By the end of September 2021, the news hit the media: the Cuban government authorised the first private companies . Perhaps for me this was more economic or international political information, were it not for the fact that one of these businesses was dedicated to additive manufacturing. Curious to learn more and to share Addimensional’s proposal , I contacted Abel Bajuelos, its manager.
We talked with Abel about his project, the applications of 3D printing and the ecosystem on the Caribbean island.
Beginnings and discovery of the technology
TSL – What is your professional context?
Abel – My context is a bit particular. I am a professional musician specialising in percussion. I graduated from the Alejandro García Caturla Conservatory in Havana and worked for several years in top-level orchestras of Cuban popular music, better known as “Salsa”.
Later I had to take over a small company in Panama, for which I had to train in business administration. It was a big change but it gave me a business perspective.
In 2010, small private businesses began to be authorised in Cuba and I started my first venture. It was an arcade, which was a great success from the very first days as it was the first one on the island.
At the same time, I continued my education. During my time in Panama, I had come into contact with the additive manufacturing sector, a technology that captivated me. Three years later, this video game activity was banned, and for great crises, great remedies: I threw myself into the world of 3D printing.
The passion that additive manufacturing aroused in me led me to discover a profession I knew nothing about: that of industrial designer.
“I saw great possibilities for technology in a society like Cuba’s, with a high level of education and a different approach towards consumption.”
Where did the idea for Addimensional come from?
At first I conceived it as a kind of 3D café or coworking, a space where creative people of all kinds are provided with the tools to carry out their projects. It turned out not to be viable in Cuba because there was, and still is, a lack of understanding of what these fabrication tools provide.
To me, the possibilities of technology in a society like Cuba’s were obvious. A society with a high level of education, with a different approach to the world in terms of consumption, oriented more to repair than to change and throw away, giving products several lives. For me it was clear, but there was no fertile ground and the conditions were not ideal, so I had to reformulate the proposal.
I have thus conceived the project in three dimensions. The first is the provision of low-level or basic service, with desktop equipment aimed at a segment ranging from an individual with a particular need or micro-enterprises in need of rapid prototyping service.
The second is the maker community, a more social and collaborative, non-profit environment. We are trying to create the first FabLab in Cuba and we are on the right track because the conditions I was talking about earlier are evolving.
Finally, the industrial level. Being one of the pioneers in Cuba, large state-owned companies and research centres hired me as an industrial designer and provider of advanced manufacturing services. Taking advantage of the capabilities provided by 3D printing, I managed to implement solutions that had not been conceived until then.
Applications for a particular context
What technology are you using?
Addimensional has been a small company for only two months, because until then it only provided services as a freelancer and there was no point in installing equipment. Today, we have our own FDM and SLA in the workshop and access to industrial and metal machines via partners and research centres that are already equipped.
What fields have you served?
Since we are pioneers in our geographical region, we have served practically all sectors, as there is a growing interest in technology. Reverse engineering and the redesign of parts and functional parts was a bit of a start, but from there the ramifications are enormous: technical and engineering offices, health sector, or even plastic arts, a field that is quite strong on the island.
One high-value application we bring to the table is import substitution. By making parts in-house and managing repairs and spare parts, we are more autonomous and independent.
In medicine, we are already providing cutting guides and surgical moulds. We already have several case studies whose cost and time results have attracted the attention of the local medical community and the ministry itself has been interested in integrating these solutions into the public health system.
Ecosystem and future of 3D printing in Cuba
What is the additive manufacturing ecosystem like in Cuba?
While we could say that the 3D market itself does not yet exist, the ecosystem is incipient and we are actively involved in its development. Whenever we can, we give workshops and share experiences, best practices, etc.
As for the supply of raw materials, we have to bring them from abroad, which is sometimes not easy because of the embargo. There is no dedicated chemical industry and no circle of suppliers of plastics for FDM or metal powder to name two examples.
How do you communicate your value proposition as a business?
Being an innovative business puts you on the map. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the process considerably as we manage a nationwide network of personal protective equipment manufacturers. Because we responded very quickly, people started talking about Addimensional.
In addition to that, we tried to be present at congresses and conferences to transmit the possibilities of the technology. We were even visited by Miguel Díaz-Canel, the President of the Republic of Cuba, demonstrating the authorities’ interest in developing businesses like ours. The support of public bodies is vital for us and serves as a vehicle to convey our message.
“We are actively involved in developing the additive manufacturing ecosystem on the island by showcasing the possibilities of the technology.”
What are the plans for the future?
We are raising a round of financing that will allow us to scale up our capacity. One of the areas we are working on is new materials, especially polymers that can replace injection-moulded plastics. The idea is to offer fully functional final parts in considerable quantities.
In the medical field, we want to make the leap to the design and manufacture of implants. To do this, we will need the support of medical institutions to increase our casuistry and also to become certified in international standards such as ISO 13485 in order to work with the rigour that this field requires.
 El Gobierno de Cuba autoriza las primeras 32 empresas privadas. El País, 30 sept, 2021
 América Accesible. 29 nov – 1 dic 2021. Varadero, Cuba
 Twitter Miguel Díaz-Canel. Post of August 17th, 2021