AM 2023: 12th International Conference on 3D Printing Technologies sheds light on the Indian AM sector

3D Printing Industry attended the 12th International Conference on 3D Printing in Bangalore.

“The Indian manufacturing sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and additive manufacturing applications are seeing significant growth in aerospace, defense, automotive, industrial engineering, oil and gas, biomedical, architecture, and also in the construction industry,” said Dr. L. Jyotish Kumar, President of Additive Manufacturing Society of India (AMSI).

The ASMI in alliance with Messe München hosted the 12th International Conference on 3D Printing in Bangalore, a city often referred to as the Silicon Valley of India. Held at Bangalore International Exhibition Center (BIEC), from September 13th and drawing a crowd in the thousands including AM experts with the likes of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) – Indian Government, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Hexagon, Indo MIM, and more.

Dignitaries for the program lighting the lamp. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

This article will provide a deep dive into the conference program.

Indian 3D printing industry: a slow but steady growth

Ashok H. Varma providing data and facts on the Indian AM sector. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

The inaugural address on 3D printing was delivered by Ashok H. Varma, Chairman, Founder, and Investor at Efesto. He also serves as a Senior Advisor to Indian DRDO for metal 3D printing. Varma presented facts and statistics regarding the Indian 3D printing sector. According to him, in 2017, he estimated the size of the additive manufacturing (AM) industry in India at an estimated $25 to $35 million, as compared to the global AM sector estimated at $7.5 to $8 billion. As part of his market research, Varma conducted a LinkedIn poll and obtained an updated estimate of Indian AM market of $75 million in 2022. The encouraging news is that progress is being made, but the downside is that it’s progressing slowly. In essence, it requires investment.

Varma also said this year, the global AM industry is valued at an estimated $23 billion, whereas the Indian AM industry is in the range of $50-100 million. Varma emphasized that this disparity is unacceptable, stressing the necessity of investments to bridge this gap and foster the growth of AM technologies in India. 

Comparison between the global and Indian AM sector. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

3D printing in the Indian aerospace sector

Building on the earlier point, Varma illustrated the investment landscape in the US 3D printing sector. He pointed out that approximately 17 to 18 venture capitalists in the US have collectively injected over $15 billion into 3D printing startups. In stark contrast, India has seen zero venture capital investments in this domain. Varma highlighted Agnikul and Skyroot as the sole high-tech advanced companies in India, raising figures between $20 to $50 million. The 3D printing aspect of their entire manufacturing process may be 5%; which is the engine. While the entire rocket bodies are being 3D printed in the US with massive Direct Energy Deposition (DED) machines; 34 gantries, four robots running in tandem with AI and machine learning.

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Furthermore, Varma said that the ISRO is one of his biggest sponsors for 3D printing. According to him, Dr. Anil Kumar, Scientist at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, ISRO, Dept. of Space, Govt. of India is the “champion of ISRO for 3D printing,” and is anticipated to buy the largest metal 3D printer in Asia. He says aerospace, aviation, and defense are going to be the main verticals for the adoption of AM technologies in India. 

Chandrayaan 3 departs for the Moon’s south pole. Photo via ISRO.

Carrying the point further, Venkata Govinda Rao, Chief General Manager at U. R. Rao Satellite Centre (USRC), ISRO gave a brief on ISRO’s use of 3D printing. He says ISRO’s AM journey can be traced back to a decade, and since then it has been making progress in the field of aerospace. Rao emphasized the point that metal 3D printing technologies are beneficial in the aerospace sector in terms of lead times, lightweighting, part quality, and more. 

India’s recent successful space program was featured at the conference. Dr. V. Narayanan, Director of Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, ISRO said around 40 to 50% of Chandrayaan 3 was developed using 3D printing.  Chandrayaan 3 made headlines by successfully landing on the Moon’s south pole on August 23, 2023, making India the first country to achieve this feat. The lander, named Vikram, and the rover, named Pragyan, are said to be conducting scientific experiments to study the Moon’s surface and atmosphere.

