The Journey of 3D Printing in India, from the Past to the Future


India’s Journey in Additive Manufacturing: From Slow Start to Rapid Growth

Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, has become a significant driver of socio-economic growth in many countries worldwide. However, India was slower to adopt this groundbreaking technology compared to countries like the US, Germany, and China. Nevertheless, the potential of AM to revolutionize the manufacturing industry has caught the attention of the Indian manufacturing ecosystem, and India has been making remarkable progress in this field. In this article, we will delve into the historical trajectory of AM in India, the national 3D printing strategy, sectoral focus, and some use cases that highlight the country’s adaptive capabilities and forward-thinking approach.

India’s foray into AM can be traced back to the late 1990s when global industries started exploring rapid prototyping. During this period, a few Indian companies and educational institutions began importing 3D printers primarily for research and prototyping purposes. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay was among the pioneers, setting up an AM lab to explore the potential of this novel technology. By the mid-2000s, India saw the emergence of its first domestic 3D printer manufacturers who challenged the market dominance of imported machines. Companies like Divide By Zero and Altem Technologies started offering indigenously developed 3D printers, primarily using fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology. These printers catered to the growing demand from educational institutions and small-scale industries, cementing India’s position in the AM landscape.

The 2010s marked a significant turning point in India’s AM journey. The country witnessed a surge in startups dedicated to 3D printing, offering services ranging from prototyping to finished product manufacturing. Companies like Imaginarium, Think3D, and Sahas Softech made notable strides in the industry, further revitalizing India’s position in the global AM market. Moreover, this period witnessed the emergence of metal 3D printing in sectors such as aerospace, healthcare, and automotive, bringing about new possibilities for innovation and growth.

Recognizing the potential of AM, the Government of India launched initiatives under the ‘Make in India’ campaign to promote indigenous manufacturing and research and development in 3D printing. One significant step in this direction was the establishment of the Centre of Excellence in Additive Manufacturing (CoE-AM) at IIT Hyderabad in 2017, in collaboration with Applied Research International. This marked a significant milestone in positioning India as a frontrunner in AM technology.

In recent years, India’s AM journey has seen a remarkable shift. Technological advancements, decreasing costs, and a growing comprehension of AM’s potential have propelled the rapid adoption of 3D printing across various industries. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), being a nodal agency for Digital Technology, has developed a comprehensive strategy to promote all verticals of the AM sector, including machines, materials, software, and designs, to leverage untapped business opportunities. This strategy aligns with the ‘Make in India’ and ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ initiatives, aiming for self-reliance through 3D printing.

The primary focus of India’s National Strategy for Additive Manufacturing is on enhancing domestic production, reducing imports, and promoting innovation. The strategy includes investing in advanced AM technologies, ensuring the economic stability of the 3D printing sector, and aiming for technological leadership. India aspires to capture a 5% stake in the global AM market, contributing nearly US$ 1 billion to the GDP by 2025.

Various esteemed institutions in India are currently utilizing AM technology, including the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). These institutions have made significant progress in AM research, including developing components made of Ni and Ti alloys and studying microstructural and mechanical attributes of various alloys using indigenous AM systems.

The electronics sector, which is a high-volume manufacturing domain in India, faces challenges that cause a significant disability rate. Despite its potential, the adoption rate of AM in electronics remains slow. However, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has launched initiatives to bolster the domestic electronics landscape, including deploying AM techniques using conductive and insulating inks.

The aerospace sector in India heavily relies on imports, including special alloys and electronic components in satellites. Nevertheless, the country’s defense sector is gearing up to acquire a considerable number of aircraft and helicopters, and the defense MRO market is predicted to grow substantially. This presents an excellent opportunity for AM to play a significant role in reducing dependence on imports and fostering indigenous manufacturing capabilities.

India’s journey in additive manufacturing has been a testament to its adaptive capabilities and forward-thinking approach. From its nascent stages to its burgeoning presence today, the country has made remarkable progress in embracing AM technology. With its national strategy for additive manufacturing and focused sectoral approach, India aims to become a global leader in this transformative technology, contributing significantly to its economic growth and self-reliance agenda.

India’s Journey in the realm of 3D printing has been nothing short of inspiring. From its modest beginnings in the 1990s to the vast ecosystem that thrives today, India’s AM landscape has been shaped by innovation, strategic planning, and a confluence of public and private initiatives.

One of the areas where 3D printing has made a significant impact is in the defense sector. India, being the world’s second-largest defense equipment importer, has seen a massive boost in its defense procurement orders. With recent FDI norms allowing up to 74% foreign investment in the defense sector, the industry is expected to reach a staggering $2.5 billion by 2025.

But it’s not just the defense sector that has benefited from 3D printing. India’s automotive industry, which contributes 7.5% to the national GDP, has witnessed imports of auto components worth $17.6 billion in 2018-19. As the industry transitions to BS-VI norms, AM technologies have presented promising benefits. A premier auto manufacturer in India has leveraged Stratasys’ AM technology to save significantly in manufacturing costs.

The medical device sector is another area where India has seen a significant need for imports. Between 70-90% of India’s medical device requirements are fulfilled through imports, amounting to billions of dollars. With the sector projected to be worth $25-30 billion by 2025, there is a growing demand for cost-effective solutions. 3D-printed prosthetic limbs have emerged as a viable and cost-effective solution in India, addressing the need for medical devices.

India’s infrastructure projects have also seen the benefits of 3D printing. Recent data revealed cost overruns in 403 infrastructure projects, each exceeding Rs 150 crore. Advanced Manufacturing (AM) has played a crucial role in various construction endeavors, from housing to bridge fabrication. A groundbreaking innovation from IIT Madras and a local startup has introduced a technology that enables concrete to solidify in a mere 3-5 hours, significantly reducing construction time and costs.

India’s journey in the realm of 3D printing is a testament to its adaptability, visionary mindset, and collaborative spirit. The strategic alignment with national campaigns, such as ‘Make in India,’ showcases the nation’s commitment to harnessing AM’s economic growth and self-reliance potential. With sectors ranging from aerospace to healthcare embracing 3D printing, India is poised to redefine global manufacturing paradigms.

While challenges undoubtedly persist, India’s determination and willingness to overcome them indicate a future where 3D printing plays a pivotal role in the country’s socio-economic fabric. The continuous advancements in AM technology and its widespread adoption across various sectors are sure signs of a promising future.

To stay updated on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry and receive information and offers from third-party vendors, make sure to be on the lookout for the latest updates. India’s remarkable journey in the world of 3D printing is one that should not be missed.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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