About 3D Printing

Govt readies 3D printing policy for local firms to join new global market

In News

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) will soon come up with a policy aimed at promoting 3D printing on an industrial scale.

Objectives of the policy

  • The policy will help to develop an ecosystem for design, development and deployment of 3D printing in the country.
  • It will look to encourage market leaders to establish global bases for 3D manufacturing in India. It will also discourage imports of printed material for domestic requirements.
  • The policy will also help domestic companies to overcome technical and economic barriers so that they can build supportive facilities for world leaders in the technology, such as the US and China.

About 3D Printing

  • Three-dimensional (3-D) printing is an additive manufacturing process that creates a physical object from a digital design.
  • The term 3D printing can refer to a variety of processes in which material is deposited, joined or solidified under computer control to create a three-dimensional object.
  • The process works by laying down thin layers of material in the form of liquid or powdered plastic, metal or cement, and then fusing (join) the layers together.

Types of 3D Printing

Material extrusion

  • Process where a filament of solid thermoplastic material is melted and deposited, cooling and solidifying, forming a solid object.
  • There is only one type under it: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), also called as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

Vat Polymerization

  • This process is based on a tank containing photopolymer resin that hardens with exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
  • photopolymer or light-activated resin is a polymer that changes its properties when exposed to light.
  • There are two types under it: Stereolithography (SLA) that use a point laser and Direct Light Processing (DLP) uses a projector.

Power Bed Fusion (Polymers)

  • It is a process where a thermal energy source selectively leads to fusion between the dust particles within a construction area to create a solid object.

Powder Bed Fusion (Metals)

  • Process that uses a thermal source to induce the fusion between metal powder particles (layer by layer).
  • There are different versions of this technology, using different energy sources:
    • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) or Selective Laser Melting (SLM) uses lasers;
    • Electron Beam Melting (EBM) uses electron beams.

Material Jetting

  • Drops of material are selectively deposited on a building plate and harden when exposed to light.
  • It includes two types:
    • Material Jetting (MJ) that works in a similar way to a standard inkjet printer but instead of printing a single layer of ink, several layers are created to create a solid part.
    • Drop on Demand (DOD) where a pair of ink jets are used – one with the printing material and another with the support material (which is usually soluble).

Advantages of 3D printing

  • 3D printing offers a significant advantage over traditional fabrication, as it does not require expensive tools used in milling processes.
  • Another key advantage is the ability to produce very complex shapes or geometries that would be otherwise impossible to construct by hand.
  • Moreover, it leads to less generation of waste.

Disadvantages of 3D printing

  • The disadvantages of 3D printing include low production rates, less precision and surface polish than parts manufactured by machines.
  • Only a limited range of materials can be processed in 3D printing and there are severe limitations on the size of parts that can be made inexpensively and without distortion.

Applications of 3D printing

  • 3D printing has applications in the auto and motor spare part industry, such as engines, interior and exterior parts of luxury vehicles, turbine blades etc.
  • It is already being used in the aircraft industry. The U.S. and Israeli air forces have used 3-D printers to manufacture spare parts.
  • It can be used in consumer electronics, printed circuit boards, clothing, toys and jewellery as well.
  • In the fashion world, Nike, Adidas are using 3-D printing to create prototypes (models) of their shoes.
  • In medical sciences, 3-D printing is being used to customize implants. In the future, organs and body parts may be created using 3D printing techniques.
  • The use of 3-D printing accelerates the process of manufacturing and enables manufacturers to make custom hearing aids.
  • In the construction industry, companies around the world are using 3-D printing to build homes. Using layers of concrete, homes can be built in 48 hours.

Global market of 3D printing

  • The global market for 3D printing is expected to reach $ 34.8 billion by 2024 and is growing at an annual growth rate of 23.2 per cent.
  • Asia leads the world in 3D printing, and about 50 per cent of its market is held by China, followed by Japan at 30 per cent, and South Korea 10 per cent.
  • However, globally, the US remains the leader, with more than 35 per cent market share.
  • At present, India is at the research and development stage and the technology in India has not yet evolved for strategic industrial integration in sectors like aerospace, which require high accuracy.

 Science & Tech