Deelip Menezes, Managing Director, 3D Systems India

“I would advise tool and mould makers to start exploring the possibility of employing 3D Printing for the reasons mentioned earlier. In any business, if you want to be competitive in a changing market, you need to start adopting upcoming technologies which give your business an advantage over your competition,” says Deelip Menezes, Managing Director, 3D Systems India in conversation with Nishant Kashyap.

What are the new 3D printing possibilities 3D Systems is exploring?
3D Systems was founded on curiosity, creative thinking, problem solving, and innovation to transform how things are done and revolutionize the 3D printing category. We place the customer at the center of everything we do, and our innovation is fuelled by our customers’ desires to use additive manufacturing for new applications. Our application engineers, in collaboration with our customers, are continuously innovating to bring the power of 3D printing to bear, optimising workflows for the aerospace, dental, healthcare, automotive and consumer goods industries. We look forward to sharing these innovations at the appropriate time.

In your opinion what are the top five trends in industrial 3D Printing segment?
1) Move from prototyping to production, especially in metal
2) Increased awareness of Design for Additive Manufacturing (DaFM)
3) Increased interest in academia
4) Increased traction for DLP technology at the cost of FDM
5) Increased demand for part quality and surface finish

3D Printing is always been refereed as ‘Future of Manufacturing’. However, we still classify it as an emerging technology. How long do you think it will really take to become a main stream manufacturing technology?
There are several manufacturers who are already using 3D printing as part of their production workflows. As a company, 3D Systems believes many customers will continue that shift from using additive manufacturing for prototyping to using it for production applications. However, we also believe that additive is not intended to replace traditional manufacturing, instead work in harmony on the production floor. Having said that, there will be some industries where 3D printing will completely replace traditional manufacturing. A good example is jewellery.

How has the technology has evolved and what are the new developments in 3D Printing?
When Chuck first invented the technology, 3D printing was viewed as a prototyping tool only. Over the past three decades, we have seen 3D printing mature into a variety of technologies – there are seven additional technologies on the market today in addition to stereolithography. Additionally, we have seen tremendous development in materials with improved properties. The technology has proliferated all the major manufacturing industries, and is delivering high-quality, repeatable, and durable end-use parts. It’s helping manufacturers shorten product development cycles with lower total cost of operation while maintaining competitive advantage.

What are the factors driving the demand for the industrial 3D printers?
The story of metal 3D printing is a little different from that of plastic 3D printing. Plastic 3D printing was – and is – mainly used for prototyping. In prototyping, the part is eventually mass produced using traditional manufacturing methods. The prototype is used to validate the design in the development stage. One may build four or five prototypes before locking down on the design. However, prototyping is a very small part of metal 3D printing. The bulk of metal 3D printing is manufacturing. This means that the geometry of the part, which has been traditionally manufactured, needs to be modified to benefit from 3D printing. The reasons can be different – light-weighting, strength, efficiency, etc. Complex assemblies can be reduced to a single part or a fewer number of parts. Re-engineering takes time to accomplish, but after completed, you are then able to begin manufacturing. So, in the case of plastic printing where you printed four or five prototypes, here you print hundreds or thousands of production parts. This is the main reason for the impressive growth in metal 3D printing. I prefer to call it metal additive manufacturing, because that’s what it really is – manufacturing.

How can 3D printers help mould makers? Will it be a threat to the die mould service providers?
Yes and no. Typically, 3D printing moulds make sense when the production quantities are small (i.e., 50 – 100 parts) and the size of the parts isn’t too large (e.g., 150 mm long). For anything else, it’s better to use a machined mould. 3D printed moulds also make sense when the design is likely to change. So, as you can see, there will always be a need for machined moulds for the foreseeable future. However, the industry will increasingly start using 3D printed moulds where it makes sense.

Your suggestion to tool and mould makers regarding the adoption of 3D Printing…
I would advise tool and mould makers to start exploring the possibility of employing 3D Printing for the reasons mentioned earlier. In any business, if you want to be competitive in a changing market, you need to start adopting upcoming technologies which give your business an advantage over your competition. The cost to build a mould for short-run production is significantly more than that of a 3D printed mould. So, it’s a question of using the right tool for the job. And for that to happen you need to have the right tools to begin with.

Apart from limitations in 3D Printing segment such as the process is very slow (compare to subtractive manufacturing) and imitations in material usage, what are the other challenges in adoption of additive manufacturing, especially in cost sensitive market like India?
I don’t believe cost plays the large role in adoption as it is made out to be. For a businessman it’s simple mathematics. If the value of using 3D printing in a workflow is more than the cost of adopting and implementing the technology, then the decision is easy. In my opinion, the main challenge is awareness. Businesses in India are not exposed to technologies like 3D printing as much as their counterparts in the western world. However, I am seeing a growing trend of companies in India setting up small teams of people to explore 3D printing and find ways to employ the technology in their companies to make them more competitive and efficient. Indians are fast learners and faster adopters.

Your views on hybrid manufacturing.
3D Systems believes very strongly in the value of hybrid manufacturing, and the blending of additive and traditional manufacturing, not only on the production floor, but also within the 3D printers. In August 2018, we announced a very exciting partnership with GF Machining Solutions – experts in precision machining. In September 2018, we launched our first metal printing solution developed in partnership with GFMS, the DMP Factory 500. This modular 3D metal printer has integrated automation that minimizes manual processes to reduce total cost of operation. It also includes GF Machining Solutions’ System 3R referencing and clamping system to enable optimal positioning of the build plate, facilitating a quick transition from the 3D printer to post-processing steps – helping to save significant time and money.

3D printing is still in nascent stage in India. What kind of initiatives should be taken to spread awareness about the technology?
I would respectfully disagree that 3D printing is in a nascent stage in India. Jewellery is an industry which has adopted 3D printing with open arms. Dental is adopting 3D printing quite rapidly. We recently launched the ProJet® MJP 2500 IC specifically for the Investment Casting industry. The response has been tremendous. This is apart from industries like automotive, consumer goods, etc, which adopted 3D printing many years ago. So, I would say that as a country we have adopted 3D printing pretty well. However, there are many more industries that could benefit from 3D printing. Apart from OEM’s like 3D Systems doing their part in generating awareness through their marketing activities, I believe there is an urgent need to introduce 3D printing as part of curriculum in schools and colleges across India. The technology is there. Adoption is there. The people to support the adoption aren’t there yet. This worries me.