3D printing can help you think faster, innovate better and broaden the horizons of the manufacturing sector. But how will the 3D printing industry shape up in India? While trying to figure out the answer to this question, we got some insights from experts in this industry, which we share with our readers in this article
By Sudeshna Das
Three-dimensional (3-D) printing or additive manufacturing includes all the processes, technologies, systems and applications of making objects from 3D model data by using additive materials. It can be used to manufacture products of any geometrical shape with a wide choice of materials. Hence, it is now viewed as a fast production option that requires less resources.
3D printing is an example of technology and manufacturing working together to become more flexible and scalable— allowing for enhanced efficiency and quality. 3-D printer software enables users to create a digital model from which physical objects are made. The primary benefit of this technology is the ability to manufacture customised parts on an ‘as needed’ basis without costly machinery or dies for casting.
3D printing comes with several advantages like a lower resource requirement, faster production cycles, flexible designs, and substantial savings on tooling compared to traditional manufacturing technologies such as injection moulding, computer numerical control (CNC) machining, and vacuum casting. This is very conducive when manufacturing low-volume customised products of high value.
3D printing technology helps industries streamline their design processes and lower production costs. Today, manufacturers across a broad spectrum of industries including automotive, aerospace, dental, discrete, high tech, and medical products are all actively piloting and using 3D printing technologies. Prototyping continues to be the dominant reason why enterprises adopt 3D printing, providing the opportunity to speed up new product development and time-to-market.
Considering the growing importance of 3D printing in the electronics manufacturing ecosystem, we decided to take a look at the 3D printing industry in India to understand how it has been shaping up. In this edition, however, rather than merely presenting qualitative perspectives shared by industry members, we also thought of sharing industry trends that Electronics Bazaar arrived at through a mini-survey involving a sample group of senior level industry members.
3D printers are emerging as the fastest growing printing technology worldwide. In India, the market for 3D printers is at its nascent stage; however, it offers huge growth opportunities in the coming years. According to 6Wresearch, a market intelligence and advisory company, the 3D printer market in India is projected to touch US$ 79 million by 2021.
In line with broad industry consensus, more than 90 per cent of survey participants stated that the industry is poised to grow during FY 2016-17. However, they differed with respect to the expected growth percentage. More than half of the survey participants expect the industry to grow more than 20 per cent (Figure 1).
According to the survey participants, the thrust on domestic production, demand for lean manufacturing, and increasing penetration across various applications, coupled with the ‘Make in India’ campaign will spur the 3D printer market in India. With initiatives like ‘Make in India’, the domestic manufacturing sector is being encouraged, which automatically will play a pivotal role in the growth of the local 3D printing industry.
Currently, the Indian market is maturing. Various industries have already started using or are ready to use this technology, as they understand the benefits associated with 3D printing. Though the 3D printing service industry is growing at a good pace, the 3D printer manufacturing sector will require a push. Compared to the global 3D printer manufacturers, the Indian players have yet to establish their brands and lack volumes.
However, in the past few years, a significant number of companies in India have been coming forward to explore this segment. Around two to three years ago, there were very few companies in this industry but now, about five to seven companies are manufacturing 3D printers. People are getting easy access to 3D printing and the market’s expectations are very high.
In the past year, automotive applications have accounted for the highest revenue share in the Indian 3D printer market. According to survey participants, during FY 2016-17, industrial and education applications will also emerge as major growth drivers (Figure 2) along with automotive applications. Besides these, architectural, aerospace and defence related applications will also witness growth. Medical applications will also contribute to the growth in the 3D printer market. Other niche applications include arts and crafts, interior decoration, fashion accessories, footwear designs, jewellery designs, animation and gaming, furniture and modelling.
Demand for 3D printers in India is primarily driven by Tier-I cities, which will account for the major potential growth for domestic manufacturers, local assemblers and distributors. The majority of survey participants targeted industrial customers in these areas (Figure 3). However, private or individual customers are also getting interested in 3D printers.
At present, India primarily imports 3D printers from countries such as China, the US and Germany. However, with government initiatives to boost domestic manufacturing, many local players are expected to emerge in the forecast period.
