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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no : 03, 15-21 April 2023

3D Printing: The Manufacturing Revolution Begins…

Ranjana Singh

The realm of manufacturing is currently undergoing a transformative phase, with 3D printing technology at the forefront of this transformation. This development has brought to the fore the pressing need to move towards a sustainable manufacturing process, as well as a circular economy. Additive Manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing, with its cost benefits and reduced dependence on the supply chain, has the potential to address several issues linked with conventional manufacturing, such as energy consumption, emissions, and waste. The circular economy is a concept that aims to optimize resource usage in order to reduce waste. This philosophy is based on the principles that have enabled nature to sustain life for eons. In nature, there is no waste, and everything that is discarded becomes food, energy comes from the sun, and the organisms break down into the soil at the end of their lives. However, human societies operate in a vastly different manner, often wasting resources and harming the ecosystems that we all rely on for our existence. As the world becomes increasingly aware of the perils of unsustainable practices, additive manufacturing presents a means to achieve sustainability within the manufacturing domain.

What is 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing?: Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a process of making three dimensional parts by adding layers of material together. This technology has been around since the 1980s, but it has only recently become popular among manufacturers due to its ability to create complex shapes with minimal waste and high precision. The two main types of additive manufacturing are extrusion and powder bed fusion. In extrusion, a nozzle melts plastic or metal into thin strands that are then laid down in layers on top of each other to form an object. Powder bed fusion uses lasers or electron beams to melt metal powder into solid objects one layer at a time by building off previous layers until finished products emerge from underneath the machine where they are deposited onto trays for removal once complete.

Advantages of 3D Printing

Efficient small-batch production: The technology enables cost-effective smallbatch production, which is a significant improvement over traditional manufacturing methods that result in excessive waste. Injection moulding, which is used in traditional manufacturing, often results in the production of large quantities of plastic products that end up being discarded within a month of their manufacture. In contrast, 3D printing makes it possible to produce only what is necessary, thereby reducing waste and improving efficiency.


Reducing transport and packaging: 3D printing technology can help to reduce the need for transportation and packaging. The global transport sector contributes to around 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and nearly 40% of all plastic is used for packaging, primarily to protect items during transportation. With access to a 3D printer, creating a new part or prototype does not necessarily require a delivery. While 3D printing material still needs to be produced and shipped, one bulk order can produce numerous parts, eliminating several steps in the supply chain that would otherwise require trucks or planes.


Extending product life with replacement parts: Another advantage of 3D printing is its ability to extend the life of products through replacement parts. 3D printing enables repairs, spare and replacement parts, and custom modifications, which can be utilised in homes, repair shops, and industrial settings. The potential for on-demand replacement of parts is immense, from repairing production lines to home furniture. Moreover, 3D printed parts can often enhance performance compared to the original.


Recycling materials: The technology can also facilitate the recycling of materials. While it is true that 3D printers use plastic filament, there are ways to reduce the environmental impact of the material. The creation of 3D printing materials made from recycled plastic is becoming increasingly popular, with several such materials available globally. This can enable the filament to become part of a circular economy, further enhancing the sustainability of the manufacturing process.


How is India Leveraging 3D Printing Technology: As nations and corporations opt to broaden and reorganise their supply networks, consequently restructuring the worldwide manufacturing hierarchy, India finds itself presented with a once-in-alifetime opportunity to reinforce its value proposition and readjust its global standing. Consequently, a tactical endeavor must be pursued to cultivate domestic technological proficiencies, in order to completely harness and then exploit the potential prospects arising from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A concerted emphasis on Additive Manufacturing can significantly enhance India's endeavors to establish itself as the preeminent Manufacturing Hub on a global scale. With this in mind, the Government of India released the "National Strategy on Additive Manufacturing" on 24th February 2022. This strategy is aimed at catering to the next-generation digital manufacturing and mitigating the immediate disabilities of local industries. Highlights of the policy are:

·         The policy aims to increase India's share in global additive manufacturing to 5% within the next three years and add US$ 1 billion to the gross domestic product.

