Why 3D Printing Is A Huge Business Opportunity For India ?

The 3D printing material & equipment market in the Asia Pacific is predicted to witness high growth in the coming years

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The 3D printing industry has grown enormously over the past few years. Several sectors like aeronautics, engineering, fashion design, education, healthcare and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) have already started adapting 3D printing in their production process.

According to a research by Global Market Insights, the 3D printing material & equipment market in the Asia Pacific is predicted to witness high growth in the coming years, owing to the substantial growth of manufacturing in sectors like automotive and the rapid technological advancements. This surge in 3D printing will create a whole new category of new jobs and investment opportunities.

Considering the growing importance of this industry, Entrepreneur India spoke to a few experts to know why 3D printing is a huge business opportunity in India.

A New Way to Build Products :

The needs of the India market are evolving along with the changes in the lifestyle of the Indian consumer. Companies are realizing the need for quicker and more efficient alternatives. For Anand Prakasam, Country Manager, EOS (EOS Electro Optical Systems) India, Industrial 3D printing has changed the way sectors such as healthcare, dental, aerospace and infrastructure build products.

For example, EOS in collaboration with CSIO developed a medical 3D-printing solution, to design patient-specific implants in segmentation with patient CT-scan data to generate a 3D-CAD model.

Prakasam added that today, additive manufacturing (the industrial version of 3-D printing) is being used to build a variety of products such as shoes, high rise building, and green automotive parts such as engines to handle evolving complexities in present day cars or even dental implants. Players in the manufacturing industry are now striving towards delivering cutting-edge products, that improve productivity and cost efficiency along with delivering consistent quality.

“The outcome of the adoption of industrial 3D printing is the increased importance given to design during the initial phases of manufacturing. It is no more about just delivering a product, it is about building customizable and design-driven components to catalyze this process, something that mere traditional ways of manufacturing cannot,” he said.

Deliver Business Value:

According to Ajay Parikh, Vice President and Business Head, Wipro 3D, in the last few years, apart from mature markets like US and Europe, specific geographies in Asia like China is gaining a lot of momentum in terms of 3D printing ecosystem. Parikh feels India too is catching up.

“Repeatability, choosing the right type of 3D printing technology for the right type of application and use case is going to be a key consideration for business leaders. Eventually, the technology has to provide business value. As we go forward, in terms of tech maturity, you are going to see, increased build speeds, different energy sources, and raw materials and build techniques with a fair degree of democratization as opposed to a limited number of OEMs(Original Equipment Manufacturer) providers that one sees today,” said Parikh.
Wipro 3D is already witnessing good traction with clients in Space, Aerospace, Defense and Automobile. Parikh believes this will accelerate faster in the future.

Disruption In Manufacturing Industry

3D printing is set to localize manufacturing and contribute to the Make in India movement. Ratandeep Singh Bansal, Director, Next Big Innovation Labs shared that 3D printing technology makes such fast iteration based product development possible in the manufacturing space.

As India makes its transition from a service based economy to a product based economy and the focus moves towards creating jobs in the manufacturing sector, 3D printing technology is playing a key role in aiding this transition and can help us compete with established manufacturing based economies like China.

“Although 3D Printing is a space commonly associated with plastics and metals, a plethora of applications can be found in the medical and biotechnology domains. 3D Bioprinting, an emerging subdomain within 3D Printing, utilizes the technology to combine tissue culture and biomaterials to print human cells and tissues. From prosthetics to implants to organ-on-chip devices, 3D Bioprinting is enabling unique applications in the healthcare domain,” said Bansal

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3D printing in fashion promises to be huge – so what's holding us back?

Various manufacturing industries from prosthetics to car parts are now widely using 3D printing in their production processes. They use it for producing prototypes and samples and for mass manufacturing, since you can easily change the size, colour and shape of an object on a computer at no extra cost.

But one industry where 3D printing has great potential that has yet to be realised is fashion. From mass-market production to running off customised garments to pick up in shops or have delivered to the home, this could be the fashion statement of the future. We have already seen examples on the catwalks, starting three years ago with Dita Von Teese, the burlesque dancer, modelling the first fully 3D-printed dress in New York – but we have yet to see anything on the high street.