According to Narayanan, India is pursuing AM techniques like Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Electron Beam Melting, Binder Jetting, and more allowing the creation of complex geometries and reduced material waste. AM technologies have also provided low-cost access to space. “ISRO developed four key propulsion systems two of which were used in LVM vehicle 3, (the launch vehicle for Chandryaan 3.) The systems were used for placing it in the central orbit. Similarly, these propulsion systems were also used in Chandrayaan 3 which helped bring the moon closer to India” said Narayanan. “Investments in academia, startups, and more will aid India to reach new heights,” he concluded.

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New avenues for academia and employment 

Encouraging investments in academia, startups, the next speech was given by Padmashri Dr. Ganpat I Patel, Patron-in-Chief & President, Ganpat University emphasizing the need for AM education and eliminating the gender gap in employment. Patel said that his team has developed a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for 3D printing at Ganpat University. The CoE serves as a demonstration and training center for AM technologies providing the right education, fostering employment, and addressing the gender gap in the country.

Ganpat University premises. Photo via Ganpat University.

The above point was further explained by Dr. K. Kavya Shree, Chairwoman, Indian Women in 3D Printing (IW3DP) Society. She says, “India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world forecasting 6.1% growth for India this year. Compared to the US, it’s around 4.6%. This makes us very proud. On the other spectrum, female labor force participation for the year 2021-22 in India has been 29.4%. Compared to China it is 61.7% Why aren’t Indian women working in spite of completing their education in technical programs?” 

She further provided statistics about the Indian female labor force. In India, 43% of STEM graduates annually are women. Notably, this rate is the highest globally. However, the conversion rate of these graduates to corresponding jobs stands at just 14%. “Graduating from STEM programs isn’t easy; it typically requires four to five years and comes with significant opportunity costs,” she said. Consequently, 86% of women who complete their STEM education either opt for entirely different career paths or decide not to work at all.

To eliminate this waste of talent, the Chairwoman established IW3DP to encourage female employment in AM, increase network, engagement, and explore more opportunities in the domain. IW3DP aims to see 50% representation by women in Indian 3D printing which she deemed difficult without the support from academia and government. Furthermore, she expressed gratitude towards the Indian Government for creating the National Strategy for 3D printing, as it helped increase the adoption of AM technologies in academia and employment.

IW3DP aims to foster female workforce in the 3D printing sector. Image via IW3DP.

Government initiatives bolstering the Indian AM landscape

Guiding people ahead towards the Indian AM sector, Dr. Sankha dip Das, Scientist D, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Govt. of India, shed light on the national strategy and developments taking place in the country. Summarizing the policy, he said, the strategy aims to make India a global hub for AM by 2025. India aims to achieve a 5% share in the global AM market by 2025, contributing $1 billion to its GDP and fostering the development of 50 India-specific AM technologies, alongside creating 100 new AM startups and training 1 lakh (100,000) new skilled workers in the field.

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In order to catch up, there needs to be infrastructure for the growth of technology, and facilitation of industry in academia consequently leading to increased employment, he said. India is currently in the process of developing twelve R&D and deployment centers with the aim of achieving the targets set by the policy. The global AM ecosystem primarily serves large-scale manufacturing, especially in defense and aerospace, which demands substantial investment. Manufacturing challenges in “India 2” (semi-urban and rural India) and “India 3” (poorest and most marginalized populations) need to be addressed and the strategy that not only supports advanced technologies for “India 1” (urban, affluent, and educated India) but also caters to these later stages. The projected market size for India 3 is around $1.4 trillion, while India 2 stands at approximately $300 million. However, it’s essential to ensure that the technology being developed is compatible with SMEs, as achieving the $1 billion target through large-scale deployment in India would be exceedingly challenging.

Concluding his keynote address, the scientist also emphasized on investments in academia, startups, qualifications and certifications for enhancing the growth and improvement of 3D printing technologies in India making it an “AM powerhouse in the coming decades.”

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Featured image shows dignitaries for the program lighting the lamp. Image via 3D Printing Industry.

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