3D printing is not new anymore in India. However, most users still apply 3D printing in prototyping. 3D printing leader – Stratasys, believes that there is definite head room for growth on that front in the automotive industry. TeamCVF had a brief chat with Mr. Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director of Stratasys in India, who shared his insights on the 3D printing revolution in India.
Q: 3D Printing is stated to be the greatest innovation in printing since the invention of the printing press. But for the uninitiated, could you please share a brief example as to how 3D Printing works?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: To put it in very simple terms – 3D printing is a new type of manufacturing technique that creates whole objects from digital information. The way it works is not so unlike a normal printer, except that instead of expressing dots of ink onto a page, the print head releases blobs of material, depositing one layer of the object at a time and gradually building the object layer upon layer. The technique can now be used to print not just simple objects, such as cups and bottles, but more complex objects with moving parts, such as hinges, motors, auto parts etc. At present, the technology can print in a hundred different materials, including metals, glass and plastic.
Q: Would request you to please share a few examples as to how Stratasys 3D printing solutions have been used by Auto Suppliers/CV OEMs?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: The early adopters of 3D printing technology were the Automotive OEMs and suppliers and the technology was used to create prototypes for concepts and functional tests before mass manufacturing. Companies such as Honda Access, Bentley, Volvo have been integrating 3D printing into different stages of their workflows. Some are also producing customized manufacturing tools for specific assembly lines to support agile manufacturing and improve product quality. For more details on the same, please click on the below-mentioned case studies:
Q: How has the market response in India been to Stratasys’ 3D printing solutions?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: We believe that the term “3D printing”, or additive manufacturing, is not new anymore in India with awareness and adoption in manufacturing community in recent years. However, most users apply 3D printing in the prototyping area and we believe there is room for adoption of prototyping application to expand as technology and material options advance.
Stratasys has always taken a lead in shaping what is next and that will change how customers view traditional manufacturing. The current market conditions provide greater customization and personal touches, more agility and responsiveness and thus manufacturing companies are able to redefine their relationship with their customers.
Q: How do you see Stratasys India evolving/scaling in the future?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: Stratasys is a strong believer in customer advocacy, especially for high-tech solutions such as 3D printing. It will definitely be an interesting journey working with customers in creating success stories while exploring new possibilities every day.
The rise of additive manufacturing with minimal factory set-up is enabling a large number of mid and small scale factories to be set up locally. Key industries have been exploring and experimenting advanced applications to further enhance manufacturing efficiency. Thus, we have now evolved to an organization providing a holistic 3D printing solution to our customers. We continually support our customers by transforming their business across the entire supply chain – from evangelizing to adoption.
Q: How does Stratasys differentiate itself from the other 3D printing solutions available in the Indian market?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: As one of the pioneers of 3D printing who has been in the industry for close to 30 years, Stratasys brings rich experience and global expertise to local environment through the India-based team and our well-established partner network. From the latest 3D printing technologies, application consultations, to wide array of materials and other 3D solutions for manufacturing, Stratasys works together with customers to understand needs and requirements, filter options and then devise the best 3D printing solution that suits the setup of individual workflow and business model. We have a state of the art experience center in Bangalore where our customers can evaluate the technology and take an informed decision on adopting additive manufacturing for their unique requirements.
Q: What key challenges do you see inhibiting the large-scale deployment of 3D printing technology in India? And how do you plan on overcoming them?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: Companies are still struggling to find ways to incorporate the technology into their product development and manufacturing operations. According to the 2014 Wohlers Report, additive manufacturing is still less than 2% of the entire manufacturing market. Some of the major challenges are Equipment cost, manufacturing cost, post-processing requirements, limited material and resources and others.
In order to overcome these challenges, we believe the industry must change the conversation from emphasizing additive manufacturing’s technical benefits to overall business value. Companies need to not only identify applications and parts to build with 3D printing but look at their manufacturing strategy as a whole to see how the technology can enable innovation and add value to overall operations. Instead of finding products that fit the technology, make the technology fit the product and business model.
Q: In your opinion which applications of 3D printing should CV/Auto OEMs and auto suppliers keep an eye out for in the future?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: While prototyping still constitutes a predominant usage, 3D printing innovation is redefining the way things are manufactured:
· Tooling – already increasing trend in adoption of this application
· End-use parts – already increasing trend in adoption of this application
· 3D printing larger parts through the Infinite-Build 3D Demonstrator – the possibility/ vision of how 3D printing will be adopted by auto/ aero customers http://blog.stratasys.com/2016/08/24/infinite-build-robotic-composite-3d-demonstrator/
Q: While 3D printing stands to transform technology and society for the better (for e.g. 3D printing of human organs), but like any revolutionary technology there can be some potentially negative consequences (for e.g. 3D printed guns, drugs etc.) as well. What are your thoughts on that debate?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: As a leading manufacturer, Stratasys does not, in any way, promote, encourage, support or engage in any malicious use or illegitimate purpose of any 3D printing technology. The printers are tools that provide users an alternative way to facilitate their work – in our case, possibly building things faster and in a more cost-effective, flexible and creative way. We strongly urge that users of 3D printers shall be accountable for the printing content and should not, at any time, use the technology for unlawful intentions.
Furthermore, in the terms and conditions governing the sale of our products, we require our customers to comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations including with respect to the use of the product.
Q: You are part of the advanced automotive manufacturing technologies panel at the upcoming Commercial Vehicle Forum (taking place on 18th May 2017 at the Westin in Pune). What are some of the key insights and themes you are looking to focus on as a part of this forum?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: As one of the global leaders in the Additive Manufacturing field, Stratasys vision and mission is to share our expertise with like-mind professionals, at the same time reaching out to the local market to integrate proven 3D printing technology into their operations for optimized go-to-market strategy and manufacturing capability.
Q: What are your expectations from your participation at the Forum?
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj: We anticipate that Commercial Vehicle Forum (CVF) with its theme “Customer is the focal point”, would serve as an ideal platform for us to demonstrate our commitment to Indian commercial vehicle industry. We would like to leverage this high profile forum to evangelize 3D printing revolution in manufacturing with industry thought leaders.