Eyeing an emerging global market, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) will soon come up with a policy aimed at promoting 3D printing on an industrial scale and helping domestic companies “overcome technical and economic barriers” so that they can build supportive and ancillary facilities for world leaders in the technology, such as the US and China.
The policy will help develop a “conducive ecosystem for design, development and deployment” of 3D printing and additive manufacturing, Government officials told The Indian Express.
“3D printing and a viable industry around it is mostly in the shape of additive manufacturing, wherein companies make specific products for projects where there are very specific demands such as lightweight equipment, etc. Our aim for now is to build around that requirement,” a senior IT Ministry official said.
A draft policy paper on the subject will soon be sent out to experts in the domain to seek their opinion on the way ahead. The global market for additive manufacturing is expected to reach $ 34.8 billion by 2024, which is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2 per cent, according to the IT Ministry’s estimates.
3D printing or additive manufacturing uses computer-aided designing to make prototypes or working models of objects by laying down successive layers of materials such as plastic, resin, thermoplastic, metal, fiber or ceramic. With the help of software, the model to be printed is first developed by the computer, which then gives instructions to the 3D printer.
“So, there is not only the manufacturing aspect of it, but also design and software. The policy will aim to cover both sides. We have a headstart as far as software is concerned. The idea is to build on it,” the official said.
According to the draft policy, the Central Government will also look to encourage market leaders to establish global bases for 3D manufacturing in India, while also discouraging imports of printed material for domestic requirements.
“One of the key applications for such products is in the medical and allied sector. The challenge there is lack of standards since it (3D printing) is a very niche and new domain. There are no global qualifications and certification norms. So that will be a key challenge,” another official said.
Other key areas of focus include the auto and ancillary auto and motor spare part business, such as engines, interior and exterior parts of luxury vehicles, or landing gear, complex brackets, and turbine blades.
“There can be some application of it in consumer electronics, printed circuit boards, clothing, toys and jewellery as well. Only after we get some feedback from experts, both in India and the world, can we start to define the industries where it can be more viable and useful than others,” the official said.
Asia leads the world in 3D printing, and about 50 per cent of its market is cornered by China, followed by Japan at 30 per cent, and South Korea 10 per cent. But globally, the US remains the leader, with more than 35 per cent market share.
“At most places domestically, we are at the research and development stage. There is considerable interest, but it is at a very nascent stage. It has not yet evolved for strategic industrial integration in sectors like aerospace, which require utmost precision,” one of the officials said.
Another key challenge, an official said, is to convince the industry and ministries to push for its adoption in their respective sectors.
“Any new technology, which is not understood easily, faces a tough time. In our initial meetings on the subject, there was a lot of resistance on whether this technology would eat into the jobs of highly-skilled workers in the medical equipment or aerospace technology sectors. 3D printing may not lead to an increase in net employment, but this technology is something we can push ahead with,” the official said.
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