Interview with Pir Arkam, Founder & CEO of Proto21, The Leading 3D Printing Services Provider in Dubai

Interview with Pir Arkam, Founder & CEO of Proto21, The Leading 3D Printing Services Provider in Dubai

As a pioneering force in the realm of 3D printing and prototyping, Proto21 stands out with its unwavering commitment to excellence. Proto21 is one of the UAE's most reliable 3D printing service bureau that offers high-end additive manufacturing technologies. At the helm of this enterprise is Pir Arkam, a visionary entrepreneur boasting a journey of passion, perseverance, and purpose.

Embark on the success journey of Proto21 as Pir Arkam, founder and CEO, shares a glimpse into the transformative power of vision and determination.

Setting the standard

Inspired by a lifelong passion for both engineering and art, Arkam got interested in 3D printing technology, a convergence of both. He recognized the immense potential of this innovative field, which led him to pursue a career in and then establish Proto21.

Proto21 distinguishes itself in the market by prioritizing superior customer experience and product quality. With a team of industry experts collaborating on each project, Proto21 ensures excellence in every aspect.  At the very start of the company, Arkam was offered a investment from Joseph Group, which boasts specialists across various fields of advertisement. The partnership with Joseph Group enabled to seamlessly integrate auxiliary services outside 3D printing to enhance product outcomes. Arkam asserts,

"We involve the customer throughout the journey of a project so that we can offer highest customer satisfaction."

Catering to a myriad of industries, Proto21 prides itself on its versatility. Proto21 serves clients from diverse fields including automotive, defense, engineering, architecture, and aerospace. However, its primary focus remains on delivering top-notch products and experiences. Proto21 has prioritized enhancing its production capabilities and capacity over the past five years. This approach revolves around maximizing the potential of its 21st-century smart manufacturing facility, emphasizing services such as design and prototyping.

Regardless of the project's scale or value, Proto21 treats every order with the same level of dedication and enthusiasm. Be it a small repair part for household appliances or a high-value project for a large corporation, the Proto21 team takes equal effort and dedication towards it. This inclusive approach makes Proto21’s services accessible to individuals and businesses alike.

Proto21 utilizes recyclable materials in its projects. Refuting doubts about the integrity of the materials, Arkam asserts that the company maintains the quality and composition of materials in a manner that remains unaffected by its recycled nature. The use of recycled materials in certain applications, such as a robotic arm, may pose challenges in performance verification. However, in the case of indoor and artistic purposes, the impact is minimal. The use of recycled materials varies depending on technology, application, and client needs. It comprises approximately 25% of the materials used by Proto21. In contrast to traditional manufacturing methods, 3D printing manufacturing process wastes significantly less material, making it inherently more environmentally friendly as compared to traditional manufacturing technologies.

Proto21's technologies stand out not just for their components, but for the expertise and customization embedded within them. Arkam continues,

“Anyone can buy the technology. What's most important is the input parameters; how you run the machine and the expertise you bring.”

Proto21 emphasizes the importance of tailored solutions, especially in intricate fields like medical product development. They constantly make proprietary upgrades on 3D Printing software and hardware, enhancing performance and quality.

Ensuring precision and quality


Ensuring quality and precision in the 3D printing process is a cornerstone of Proto21's operations. By integrating reputable brands and materials with specific mission sheets, Proto21 guarantees the highest standards in every project.

“We have very strong policies and protocols for quality check on each stage of a project,"

says Arkam.

From design confirmation by engineers to post-processing methods and finishing touches, Proto21 adheres to the strictest protocols to achieve impeccable results. Proto21 follows a meticulous approach to ensure the safety and functionality of its products.

Drawing from the expertise of the Joseph Group, which specializes in outdoor installations of large structures, Proto21 incorporates basic engineering protocols and industry standards into its testing procedures. Prior to high-volume production, Proto21 conducts fit-out tests and material tests to validate the design and functionality of prototypes. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods that often require costly moulds and lack streamlined testing processes, Proto21 benefits from the ease and flexibility afforded by additive manufacturing technology.

The pace at which the 3D printing technology evolves necessitates constant vigilance and proactive measures to stay abreast in the field. By engaging with industry experts through various channels, they exchange technological insights and keep the company attuned to emerging trends. Additionally, Arkam's active presence on social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn ensures a continuous influx of relevant information.

