In 2014, a team of Indian plastic surgeons at the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer) in Puducherry restored the deformed skull of a three-year-old girl to its original shape with the help of a 3D printer that was sourced from a Mumbai-based 3D printer maker, Divide By Zero Technologies. In July, Jipmer purchased its own 3D printer, according to a report that month in The Hindu.
3D printing, which has been around for over 30 years, is now used not only to make jewellery and toothbrushes, but also football boots, racing-car parts, food products, guns, human organs, houses and aircraft parts.
3D printing belongs to a class of techniques known as additive manufacturing, or building objects layer by layer. The most common household 3D-printing process involves a "print head", which allows for any material to be extruded or squirted through a nozzle. To be sure, there's also the concept of 4D printing, which allows materials to "self-assemble" into 3D structures, and which was initially proposed by Skylar Tibbits of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in April 2013.
According to 6Wresearch, India 3D printer market is projected to touch $79 million by 2021. Expected domestic production, low cost of manufacturing and increasing penetration across various applications, coupled with the Make In India campaign, are the growth triggers. In India, 3D printers have been used in medical, architecture, automotive, industrial, aerospace, military and other applications, where automotive application accounts for the largest revenue and volume share.
Globally, the 3D printer market is expected to be worth $32.78 billion by 2023, according to research firm Markets and Markets. The aerospace and defence vertical, according to the report, held the largest share of the global 3D printing market in 2016.
Nasa, for instance, is testing engines with 3D-printed parts to pare the costs of powering its most powerful rocket-the Space Launch System (SLS)-while the US army is teaming up with the Marines to develop 3D-printed drones that could be made from scratch right near the battlefield.
Globally established companies such as Stratasys and Optomec have footprints in India through partnerships and alliances, notes the above-cited 6Wresearch note. Major companies active in the Indian 3D-printing market space are Altem Technologies, Imaginarium, Brahma 3, KCbots and JGroup Robotics.