3D printing has been around since the late 1980s. But go back two or three years and ask analysts and companies whether 3D printing is at its peak; their answer would have been an overwhelming and unanimous “Hell, yeah!” But companies mostly ended up making manufacturing prototypes in industries, with no real progress in enterprises. Because of this, 2015 did not turn out to be the best year for 3D printing, with high expectations once again in 2016.
When we look at the 3D printing market across the globe, India features in the top 10 countries with 7 manufacturers, according to Aniwaa 3D Printing Market Watch report. US, China, and Germany top the list with 66, 42, and 22 manufacturers, respectively.
“The adoption of 3D printing in India is still at an early stage when compared to other parts of the world; but manufacturers across verticals are seeing the benefits of 3D printing and the value it brings, particularly for advanced applications,” said Rajiv Bajaj, general manager at Stratasys India, in an interview with Channel World India.
According to 6WResearch in their report “India 3D Printer Market (2015-2021),” expiration of key patents, low production cost and advancements in material research will drive the 3D printer market in India.
In addition to these, Make in India, an initiative by the Narendra Modi-led government, will also play a role in expanding the market reach of the technology, where the demand in India will mostly come from Tier-I cities.
“With growing focus on Make in India, we see a lot of Indian manufacturers placing emphasis on producing goods locally. With so much production in the pipeline, manufacturers would need a technology which is both cost and time effective,” Bajaj said.
According to the 6WResearch report, the total Indian market for 3D printing will be around $79 million by 2021, of which automotive applications will account for the majority.
Currently, India primarily imports 3D printers from China, US and Germany, but various government initiatives aiming to boost domestic manufacturing will result in more local device creation over the course of the forecast period.
The report also states that fused deposition modelling (FDM)-based 3D printers dominate the Indian market, but there has been a decrease in the purchasing of 3D printers because of computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines, which are cheaper than 3D printers.
Earlier in 2015, Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), India’s sole manufacturer of military aircraft, used 3D printing technology to manufacture components for its Rs. 458-crore 25-kN aircraft engine project. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also given an explanation on this technology. Moreover, sources close to the Indian Defence Research Wing confirmed that Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) too has taken to 3D printing to print ABS Plastic Quality Kaveri engine components for a detailed study.
Avinash Arora, Director ICT (India & Southeast Asia) & Supply Chain Management at New Holland Fiat India, said that in the automobile industries technologies like 3D printing have a crucial role to play.
“In the automobile industries, the time to market the products is crucial and technologies like 3D printing will help you conceptualize your design quickly rather than using the traditional methods of designing prototypes,” he said.
Sanjiv Jain, group CIO at Spark Minda, said the organization has been using this technology to develop barcodes for their products. However, it hasn’t been utilizing this technique to make other products.
“When you go to your customers, you need to show prototypes of what exactly you want to sell. 3D printing makes sense in this case.” said Jain.
The total Indian market for 3D printing will be around $79 million by 2021, of which automotive applications will account for the majority.
Even though this technology helped Anand Madanagopal, founder of Cardiac Design Labs, in building a prototype for his product, he feels that not all 3D printing technologies are the right fit for product prototyping.
He said that technologies like stereolithography (SLA) and silicon moulding turned out to be expensive, without bearing any fruits. The quality of those prototypes was substandard, brittle and prone to breakage after trial productions.
“We wasted a lot of money on SLA, and hence we moved to FDM-based technologies,” he said.
“People say that 3D printing technologies can be used for everything, but that is not true,” he said, “For low volume production, 3D printing is horrible, but FDM makes a lot sense when you have to make prototypes.”
Speaking about the applications, Madanagopal said, “It will make a lot of sense to use 3D printers to develop prosthetics and other body parts because these do not need mass production.”
However, when it comes to building prototypes, Madanagopal has a different approach, “Build the prototype and then use engineering techniques to mass produce the device.”