2015: When we can make it in 3-D!

21st December 2014
2015: When we can make it in 3-D!
The Stratasys Mojo, straddles the twin worlds of industrial and consumer 3-D printing

Year end tech trend: 'Printing' solid objects    is moving  from industry to  the consumer
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, December 22 2014
As technology turning points, the Internet and the PC  are old stories.  The new disruptor is 3-D printing. 
Which is strange, because Additive Manufacturing  or AM  -- the process of creating a solid object by  adding successive layers of material  under computer control --  is  nearly 30 years old.   Till recently it remained  the preserve of the manufacturing  industry  which used  3-D printers for  rapid prototyping:  making samples of parts which they can tweak before releasing for bulk manufacture.
In 2014, 3-D printers saw two developments:  Large professional-grade printers   morphed into compact desktop models whose output was so good that it could for small quantity manufacture,  replacing  injection moulding, the process used for making plastic items in bulk.  The second trend was a  small lurch from   industry to aam aadmi, with 3-D printers  becoming cheaper  and within the reach of  cottage industries, schools, colleges  and hobbyists.  In 2015 we can expect 3-D printers  to be widely available  -- from professional models costing Rs 5  lakhs and above  to  home machines  or kits starting as low  as Rs 25,000.
On Ganesh Chathurthi  this year, the Bangalore-based  Altem Technologies  used a  3-D printer to create Pune's  famous  Dagaduseth Halwai  Ganapathi  idol  in plastic. The company is the largest player in professional 3-D printers in India: The smallest of the US-made  Stratasys  printers it brings to India,  is the Mojo which  costs around Rs 6 lakhs  and can  build objects up to a 5 inch cube in size.   It has proved a popular machine with manufacturing as well as  educational  institutions in India.  Altem is helping to evangelise 3-D printing in India by  starting a website called PrintMyCAD.com  where you can upload a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file of your 3-D object and have a sample printed out for free.
The trickle down effect  has seen   such technologies, scale down to fit slimmer budgets: A   well known brand is the Netherlands-origin  Ultimaker. The US-based Makerbot's  entry level  Replicator Mini  which  calls itself  the "One touch" 3-D printer, is aimed at educational institutions and sells in India for Rs 1.3 lakh. Another popular desktop printer  is Cubify's  $ 1100  home printer, the Cube.   You can also buy affordable printers in the RepRap series  ( short for Replicating Rapid Prototyper)  either assembled or in kit form sourced   from   China based He3D  and other makers for Rs 35,000 - Rs 45,000.
Perhaps the most interesting development in 3-D printers  is the opportunity seized by many Indian players to manufacture them right here: Desi  models  come from  names  like LBD Makers, Brahma3,  ChipMax and KCbots.   
Last week,  Think3D  the largest  3-D printer platform offering   printers  and print services  in India,  helped  the  Gachibowli, Hyderabad  unit of  Oakridge International School to organise  a 3-D printing art exhibition, where students  explained the technology to their parents   by converting art work into  3-D objects.
In 2015, expect 3-D printers to  be even more widely used  and easily available in India.  From aero-industries in Bangalore who are using these printers to   replace  hard-to-find aircraft parts  to  plastics moulders in Gujarat who  use the technology to roll out rapid samples for foreign customers, to hospitals who are   custom-making light-weight prosthetics  for polio-affected kids, 3-D printing is creating a mini Indian revolution in manufacturing.  In our day we  expressed our creativity with clay and  building blocks  and  plasticine.
Our kids  will soon  turn their own ideas into   objects  using  3-D printers... and who knows,  they might  be front runners of the Make in India movement.