Here’s why we can’t Generalise usage of 3D Printers Globally (Final Part)…

Chapter 1 – Section 3

The world is divided!!

3D Printing was invented by Chuck Hull in 1986 and it was a boon for industries as prototyping was already using conventional machining for protos which were very expensive and time taking.

The Industry 4.0 saw a steady increase in supply and demand of goods in the consumer and engineering/manufacturing/Automobile sector and with new innovations coming in quickly, prototyping became a necessity.

We can see the inventions as laid out below

1980: Rapid Prototyping (RP) technology patent failed by Dr Kodama

1984: Stereolithography taken up by a French team but soon abandoned

1986: Stereolithography taken up by American inventor Charles (Chuck) Hull

1987: Very first SLA-1 machine

1988: First SLS machine by DTM Inc; later acquired by 3D Systems Corporation

There was plenty of other, lesser known activity going on in the background during this time:

Ballistic Particle Manufacturing (BPM) patented by William Masters

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) patented by Michael Feygin

Solid Ground Curing (SGC) patented by Itzchak Pomerantz et al

Three-dimensional printing (3DP) patented by Emanuel Sachs et al

Today we have three originals remaining, which are:

  • 3D Systems
  • EOS
  • Stratasys

The rest—as they say—is history.

If we take 3D printing from its origin to the present day, it will look something like this:

  • The Infancy Stage: 1981 to 1999
  • The Adolescence Stage: 1999 to 2010
  • The Adult Stage: 2011 to the present day

Now the story of Additive manufacturing from them to now is quite an interesting one with many technologies and sub-technologies being developed for Gypsum,plastics, ceramics, metal, composites.

Now I come to my point of WHY WE CAN’T GENERALISE USAGE OF 3D Printing Globally.

  1. Europe and US are innovators of technology – hence Prototyping 3d printers are very much in demand.
  2. Also, in the western world, Labor cost was very prohibitive hence the usage of 3d printing justified the cost for prototyping needs too.
  3. China being replicators, have developed these prototyping 3d printers at cheaper costs and supplied to the rest of world
  4. India, being more of the manufacturing hub was not able to take in the machines used for prototyping at higher costs as it wouldn’t justify the cost of operations or development.
  5. India was waiting for 3d printers used in manufacturing or tooling as that was the need of the hour. Still the investment on high end technology does not justify to the lower cost of labor in India.
  6. However, with more automation coming in, the necessity for quick turnaround time and just in time production has made it necessary for the industries in India to re-look at Additive manufacturing in their shop floor.

The below graph clearly shows the different stages at which 3d printing for different applications or segments are at. It is evident that 3D Printing for Prototyping has already crossed the plateau of productivity and 3D Printing for manufacturing has crossed the Peak of inflated expectations and will surely cross the Trough of Disillusionment soon based on the type of developments in Composites, Ceramics and Metals recently with 3d Printing.

As per my view, presently, our outlook in india should be at investing in 3d printing for manufacturing applications rather than prototyping, which will help reduce the supply chain gap and optimise manufacturing thereby making our products more competitive.

Finally, I am compelled to write about the present pandemic and the position of china and india wrt  the world business.

It’s just the beginning of innovation in india with the initiatives of “Atmanirbhar India” and surely the future will look at more utilisations of 3d printing for prototyping in a more justifiable fashion..


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