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3D Printing-Scaling New Heights

3D PrintingAs the lines dividing digital to reality is starting to blur with the advancements and adoption of 3D Printing at a mass scale, India has started to show its presence in the metamorphic market of 3D Printing.

Slower on the uptake, India is steadily climbing the adoption ladder of picking the nuances of 3D printed parts and its wide usage while providing options.

However, with the market still in its nascent stages, certain challenges regarding regional differences and societal norms are bound to occur.

Mulling over these impending struggles, Aishwarya from BISInfotech had an extended dialogue with Priyesh Mehta, Director, Imaginarium Rapid Pvt Ltd, Surendranath Reddy, CEO & CTO, 3Ding, Ravindra Kulkarni, Managing Director, Engineering Technique.

Price Conscious Market

3D Print StoryAccording to a popular report, parts to build a 3D printer are still very expensive.

Priyesh feels that India surely is a price-sensitive market! Maybe that is one of the reasons why Indian manufacturers find “smart workarounds” to achieve a particular goal. He believes that if a product is able to survive the heat of price, quality and timeline in the Indian market, then the chances of its success elsewhere are higher. There exists this misnomer in the market about 3D printing being expensive.

We’re slowly seeing a trend where 3D printing is evolving from a Rapid Prototype technique to a low volume production alternative and even end-used parts. It’s only a matter of time before additive manufacturing takes over the market altogether, he added.

While Surendranath has the opinion that Product/Service Pricing is one of the biggest challenges we continue to face in the Indian market. From an OEM perspective, it is tough to match the cheap prices of 3D Printers offered by Chinese counterparts. We’re noticing that most Indian OEMs are moving towards premium/specialized machines.

Beyond this, I think automation & innovative approaches are the way forward to maintain throughput efficiency yet keeping rising prices at check. For e.g. Before the pandemic, 3Ding had a large number of human resources interacting with clients, analyzing their designs & initiating 3d prints. Now, 3Ding has automated the ordering process via a webapp & have also connected 3D Printers to the cloud, so our engineers can queue & initiate 3D Prints right from their homes, reducing both HR & infrastructure costs, clarifies Surendranath.

According to Ravindra, there are different applications 3D printing technology for different industry verticals i.e., Jewellery Industry uses EnvisionTEC DLP and other 3D Printing technologies for regular production of castable patterns and non-castable jewellery items for investment casting in Gold/Silver or other precious metals.

The cost of 3D printing in Jewellery segment is fairly low and is not considered expensive as the outcome is going to be in precious metal.

3D Printing is expensive for those industries which are in to mass production of their products. However, these industry manufacturers utilise 3D Printing during their product development process as prototypes avoiding expensive and time consuming toolings and thus they’re able to launch their products faster than ever before.

Since we manufacture FDM 3D Printers, we have seen a new trend in India where people are buying affordable FDM 3D Printers at homes for hobby or small business, he explains.

Patent Protection

3D Story3D Prints always dangle its feet at the cusp of infringing patents as products may contain certain moving parts that are patent protected itself.

Sensing the ambiguity of the situation, Priyesh cites that for a service bureau like ours, where we manufacture parts for customers, design secrecy is king. We sign mutual confidentiality agreements to prevent design leakages. Companies use reverse engineering techniques to “re-engineer” a product which might lead to patent and design infringement issues, but many legal compliance enforcement agencies are working to solve this challenge. From our perspective and network in India, we have not heard about any such case yet, which is under the public domain. Business remains as usual for us.

Surendranath also feels the same as he talks about Copyright infringement of 3D Printable Design files as a serious issue. With over 50+ online repositories of 3D Printable files, a lot of beginners assume every open-sourced file is free & that they can use it however they please. End users have to start reading the license types on whether the author allows commercial usage of the designs or not. After all, one shouldn’t end up paying a huge royalty fee after 3D Printing & selling thousands of parts of something just because he or she didn’t bother to know about the license type.

Ravindra shares the same views about patent related challenges exist in every industry with every evolving technologies. 3D Printing is no different. We should be exploring various options and developing products within the limits of legal boundaries.

Medical & Allied Sectors

3D PrinterPriyesh highlights that we are very proud of the work done by our Biomedical Engineering team, who are involved in life-saving applications that make use of the best in Design, Manufacturing and Clinical Science knowledge.

Apart from this, we are also working on developing Digital Spare Part libraries for our clients. We help manufacturing firms eliminate unnecessary inventory of spare parts by redesigning, digitizing and producing these parts on demand, he elaborates.

Surendranath also feels the same as in India, off-late, we’ve seen an increase in 3D Printing scanned 1:1 sections of patients for pre-surgical planning. Surgeons say they are able to perform more confidently after a rehearsal with a 3d printed replica. Our data shows large number of orders around the portions of skull (brain surgery), knees (ortho), ribs (heart/lung surgery).

On the other hand, Ravindra views that there are many applications today in healthcare segment.

Some applications may not require certifications as they may not be directly interacting with human body. However, prosthetics, implants, organ printing, surgical guides and certain dental applications require biocompatibility certifications based on their interaction level with human body/tissues.

Reputed global 3D printer manufacturers like, EnvisionTEC, 3D Systems, Stratasys, etc. are providing US FDA and European Biocompatibility and toxicology certifications based on the nature of the 3D printing material. EnvisionTEC 3D-Bioplotter which is being used for organ printing applications allows bio-materials and also sterile printing environment. However, India should also have common certification program for 3D Printed healthcare related items to qualify it to be able to use safely with human body, he added.

Trends in 2022

3D Printing StoryIndustry 4.0 has finally started making its importance felt. The pandemic put a complete halt to most traditional supply chains, forcing companies to innovate almost overnight and find alternatives.

