was the best investment you made in 3D printing?

Chaw Sing: My current job. I live and breathe 3D printing every day. More importantly, I get to be involved in forums like 3DHEALS, where I meet like-minded people with a passion for this technology.

Jenny: What were/was the worst investment you made in 3D printing?

Chaw Sing: None so far. This is a growing industry. I think 3D printing technology has the potential to transform every sector and our lives.

Jenny: What was the biggest risk you took in your career?

Chaw Sing: Asking for new roles when things are going well. I have always adopted the principle that never gets too comfortable in your job. Once you do, find new roles. You must be comfortable being uncomfortable. Joining the public sector after having spent so many years in the private sector was a big change for me. I see it as a needed phase to relearn and reboot. I am enjoying it so far.

Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?

Chaw Sing: I enjoy spending time with my family. I have three young boys. They are at an age where they still need me. Their activities keep me busy, especially on the weekends. Whatever time I have left, I enjoy running, reading, music, and the movies.

Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?

Chaw Sing: I have quite a few, but Stephen Hawking’s musings, come closest to what I think about a lot since I was a kid.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious… And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up… We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special.”
It is a reminder to make the best of what we have, and think deeply about how we can impact our community and perhaps humanity in our own positive ways. Not everyone can be Elon Musk or Bill Gates, who have managed to achieve so much within their lifetimes, to advance humanity by creating impactful legacies with their businesses. We can all make a difference.

Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)

Chaw Sing: I have the firm belief that 3D printing/bioprinting will enable new paradigms in healthcare solutions that will benefit the medical and patient communities. I think the word “3DHEALS” sums that up.