View from India: Additive Manufacturing, a promising game changer

As a manufacturing technology, additive manufacturing (AM) has gained momentum in India over the last three or four years. As AM offers advancements in manufacturing by using 3D printing, its popularity increased as the prices of 3D printers began to fall. Before this, manufacturers were reluctant to tap its potential as Indian businesses operate in a price-sensitive market.

With the falling prices, 3D printers made a difference to verticals across the spectrum as they began to lap it up to enhance various applications. Producing everything from human organ replacement to printing footwear and even chocolates, AM’s applications are vast and are increasingly entering previously unexplored segments.

Although the AM boundary is limitless, as a technology it has gained recognition and has began to be taken seriously because of its ability to print human organs with accuracy. Apart from its medical application, the fact that it lends itself to large-scale industrial applications with its rapid prototyping applications is another reason for its acceptance. It helps improve efficiencies in the logistics chain by doing simulated versions of the original, create lightweight products and lowers production costs.

“3D printing came to centre stage when the life science segment began to leverage its potential for various purposes, including medicine where it’s used for 3D printing of lifelike human organs that react like the real one. Industrial giants like Boeing and Airbus, too, began to use it for industrial purposes,” said Sumanth Kumar, VP, Simulia Growth, Dassault Systèmes.

It’s no surprise that companies in India are beginning to re-organise their work to integrate AM into their commercial production process by simulating printing layer by layer. Dassault Systèmes is trying to meet this emerging requirement by targeting the engineering and simulation hubs located in Bangalore, Pune, Delhi and Mumbai.

In its effort to address the skill gap in the AM sector and build a community of professionals, the company has partnered with 152 academic and engineering institutions to facilitate researchers and students to create innovative products using their software and simulation tools. Simulation technology and CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) help in predictive analysis.

This effort is aligned with Make in India, envisioned by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Academic and defence organizations are encouraged to create or customize products in India and for the Indian market. Simulating product design raises the bar of innovation, besides eliminating manual processes, thereby bringing a paradigm shift in designing and executing ideas. For designers and innovators, the time taken for design-to-market a product is lessened. As a result, end-to-end simulation helps in design optimisation.

With design optimisation, these ‘Make in India’ products will be showcased in the global market in their next phase of growth.

AM gets its name from the fact that objects are created by adding thin layers of material one by one. AM is expected to give a huge boost to the manufacturing processes in many sectors including automotive, aerospace and defence, medicine, industrial and education. Several attempts are being made by organisations to channel AM’s forward-thinking applications into mainstream manufacturing.

For instance, 3D Hubs is an online 3D printing service platform that operates a network of 3D printers with over 20,000 locations in over 150 countries. Coming to India, Mumbai tops the 3D Hubs list with 139 listed 3D printing services, followed by Bangalore’s 104, Delhi 103, Hyderabad 57 and Chennai with 44 listed 3D printing services.

Of course, other locations like Pune are also emerging as optimum cities for pursuing AM. Earlier in the year, Renishaw, the global engineering technologies company, set up its first Solutions Centre in India in Pune. The Solutions Centre will be equipped with the latest AM systems. In 2015, General Electric (GE) established its multi modal plant described as Brilliant Factory in India in Pune. This multi-modal plant is slated to raise the bar for manufacturing, generate employment and contribute to the Make in India concept. GE expects to use 3D printers in its manufacturing processes.

For its part, as a professional body, the Additive Manufacturing Society of India (AMSI) aims to promote 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies. AMSI helps the design, research and development organisations, manufacturing professionals and academics in 3D printing, additive manufacturing and allied technologies. As per its official website, AMSI aims to put a desktop 3D printer in every engineering college in India by 2020.

If you look at the analogy of 3D printing, for a long time 3D first caught the attention of hobbyists and enthusiastic early adopters, later pursued by researchers. With AM, verticals as diverse as medicine and manufacturing have begun to take a cross collaborative approach. One thing is certain, AM as a technology has arrived. It is all set to transform various functions in jet engines, locomotive technology and wind turbines, as well as enhancing efficiencies and supporting infrastructure in various verticals. 

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