In the coming year, we plan to push forward our mission to make Design and Manufacturing accessible to everyone. Our deep expertise in 3D Printing, Mass Customization, On-Demand Production and Design Innovation positions us uniquely to offer services to clients across the globe and bring to them the best of Indian manufacturing at World-class quality.

We have already started seeing live examples of metal 3D Printed Parts being incorporated into end-use products like jet engines, cars, medical instruments and more. It can be rightly said that the next few years will be the golden years of 3D Printing, marking the transition of Additive Manufacturing technology from a prototyping tool into a full-blown production technology, says Priyesh.

Whereas, according to Surendranath “MaaS platforms (Manufacturing as a Service)” is the key.

Be it a single piece to prototype or a batch of 20 to pilot test the market & using various technologies/materials, bringing it all under one webapp is something multiple brands are working on as we speak. For e.g., 3Ding.in/print is a beta version of our webapp that lets you order 3D Prints in 3 quick steps with the lowest part cost starting just Rs. 150/-. We are seeing few competitors trying & building similar platforms, he elaborates.

Ravindra points out that since 2020, due to Covid-19 pandemic, more people (even non-engineers) have been introduced to 3D Printing technology because of its applications in making face shields, test swabs, non-contact key-chains, ventilator splitter, etc. This has made people aware about benefits and potential of the 3D printing technology in the times of emergency.

This awareness helped our 3D printing business to grow by 45% YoY in FY2020-21. We’re expecting the similar growth rate in current fiscal year and it is true for other players in the market too. We see a linear gradual growth in adoption of 3D printing technology in coming years due to increased awareness and affordable FDM machines. However, we see a lot of Chinese products being sold in Indian market especially FDM 3D Printers due to less price.

Through your medium we request our people to consider Indian made products. There’re a very few Indian manufacturers offering completely Indian make 3D printers without any Chinese component. We’re one of them. This may cost a little more to our customers, but our machines are far more reliable, comes with 1 year warranty, and locally serviceable. That gives worry free operation and peace of mind while doing business. Eventually our machines offer low cost of ownership, he explains.

Significance of 3D Printing Services

According to Priyesh when one compares how expensive 3D printing is to traditional manufacturing processes, then one can easily conclude it to be not that expensive. Additionally, it even takes less time to manufacture prototypes, jigs, tools and fixtures through this technology. It is perfect for short-run manufacturing and small-production jobs at present. It allows spare parts to be “stored in the cloud”, which eliminates the need for a physical inventory.

Both manufacturers and designers can work together in tandem owing to 3D Printing, thus building a strong bond with the end customer. 

Sharing similar views, Surendranath has highlighted that we’ve started seeing 3D Printing services becoming effective as a Hyperlocal Manufacturing service. 6-7 years back, clients placed orders across cities; but with the number of service providers on the rise, the best strategy is to play it Hyperlocal – this makes Rapid Prototyping truly RAPID. Scaling up 3D Printing services for a brand this decade could mean investing into multiple geographies to provide seamless service.

Ravindra says that we, being manufacturer and supplier of 3D printers, 3D Printing service is integral part of our business model. We provide our services to 200+ Indian and overseas customers and adding 30% new customers every year for our services business.

Our customers are loyal to us because we’re not only a 3D printing service bureau rather a solution provider offering a whole product development service from concept to design to prototyping to manufacturing and vendor development for a respective product.

Offerings of 3D Printers & their Services

According to Imaginarium’s unique motto, what sets us apart from the competition is a key differentiator which we thrive on Consultants first, then vendors – Having an in house design and production facility consisting of Additive Manufacturing, Vacuum/urethane Casting, CNC Machining and Injection Molding, we provide a hand-held experience to the designer or engineer to select the right process, material and finish tailored to their requirements and application.

The company has also successfully taken the entire portfolio of the services online – allowing clients from anywhere in the world to access our Cloud Factory and start their Prototyping and Production projects with us.

Our Application Engineering Team applies more than 150 years of combined experience in low volume production. We do not require MOQ’s for production.

A client requiring one part is as precious to us as a client requiring 1000 parts. We don’t expect the client to give us a foolproof design, instead we help them make their design manufacturable using our DfM consultation services. Basically, we help them get past any tricky challenge during the New Product Development journey.

One of the unique offerings that 3Ding provides is “FabX on Rent” – our flagship 3D Printers being offered on a rental/subscription model. This offering makes perfect sense for tight budgeted customers like bootstrapped start-ups, student groups, etc who have a short requirement for 1-3 months till they prototype their products. e.g., a FabX Pro costs Rs. 69,999/- to buy, but costs Rs. 6,999/- per month or Rs. 17,999 per quarter to rent. If their outsourced prototyping costs are likely to cross 7K a month, the FabX Pro on rent is an excellent value proposition.

Engineering Technique manufactures FDM 3D printers under DAMBOY brand with various size options, i.e., ET-160, ET-200, ET-300, ET-450. All are machines are Industrial grade known for reliable 24/7 operation.

They also represent EnvisionTEC GmbH in India as their PAN India distributor for their entire range of 3D Printers to address wide range of verticals, i.e., Automotive, Aerospace, Medical, Dental, Orthodontic, Jewellery, Consumer products, Toys, and other manufacturing segments. EnvisionTEC offers 5 distinct technologies, i.e., DLP, 3SP, cDLM, Bioprinting and binder jetting.

Recently, EnvisionTEC has launched one of their most advanced 3D Printer Xtreme 8K DLP which is the only large format DLP 3D Printer in the market, with wide range of materials, and fastest in the segment.

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Aishwarya Saxena

A book geek, with creative mind, an electronics degree, and zealous for writing.Creativity is the one thing in her opinion which drove her to enter into editing field. Allured towards south Indian cuisine and culture, love to discover new cultures and their customs. Relishes in discovering new music genres.

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