·         It aims to develop 50 India-specific technologies for material, machine and software, 100 new startups for additive manufacturing, 500 new products and train at least 1 lakh new skilled workers.

·         The strategy recommends the establishment of a dedicated agency to promote the adoption of AM technologies, through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model

·         The policy postulates the tenets of 'Make in India' and 'Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan' that advocate self-reliance through the technological transformation of the production paradigm

·         The policy aims to facilitate the intersection of computing electronics, imaging and the emerging areas of Artificial Intelligence, pattern recognition min order to create intellectual property and export opportunities

·         The policy strives to bring together industry, academia, Government and user organisations on a single platform for information exchange on national priorities, latest innovation and research outcomes, international standards etc., ensuring India optimises the benefits from the commercialisation of AM technologies.


Enhancing Make in India and Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan: The world is still grappling with the supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. However, advancements in technology are providing a glimmer of hope. 3D printing is likely to simplify supply chains by replacing raw materials with semifabricated products and consolidating suppliers. This will not only reduce procurement and labour costs but also enhance the Make in India campaign and the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.


Gross Value Addition Growth: 3D printing can democratise innovation by empowering individuals to create and actively participate in the global value chain. Many product designs are freely available, and anyone with access to a 3D printer can start manufacturing and selling products. This has the potential to revolutionise the way we create and distribute products. It can lead to Gross Value Addition (GVA) growth by providing individuals with the opportunity to create unique products and sell them globally.


Facilitating Global Partnerships: Faster adoption of the AM technology will facilitate an ecosystem that will help overcome technical and economic barriers for Global AM leaders to set up their operations with supporting ancillaries in India, facilitating development of the domestic market and enhancement of global market share.


Enhancing Employment Opportunities: Additive Manufacturing is expected to increase productivity, which may lead to a reduction in employment. However, higher productivity and the creation of new products will also create new employment opportunities. To ensure workers remain competent, they may need to be provided with upskilling opportunities.


Reducing Carbon Footprint: 3D printing is likely to lead to a significant reduction in raw material usage due to material-efficient designs, reduced wastage, and less need for manufacturing tools, molds, and dies. Additionally, products manufactured using this technology is more energy-efficient, which will help India reduce its carbon footprint and lead to sustainable development.


Ease of Redesigning: The technology will allow manufacturers the flexibility to redesign their products quickly and costeffectively. This will allow small businesses to innovate and experiment, thus making their products more efficient and enabling product differentiation.


Noteworthy Initiatives/ Developments

·         Skyroot Aerospace, a private space vehicle company, has successfully test fired an advanced fully 3D-printed cryogenic engine ‘Dhawan-II’. The endurance test of ‘Dhawan-II’ was carried out using Skyroot's indigenously developed mobile cryogenic engine test pad at Solar Industries propulsion test facility in Nagpur, Maharashtra on 4th April 2023.

·         Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a Bengaluru-based aerospace, and defence company, and Wipro 3D, the metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) business of Wipro Infrastructure Engineering (WIN), have signed a Memoradum of Understanding (MoU) to design, develop, prove out, manufacture and repair of aerospace components using metal additive technology.

·         Wipro has launched "Addwize"- An additive technology Adoption & Acceleration programme with an aim to enable organisations and institutions to systematically adopt and scale the usage of metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) for tangible business benefits

·         Indian Army inaugurated its first 3D printed dwelling unit (with Ground plus One configuration) for soldiers at Ahmedabad Cantt on 28th December 2023. The dwelling unit has been constructed by the Military Engineering Services (MES) in collaboration with MiCoB incorporating the latest 3D Rapid Construction Technology. The 3D printed houses are symbolic of the modern-day rapid construction efforts to cater for growing accommodation requirements of the Armed Forces personnel. The technique utilises a concrete 3D printer that accepts a computerised three-dimensional design and fabricates a 3D structure in a layerby-layer manner by extruding a specialised type of concrete specifically designed for the purpose.

·         A 3D printing Manufacturing Lab has been established at the National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology, Aurangabad. The Institute offers a certificate course in 3D Printing.

