Make it the Indian way: Why the country must adapt to additive technologies

Make it the Indian way: Why the country must adapt to additive technologies

News:

  1. The article discusses about the prospects and challenges of 3D printing in developing countries like India.

Important Facts:

  1. About 3D printing:
  • 3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
  • The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
  1. Comparison between Traditional and Additive Manufacturing:
  • Traditional manufacturing of mechanical parts involves making a mould and then stamping out parts by thousands every day.
  • The equipment to make these parts and moulds is expensive, thus the cost of the first hundred units is high.
  • Per unit costs decline only when they are mass produced. Because of limitations of how this technology works, one typically builds many small parts, which are later on assembled on an assembly line using unskilled labour or robots to build an entire system.
  • Traditional manufacturing leads to high inventory costs of multiple parts that need to be produced and stored before being assembled.
  • This makes the design phase complex and costly, rendering it expensive to redesign to correct initial mistakes or innovate to meet changing consumer needs.
  • In additive manufacturing, the physical object to be built is first designed in software and fed to computerised machines, which build that object layer by layer.
  • The technology is suitable for building the entire system in one go, with hollow interiors without assembly or interlocked parts.
  • Changing features or tweaking shapes is a simple software change effected in minutes.
  • Retooling of machines is not required and each unit can be customised.
  • By eliminating the need to hold a large inventory of parts, set up an assembly line and purchase costly machines, adaptive manufacturing reduces capital and space requirements as well as the carbon footprint.
  1. Evidences to support 3D printing:
  • Rapid progress in technology over the last five years has employed it to varied uses from nozzle and simple resin materials to multiple nozzles, diverse materials and materials with different hardness in the same system.
  • The global manufacturing giants like Adidas and Nike may well start manufacturing en masse by 3D-printing.
  • One recent survey of U.S. manufacturers shows that about 12% have started using additive manufacturing for their products and expectations are that this will result in about 25% of products in the next three-five years.
  • This technology is used to build helmets, dental implants, medical equipment, parts of jet engines and even entire bodies of cars.
  • In some industries, the progress is astonishing. Nearly all hearing aid manufacturers now use additive manufacturing.
  1. Challenges for developing nations:
  • 3D printing carries dangerous implications for developing nations as it decreases reliance on assembly workers and bypasses the global supply chain that has allowed countries like China to become prosperous through export of mass-produced items.
  • This may well lead to the creation of software-based design platforms in the West that distribute work orders to small manufacturing facilities, whether located in developed or developing countries, but ultimately transfer value creation towards software and design and away from physical manufacturing.
  • This would imply that labour intensive manufacturing exports may be less profitable.
  1. Opportunities in India:
  • Additive manufacturing eliminates large capital outlays as machines are cheaper, inventories can be small and space requirements are not large.
  • Thus, it reduces the hurdle of large capital requirement in jump-starting manufacturing and the traditional small and medium enterprises can easily be adapted and retooled towards high technology
  • Owing to the well-established Indian software industry and plans to increase connectivity are well under way as part of ‘Digital India’, 3D Printing could lead to the creation of manufacturing facilities in small towns and foster industrial development outside of major cities.
  • Additive manufacturing allows to build products (which require assembly of fewer parts) that are better suited for use in harsh environmental conditions , to withstand dust and moisture prevalent in our tropical environment and be more durable.
  • Maintaining old products is far easier because parts can be manufactured as needed and product life-cycles can be expanded more so in a country like India where use-and-throw is an anathema
  • Also maintaining uniform product quality is far easier because the entire system is built at the same time and assembly is not required in 3D printing.
  1. Make it Indian Way:
  • The “Make it the Indian Way” approach needs public-private partnership and multi-pronged efforts.
  • To implement it, research at our premier engineering schools on manufacturing machines need to be accelerated and formation of product design centres should be encouraged so that the products built suit the Indian environment and consumers.
  • Government support is also needed to provide incentives for distributed manufacturing in smaller towns, and for the IT industry to work on creating platforms and marketplaces that connect consumer demands, product designers and manufacturers in a seamless way.
  1. Way Forward:
  • A combination of science and art, with Indian entrepreneurship can develop a manufacturing ecosystem that will not only allow India to compete with global manufacturing, but will also create products that are uniquely suited to Indian conditions.
  • The Industrial revolution somehow bypassed India, but now is a unique opportunity to catch the wave of the manufacturing revolution.
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