An aspiring engineer gifted with an entrepreneur’s instinct, Manish Amin, was drawn towards 3D printing after reading about Stratasys and MakerBot, two companies setting benchmarks in the red-hot business back in early 2012.
For India, it was a farm-fresh patch and Manish, along with three equally-ambitious friends, decided to take a leap of faith. By the end of the year, they had all applied to an incubator programme at Manipal University. By September 2014, they had set up Global 3D Labs, among the first of its kind in India.
“It was a risk. My parents didn’t want me to set up a startup just after graduation.They felt it would be better if I worked for about two years and then form a new company .But if we had waited, we might not have been among the first in India to get into 3D printing. Now students come to us from Mumbai, Punjab and all across India just to learn about 3D printing,” says Manish.
3D printing is not to be confused with printing words on paper. Think of it as a catchy, trendy term commonly used to describe additive manufacturing. 3D printing or additive manufacturing is developing a product by depositing thin layers of a material using a 3D printing machine usually via a nozzle which squirts the material in liquid form, based on a product design created by Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software.
Through 3D printing technology, it is possible to create unlimited computerised models, with as many changes, till the right product is arrived at without necessarily creating them physically; thereby improving efficiency, saving time and cutting expenses. Far more efficient than traditional modelling methods, the cutting-edge technology complements traditional manufacturing methods by adding value to the product development phase.
“For example, in automobiles product development, a part that costs Rs 40,000 using traditional modelling methods will cost only about Rs 1,000 with 3D printing modelling methods. Another client used 3D printing to manufacture outer covers for an eye testing machine. The client had a profit margin of Rs 35,000 while printing cost was only around Rs 3,000,” says Manish, whose company is ready to commercially launch chocobot in the coming months.
Chocobot is a 3D printer that can build shapes using chocolate. 3D printing is already making waves abroad. For instance, shoe manufacturer Nike has been able to speed up its product development phase using 3D printing. Designs are now fully-tested and approved n six months; with traditional methods, it would have taken a few years. Lockheed Martin is using the technology for satellite manufacturing cut down costs.
GE is also making use of the know-how n industrial grade manufacturing of fuel nozzles. In India too, companies have woken up to its virtues. Liver tissue, which is capable of performing critical liver functions, was successfully developed using 3D printing by Pandorum Technologies, Bangalore, in 2015. J Group Robotics has also supplied a 3D printer to the Indian Navy, which is using it for developing proto types of engineering objects.
There’s more. 3D Hubs, a website connecting 3D prin ting services vendors with customers, lists over 20,000 locations in 150 countries. In India, there are approximately 350 listed 3D printing services Mumbai alone has over 100 and Delhi at least 60. A Star Wars light sabre, a phone stand, jewellery pieces, spare parts for your washing machine you can print them all. Clients include businesses, educational institutions, home users and tech lovers.
It’s a fast-developing market. “India 3D printer market is projected to cross $79 million by 2021,” says Rajiv Bajaj general manager of Stratasys India, citing 6Wresearch, and will “continue to gather momentum particularly in fields such as aerospace, automotive, consumer goods, industrial machineries, medical and education sectors.”
Stratasys, the largest 3D printing company in the world, has been operating through distributors in India since 2005. The company, which acquired Makerbot in 2013, has seen a huge 60% year-on-year growth in demand for its 3D printing services.
Industry experts say that 3D printing can help bring more jobs and engineer higher growth, thereby add muscle to the Narendra Modi-government’s Make in India initiative but only after the skill-gap is bridged. Rajrishi Singhal, senior geo-economics fellow, Gateway House, points out that at present the bulk of India’s businesses and industries are labour-intensive and there’s some distance to be traversed before 3D printing is adopted widely .
Nonetheless, there’s optimism because the general industry view is: 3D printing is a technology whose time has come.
Source: The Economic Times