In the deserts of Al Ain, a young Emirati woman called Maryam Al Kuwaiti is working on a project that could revolutionise the aviation industry. As a manufacturing engineer at Strata Manufacturing, she is one of the first Emiratis exploring the potential of 3D-printing technology for industry.
Along with Siemens and Etihad Airways, Strata is working on the region’s first 3D-printed aircraft interior parts. It’s an exciting project that aims to harness technology to develop new approaches to manufacturing in the Middle East.
For Maryam, being involved in this work vindicates her decision to pursue mechanical engineering. She saw it as an “exciting and diverse” field – and she is encouraging more young Emiratis to find out, through WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017, how they can turn their hopes into reality.
Maryam, who is from Al Ain, was the first in her family to study mechanical engineering, earning a Bachelor of Science from United Arab Emirates University. “It was totally new for me,” the 25-year-old explains. “But I liked having hands-on experience, and other engineering fields are not as hands-on as mechanical engineering.
“There are, however, many branches – robotics, aerospace, others – and at first I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. So, through several internships abroad, I tried to explore them all.”
The first was at the University of Oxford, followed by another at GlobalFoundries, a semiconductor company. It was the third internship, with leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus in Toulouse, that proved to be her “flashbulb moment”.
“I was amazed by what I saw there, and I knew this was the field I wanted to concentrate on,” she recalls. “It was a huge and very challenging industry, one which the UAE also envisions very big things for. At that point, I had a feeling of self-realisation, and that I wanted to be a leading factor in the growth of this industry in the UAE.”
Maryam made what she sees as “the natural choice” to join Strata, wholly owned by Mubadala. Based at Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park, it partners with the biggest names in aircraft manufacturing, including Airbus and Boeing. Its focus on aerostructure manufacturing meant it was a perfect fit for Maryam.
“It’s also a relatively young company, so I knew I would learn quickly,” she says. “I applied before I graduated in 2014, had my summer vacation, and when I came back I started straight away – meeting new people and learning new procedures during one of the company’s busiest weeks of the year. I was immediately involved with the company’s core projects and I loved it.”
Three years on, Maryam sits in the "clean room" of Strata’s huge plant close to Al Ain International Airport, overseeing production lines as a member of the materials and processing team. Their technical knowledge is essential to transforming raw materials into actual aircraft parts, maintaining quality and providing technical support.
“Every aircraft component must go through specific stages, and we also have to find solutions to problems by using our technical expertise. Every day you walk down the production line and face a new challenge. That’s what I like.”
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