Guest Column

Unleashing the Power of 3D Printing

August, 2018

Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing as the world better knows it, is an integral tool that is set to disrupt manufactur-ing and play an integral part of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Industries that have already started adopting to the use of 3D Printing are mainly those that have started to see the bene t of low-volume & high-customisability; the biggest advantages that the technology provides today in the eld of manufacturing.

3D Printing has disrupted the supply chain of conventional industries like aerospace and automotive. Elon Musk’s SuperDraco engines that are part of the Dragon space-craft, is set to power the new age rockets of Space X. They are 3D Printed using Metal 3D Printers. Automotive giants like General Motors (GM) are collaborating with software giants like Autodesk and using their new age ‘generative design’ software tools to produce complex Arti cial Intelli-gence generated automotive parts which are lightweight and have complex geometry. The end parts are then 3D Printed due to limited bene ts of injection moulding and CNC milling mass manufacturing methods, to produce low weight & high complexity parts.

3D Printing in the medical sector has what has started to show maximum impact. The use of 3D Printed medical models, which are derived from patients’ own CT scan have become a common practice in the west before every complex surgery. Having access to these models, which are usually printed using affordable biodegradable materi-als from a low-cost 3D Printer, provides an extra level of security and an option to practice complex medical surger-ies before the real one. This has started to gain traction in India through 3D Printing service providers that have start-ed offering the service. 3D Printed medical implants has also started to make inroads into the medical industry, with a recent case of a Gurgaon hospital replacing a part of the patients’ spinal cord with a 3D Printed metal implant. As certain centres in India move towards getting their facilities that have 3D Metal Printers ISO 13485 and FDA compliant, this is set to open a large market for custom 3D Printing medical grade metal implants on demand, right here in India. This is a big move towards helping the government’s Make in India initiative and the push towards bringing down the cost of medical implants.

The most impactful and hopeful innovation utilising the power of 3D Printing,is the creation of tissues and poten-tially live organs on demand. The eld of 3D Bioprinting, which accordingly to industry reports is seeing a 20-25% CAGR is starting to make it’s way into R&D labs of Pharma, Cosmetic and FMCG companies. Today, the tech-nology is ready to provide 3D Printed tissues to R&D centres to more effectively test their products and rely less on animal testing. The future will see the coming together of complex engineering, biotechnology and stem cell tech-nologies towards creating transplantable organs in the lab. This is the future we wait to experience, a future where organ transplant wait list numbers are down to zero and 3D printing technology has had the largest impact on extend-ing human life!

- Alok Medikepura Anil
Director, Next Big Innovation Labs