One major problem has been with the materials. The synthetic materials that are commercially available at present for 3D printing, such as polylactic acid, are not comfortable or flexible enough for clothing. They print as solids that don’t have the spaces to let air pass in and out that you get in conventional fabrics. This means they don’t absorb body moisture and they are neither breathable nor drapeable. Beyond the materials, more work also needs to be done to understand how to make designs with good drapeability and translate them into wearable clothes.

There is much potential in a technique for making garments called 3D additive printing, which builds up objects by printing one layer after another. But one study in 2014 concluded there was still much needing considered when it came to modelling and design software and design procedures; and that 3D garments may need to undergo finishing processes to improve their aesthetics.

Panel trammels

Another promising avenue is producing garments that combine 3D-printed panels with traditional textiles – these are both appealing in themselves and easier to develop while researchers work on the problems with fully printed garments. One challenge here is to make clothes where the panel is sufficiently well attached that it doesn’t come off after repeated wearing and washing. A study in 2015 recommended more research into whether you can improve the adhesiveness of panels by fine-tuning the printing parameters.

Dress with panel. Danmei Sun

I recently co-published research comparing 3D printed panels with conventional fabric panels curved around the body for the neckline and armholes and turned out to be strong enough to withstand the weight of the long length of the lower part of the garment.

We printed with a polyurethane polymer that was sufficiently flexible that it could have similar uses and characteristics to conventional panels, and could therefore potentially be a viable substitute. Having said that, the texture of our panels meant we couldn’t sew them to garments in the way that you would with a traditional panel, so we had to come up with an alternative. We neatened the dress seams and melted the 3D-printed panel on to the fabric, which actually turned out to be more aesthetically appealing than panels that are sewn on.

3D-printing panels on a MakerBot Replicator 2X. Danmei Sun

I should emphasise that the way we created the panels does not really reflect the process that would be used in an industry setting for large volumes of garments. This meant it wasn’t possible to properly compare production times and costs for the product. The cost of materials per panel was £8.70, which may be fine for producing samples but would presumably have to be substantially reduced through economies of scale to make the process commercially viable.

On the other hand, we found important advantages: as well as removing much of the labour costs in the traditional process, we also eliminated waste by being able to print the exact size of panel for each garment. Product quality will also improve, since 3D printing will eliminate the occasional human error that creeps into traditional garment manufacturing.

Where next

While 3D printing in fashion might still be at the conceptual stage, I remain optimistic that this will be a major opportunity for retailers in future – both high-end and mass market. Overcoming the materials problem is the biggest obstacle. We have shown that you can use a flexible polymer as a printing material, but industry needs a range of other new materials that are comfortable to wear.

The other challenge is to develop a specialised printer for fashion garments that can automatically print fabrics that allow air to pass through them like conventional yarns do. In all these areas, there’s a role for researchers to help fill in the blanks. Too few studies have taken place to date. If and when we succeed, and I would estimate it might take five to ten years, clothing retail may look entirely different to how it does today.

A Look at Some Small 3D Printed Devices That Make a Huge Difference in the Lives of the Disabled

Christopher Hills has cerebral palsy and quadriplegia. The nineteen-year-old Australian man, who has control only over his neck muscles, would have, until only recently, been resigned to a life of dependency on others. Instead, he’s the owner of a successful video editing business. Hills runs Switched-On Video Editing, and in his home office on the Sunshine Coast, he produces, directs and edits videos using sophisticated and complex film software that many people struggle to perfect. Hills, however, is a master of the technology, which he operates using only the muscles in his neck, thanks to a switch on his wheelchair.

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Christopher Hills [Photo via Brisbane Times]

The switch, mounted next to his head, allows Hills to control everything the way a mouse would. All he has to do is move his head to create finely wrought films that would be beyond the capabilities of most people with fully functioning limbs, and his talent has earned him accolades from several high-profile clients. Recently he produced, directed and edited a film for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and he himself is only one example of how technology is breaking through the limitations of even the most severe disabilities.

