by Noah D'Mello

3D printing the road for 2016

Jan 27, 2016
BusinessCar TechComputers and Peripherals

Seen as an alternative to manufacturing, what does 2016 have in store for 3D printing in the Indian market?

3D printing was always seen as an alternative to manufacturing. And hence, it took off first in areas where major manufacturers were located, namely US, Western Europe, Japan and China. However, most of these providers such as 3D Systems, Concept Laser, EOS, Renishaw, SLM and Stratasys, have a presence in India, but only after they created a local distribution and service network.

“Those networks came into being just as the first domestic manufacturers of desktop material extrusion 3D printers entered the India market. 3D printing will take off in India as multinational vendors offer their 3D printers locally and indigenous startups come to market with not only consumer but also enterprise-class 3D printers,” said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner.

Samiron Ghoshal, Partner & Leader-IT Advisory Services at EY, feels that 3D printing has not reached there yet.

“When there is a business need or if you can anticipate a business benefit from the technology, then you can truly say that the technology is mainstream,” he said. “Unfortunately, 3D printing has not reached that stage yet.”

It is no surprise that 3D printing has been in the scene for decades, especially in the aerospace and automotive sectors. But Basiliere feels that the difference between now and then is that the sectors “have moved beyond basic prototyping to printing finished goods.”

Bram de Zwart, co-founder of 3D Hubs, the world’s largest and fastest-growing network of 3D printers, told Wired magazine that the applications of 3D printing are expanding into new domains—“everything from tissue printing in the biomedical industry to custom metal part production in the aerospace industry and everything in between.”

In addition to these, educational, medical, manufacturing, aerospace, and military applications, other niche applications will also see a surge such as arts and crafts, interior decoration, fashion accessories, footwear designs, jewellery designs, animation and gaming, and furniture modelling.

“In 2016, there is a lot of scope for technologies like 3D printing in industries such as automobile, machine building and engineering and these companies have to adapt to these technologies,” Avinash Arora, Director ICT (India & Southeast Asia) & Supply Chain Management at New Holland Fiat India, said.

Basiliere said that 2016 could also expect major manufacturers of “2D” or paper printing equipment to enter the market.

New companies are entering the 3D printing space, where Mimaki Engineering and Ricoh are already present and HP Inc. poised to enter next fall. Canon, Konica Minolta and other providers are already selling another company’s 3D printers but could offer their own devices at some point.

Similar to Mitsubishi, in 2016 firms from related industries, especially the machine tool industry, can be expected to move into this space. There could also be significant improvements in the printing speed, finished piece quality and material range for each of the seven technologies that comprise 3D printing, said Basiliere.

In the future, financing 3D printing projects will continue to be a persistent challenge. According to the 3D Printing’s Imminent Impact on Manufacturing global report by Stratasys, 58 percent of the respondents said that equipment cost will be a challenge in the future, whereas 40 percent feel that manufacturing cost will be the main challenge. A decline in prices will lead to a wider adoption of this technology.

2016 could also expect major manufacturers of “2D” or paper printing equipment to enter the market.

To ensure that 3D printing becomes a key technology player in the market, 40 percent of the companies said they will take to training designers and engineers specifically for additive manufacturing, while 40 percent also said they would partner with additive manufacturing service providers.

3D printing has always been compared to being an alternative to the manufacturing industry, which only accounts for 17 percent of the GDP. However, the fact that 3D printing has not shown reached its tipping point yet makes it difficult for industries to take this technology seriously.

Analyzing this, Ghoshal said, “India has still a long way to go!”