Overcoming the global pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Proto21 faced significant challenges as a startup. Established in 2018 with just 11 team members, the sudden halt in operations posed a daunting obstacle. Arkam recalls the emotional turmoil of navigating this crisis.

Through proactive outreach, Proto21 secured a pivotal opportunity to produce face shields for Dubai Police, propelling the company into action. Overcoming logistical hurdles and obtaining special permits, Proto21 swiftly adapted to meet the urgent demand. The successful production of over 15,000 face shields sustained the business and facilitated growth amidst adversity. Despite the challenges, Proto21 upheld its commitment to employee welfare, ensuring full salaries, bonuses, and expansion opportunities.

Arkam attributes this resilience to the supportive ecosystem provided by the UAE government. He highlights the significance of governmental support for small businesses.

Additionally, they contributed to the Expo 2020 Young Innovators program, where they transformed students' conceptual ideas into physical prototypes displayed at the event. Young minds were able to see their visions materialize.

Another groundbreaking project during this period was a 32-metre façade for Adidas in Dubai Mall. This stands as one of the longest 3D printed project to be completed.

Strategic collaboration


Collaboration with experts plays a pivotal role in Proto21's pursuit of innovation and technological advancement. When integrating novel technologies, such as the recent addition of a robotic arm, Proto21 seeks guidance and support from industry peers and suppliers. Arkam explains,

"We have commissioned a lot of new technologies. Reaching out to other companies who are using the same technologies helps us understand how to get the most out of the machine."

This collaborative approach fosters knowledge sharing, problem-solving, and mutual support within the industry. Proto21 has found unwavering support from competitors and industry partners. Such collaborations not only enhance Proto21's capabilities but also foster a culture of innovation and camaraderie within the additive manufacturing community in the UAE.

Community initiatives


Proto21 is committed to society and serves as a vital contributor to society. Recognizing the challenges faced by individuals seeking employment opportunities, Proto21 actively creates jobs and provides avenues for fresh graduates from various countries, including India, Philippines, and Pakistan. Beyond business objectives, the company makes an effort to foster talent and provide opportunities.

Proto21 envisions holding future workshops to inspire and empower youth, reflecting its commitment to social responsibility. Arkam says,

"We have done some free workshops for underprivileged students. We see this as an opportunity to give back to society."

With a focus on supporting student projects in architecture universities and institutions across Dubai, Proto21 offers discounts and even pro-bono services to ensure accessibility for all. Additionally, the company has donated 3D printers to educational institutes aiming to nurture the next generation of innovators.

Proto21 prioritizes environmental sustainability by partnering with companies like Filamentive in the UK to utilize recycled industrial plastic materials in its production processes. Through these efforts, including low electricity consumption and support for education, Proto21 exemplifies its dedication to responsible business practices and societal well-being.

Words of wisdom

Pir Arkam, Founder & CEO of Proto21

One of the greatest lessons learned by Arkam is to avoid succumbing to self-imposed limitations. Believing wholeheartedly in one's goals is paramount, he emphasizes, as success stems from genuine conviction and perseverance. He marks,

"Believing in yourself is the epitome of success. If you are passionate about something, then business is for you."

Arkam emphasizes the importance and readiness and passion to handle anything that comes your way. He underscores that entrepreneurial success stems from pursuing endeavors fueled by genuine passion rather than a mere desire for wealth. He exemplifies this statement by drawing examples from industry giants like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs who have prioritized excellence in product or service delivery over monetary gain.

Arkam advocates for a mindset shift from employee to entrepreneur as success in entrepreneurship demands a level of commitment beyond conventional work hours. He urges aspiring entrepreneurs to seize opportunities and embark on their entrepreneurial journey with courage, discipline and determination.

Future aspirations

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Looking forward, Arkam envisions Proto21 playing a pivotal role in supporting space exploration endeavors, particularly in future Mars colonies. His goal is to establish Proto21 as a leading entity capable of contributing to this ambitious venture. Through Proto21's growth and innovation, he aims to leave a lasting impact on the forefront of space exploration.

As Arkam continues to push the boundaries of prototyping and innovation, one thing remains clear: the journey of Proto21 is far from over, and the best is yet to come.

Watch the full interview:

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Shahba Mayyeri

Written by Shahba Mayyeri

Shahba is a Content Creator at HiDubai with 3 years of experience in crafting compelling stories and articles. She holds a Master’s degree in Media and Communications from MAHE Dubai.
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