If you follow 3D printing news at all, you’re likely well acquainted with the incredible ways the technology can change the lives of people with disabilities. We cover 3D printed prosthetic devices frequently, and while they never fail to amaze, they barely scratch the surface of the possibilities in 3D printed assistive technology. Much of that technology benefits people like Hills who have very little motor function, and some of the most ingenious designs come from members of the public thanks to crowdsourcing initiatives like MakerBot’s Assistive Technology Challenge. 

We hear a lot about how 3D printing is putting manufacturing and invention into the hands of the people, and that’s perhaps most poignantly evident through the life-changing devices that ordinary makers come up with. There’s no risk of large biomedical corporations being put out of business anytime soon; the average hobbyist isn’t going to start churning out titanium implants or organ tissue in his or her living room. But while those are the stories that make headlines, it’s often the simplest inventions that can make the biggest difference in individual lives.

FUD5AIGIPPRKAGF.MEDIUMTake this ergonomic asthma inhaler, for example. This simple 3D printed smiley face, presented as a mere two-step Instructable, is not only cute and kid-friendly, but could potentially save a life. As the creator, giulio75, an asthma sufferer himself, explains, the correct use of an inhaler is vital but often difficult. Holding the canister in a stable position while pressing the button can be a challenge, especially when in the midst of an attack, and the little smiley face cap, easily fitted onto the top of the canister, both stabilizes it and makes it easier to press. Simple, yet potentially lifesaving, eliminating a difficulty that someone having a severe attack just doesn’t have time for.

As in the above example, it’s often the disabled who best understand the needs of their fellow afflicted, and 3D printing gives them a way to address those needs through their own innovations. At Greenacres Disability Services in Wollongong, disabled workers actually build 3D printers for the education-centered Australian printer company Me3D. Not only does the work provide meaningful employment, but it has given the workers a way to design and print devices that make their own day-to-day lives easier. While testing the printers they had constructed, several of the Greenacres workers decided to print customized handles to slip over tools and make them easier to grip.

“Customising individual grip covers for tools means they are not trying to do something that doesn’t work for them,” said John Harvey, general manager at Greenacres. “Working with a screwdriver or Allen key is now easier. We have 250 workers, and it means that they’re not struggling, and it builds confidence. It means they can do other jobs they couldn’t do before.”

joystickThe workers also printed similar covers for wheelchair control joysticks, meaning that multiple individuals can easily use the same wheelchair simply by changing the grip covers. Wheelchair controls are an excellent, and increasingly common, example of how 3D printing can easily and cheaply circumvent challenges.

Melissa Fuller founded AbilityMate, an open source community that links people in need with designers and makers who create customizable assistive devices. Wheelchair joysticks are some of the most common requests, she said, as even the most expensive wheelchairs often come with joysticks that are difficult to operate due to the nature of certain disabilities. She gave an example of a woman with cerebral palsy whose $35,000 wheelchair came with a joystick she couldn’t operate.

“She finds it hard to keep her hands still,” Fuller said. “It’s hard for her to drive the wheelchair because it’s not suited to her hand movements. The middle finger is the only movement she has. In about two hours with rapid prototyping, we 3D printed a joystick for her. The materials cost 37¢. The waiting list for a modification of the original device was six months at a cost of $1000.”

Another control was designed to look like an Atari joystick, for a young man who played a lot of Atari before suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Not only is the controller appealing to him, Fuller said, but it helps him remember the fine motor skills he used before his injury.

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Various joystick designs from AbilityMate.

AbilityMate and Me3D are both part of Autodesk’s Entrepreneur Impact Program, which gives free access to 3D design software like Fusion 360, 123Design and Tinkercad to small businesses dedicated to environmental or social issues. If you’re a startup in the business of helping the afflicted or otherwise improving lives, you can apply to be a part of the program here.

The abovementioned are only a few examples of how 3D printing can make a big impact in a small way, but there are always more people in need. The great news is that it’s easier to fulfill those needs than ever before, and the average person can make a huge impact with just a bit of 3D design skill.

[Main source: Brisbane Times]

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