·         Atal Innovation Mission: Under the aegis of Atal Innovation Mission, Atal Tinkering Labs, 1200-1500 square feet dedicated innovation workspaces have been set up, where Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits on latest technologies like 3D Printers, Robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), Miniaturised electronics are installed through government financial support Rs 20 Lakhs so that students from Grade VI to Grade XII can tinker with these technologies and learn to create innovative solutions. As part of the programme, some initiatives such as 3D design challenges were also launched

·         The Gujarat government has signed an MoU with the US Institute of 3D Technology (USI3DT) in California, and OEM 3D systems (a leading global 3D printing companies) for establishing seven 3D printing Centres of Excellence across seven engineering colleges and technical institutes in the state.

·         Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone collaborated with University of Wollongong to set up a 3D Bioprinting Lab

·         Department of Heavy Industries, COE at IISc Bengaluru (Additive Manufacturing for High Performance Metallic Alloys) collaborated with Wipro to build India’s first industrial grade 3D printer

·         HP Inc has signed an MoU with the Government of Andhra Pradesh to build a Centre of Excellence for 3D printing.

·         Stratasys has announced a collaboration with NTTF (Nettur Technical Training Foundation) to launch India’s first additive manufacturing certification course. The training programme aims to help students learn new technologies in 3D printing, plugging-in skill gaps in the industry.


Academics and Research in AM Technology

AM technology is presently being used and taught in Indian institutions like:

·         International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad (SLM and DED)

·         Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) LENS

·         Raja Ramana Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore

·         Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur

·         Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute (CGCRI), Kolkata

·         Central Electrochemical Research Centre (CECRI), Karaikudi

·         Central Manufacturing Technology Institute (CMTI) Bengaluru

·         Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai (IITB)

·         Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IITH)

·         Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

·         Raja Ramana Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore


Global Scenario: The global AM industry has a widespread focus on numerous sectors, ranging from automotive, consumer products, medical, business machines, aerospace, government/military, academic and many others. Of these, the automotive industry holds the largest share in the market, owing to its effortless applications in producing various endproducts such as engines, spare parts, and interior and exterior parts, as compared to other segments such as consumer products and business machines, which have limited usage in manufacturing end-products. The major driving forces behind the growth of the global AM industry include the emergence of new and advanced technologies, financial backing from governments, the extensive range of applications, swift product development at low costs, and the convenience of developing custom products. In terms of geographical trends, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia hold a significant share of the AM market within the ASEAN region, accounting for roughly 80% of the market value and the installed industrial printer base. Following closely are Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, making up the next 15% of the market value, with the remaining 5% accounted for by the other ASEAN countries. Singapore is at the forefront of this growth, with over a third of the industrial printer installed base and approximately 40% of the AM market size alone. This progress is driven by a favourable business environment and focused efforts to expand the AM industry through various research and development centres, universities, polytechnics, and research institutions. These efforts include the establishment of the National AM Innovation Cluster (NAMIC) in 2015, aimed at translating AM Research And Development (R&D) into practical industry applications.


Conclusion: Additive Manufacturing (AM) stands out as one of the most transformative and game-changing scientific breakthroughs of our time. This technology offers access to innovative and flexible manufacturing and designing techniques at an affordable cost. It has proven to be a boon for smallscale businesses by providing them with the ability to adapt to fluctuating market demands through simplified supply chains, thereby enabling faster growth through product innovation and differentiation. The Indian industry's competitiveness is heavily reliant on the National Strategy on Additive Manufacturing which aims to establish a flourishing ecosystem to optimum utilisation of this technology. Furthermore, it intends to foster a culture of adopting the latest advancements in the field. The utilisation of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model is imperative for procuring the best private and public resources available. Currently, the Indian market for 3D priting is in its nascent stages, and with the implementation of this strategy, it has the potential to become a global leader in the revolutionisation of manufacturing.


(The author is a Patna-based educationist and freelance journalist. She can be reached at reach.ranjanaS@gmail.com).

Views expressed are personal.