The rapidly growing user base of professional CAD/CAM design software like Autodesk, Solidworks and Rhino allows engineering designs to be made in the form of software models that can be directly used as inputs by the CNC and 3D printing industry. The adaptation of digital CAD processes in many of the traditional manufacturing sectors has opened up opportunities to introduce more product lines, enabling rapid prototyping and fast manufacturing processes even for products and components with small production volumes.
3D printers offer huge cost and time reductions in certain industrial applications, while providing even better accuracy as compared to conventional manufacturing processes. This, in turn, helps SMEs and startups to reduce their cost of production and enables large companies to make products cheaper, faster and better. As a whole, 3D printers facilitate manufacturing by:
- Helping re-engineer lighter and better designed versions of existing parts
- Being cost effective for design changes
- Allowing low risk manufacture for market testing
- Promoting customisation and personalised products
- Improving accuracy
- Decreasing costly mistakes
- Promoting collaborative design between departments
- Highlighting costly design flaws
- Improving the customer and designer involvement and, hence, overall satisfaction
- Speeding up decision-making
Emerging technology trends
According to the survey participants, 3D printers based on fused deposition modelling (FDM) technology dominate the Indian market (Figure 4). This type of printer has become popular due to its low cost and easy availability. However, stereo lithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS) based printers are also gaining prominence.
The availability of 3D printers for direct short-run manufacturing with metal alloys like titanium, cobalt chrome, Inconel and other materials opens up opportunities in the aerospace, defence and medical sectors. The possibility to print with a wider variety of materials at higher speed and accuracy is something which will make this sector more dynamic. According to survey participants, open source SLS technology and new techniques for metal 3D printing are also driving growth. Other interesting technological trends include:
- Availability of industrial plastic materials for making direct-use plastic components
- Distributed/personal printing of household requirements
- Use of 3D printing in wearable technologies
- Direct CAD-to-gold 3D printing for customised jewellery manufacturing
Obstacles to growth
Presently, low market awareness, cost constraints and lower domestic production hinder large scale adoption of 3D printing technologies in the country. Specifically, awareness about this technology is yet to reach SMEs, small scale industries and individuals, which may constitute a major part of the consumers.
According to the survey participants, the challenges facing this industry include:
- Inefficient supply chain for raw materials and components required for 3D printer manufacturing
- No government recognition for 3D printing as an industry
- Heavy import duties for 3D printers
- Limited availability of experience zones, service centres and franchises for Indian 3D printer manufacturers
- Performance limitations of existing low-cost printers and the high expense of advanced 3D printing technologies like SLA, SLS, polyjet and multi-jet make the latter out of reach for small manufacturers
- Market infiltration by poor quality products and inefficient industry players
Moreover, the 3D printer market faces a major challenge from cheaper CNC milling machines (used for modelling), due to the cost sensitivity issue in India. This results in a reluctance among consumers to purchase 3D printers.
The Indian 3D printing industry can witness healthy growth in the near future considering the expected price decline and increasing market awareness, coupled with major transformations such as easier design capabilities, compatibility for mass production and manufacture of large format objects. The Indian 3D printing industry is not yet at a stage to create the ‘factory at every home’ atmosphere, but with the Indian government’s initiatives to boost the domestic manufacturing sector, this industry has the potential to facilitate the next industrial revolution in the country.
Your views count
Do you think that 3D printers can facilitate the next industrial revolution in the country?
Please send your reply to [email protected] We will publish a compilation of our readers’ views in the future issue of Electronics Bazaar.
|For the survey, 45 senior professionals involved in the 3D printing industry were randomly selected. Fourteen of them were available for sharing their inputs. This sample is a microcosmic representation of India’s 3D printing sector. Survey participants were requested to share their insight on:
1. The growth of the Indian 3D printing industry in FY 2016-17
2. Expected growth per cent
3. The major demand generating applications
4. Customer categorisation
5. Hindrances that impact the growth of this sector
6. Technology trends in this sector
The responses obtained from the interviews were then collated and analysed.