Industry Understands the importance of Additive Manufacturing.
An e- Interview with Mr. Anand Prakasam: Country Manager – EOS India
To provide regional support for their 3D printing innovation projects with a wide range of consulting and training services that address key aspects along the entire process chain.
Industrial 3D printing
EOS came to India in 1998. What was the scenario at that time?
In the early 1990s this technology was used for rapid prototyping and it was mainly polymers. There was this thing called nozzle printers and people were very excited to get plastic parts printed directly without a mould. Especially for R&D, when developing a new product, on had to wait for a mould – soft or hard – and there was a high lead time, also the process was one of trial and error as the process was intrusive, besides being expensive, so these nozzle printers were quite a hit. That was the time when EOS, established in Germany in 1989, entered India in 1998 and focused predominantly on selling plastic prototypes or selling machines that make plastic prototypes using powders, and it was mainly for automotive industries – all that R&D and new product development. However EOS also had a metal portfolio, started in 1995 in Germany, and available in India in 1998 – actually it was way ahead of its time. Another thing, it was not 100% dense metal part but had binders in it, and was ideal for prototypes.
How long did it take for EOS to establish a foothold in India?
EOS has a long term vision and came to India with a commitment and it took about six years to establish in the country. The first 20 years of the company’s existence it sold only 1000 machines, but the next 1000 machines were sold in six years and now in the last 2 years we have sold 1000 machines, so the technology is now accepted widely and this year we expect to sell a thousand machines, and that’ s how the market is growing.
How big is the die & mould market in India for EOS?
If you look at the additive manufacturing scenario in India, there are three large user industries. The first is aerospace, the next is medical/dental, and the third is definitely die & mould. According to TAGMA estimates, the Die & Mould industry size is more than Rs 17,000 crore, and this is not the latest figure so now it could be higher. Of this, about 30% requirements are imported, the reasons being long lead time, quality and cost. Now these are precisely the areas which additive manufacturing can address. The challenge we are facing is to meet the Indian scenario at Indian costs. So we have made some study and in this exhibition we are offering a package, which we believe will meet our tooling industry at its price points. When I say price points it means two things – one is the investment price point and second is the cost of the product. So we have made the package for both – when the investment price point is optimised for the market, you are also able to make the cost of the product viable. The industry understands the importance of this technology and certainly wants to use it, but the cost factor does not allow them as the OEMs squeeze them to a point where they are unable to invest in technology and recover the cost. So this is the message we want to convey that with this package EOS is meeting the Indian industry at its price point.
Is the cluster approach for a common 3D printing viable? How do you promote the technology?
I am not sure the cluster approach and joint ownership will work successfully as I have seen cases where they are even unable to pay the salaries after investing in a facility. It of course provides an option for people to come and try the technology. A better approach could be that of service providers – take the example of this booth across which is one of the service providers – a job shop. They have invested in four EOS machines – two polymers and two metal and they do Die & Mould work. They have a huge customer base in India. They are able to not only understand the customer requirement, but are also able to offer not only quality but competitive price. So I think the service provider approach works better where there is the whole ecosystem of a technology provider, the service provider and the customer – an OEM or the toolmaker.
There are many entrepreneurs now interested in getting into the additive manufacturing business and we provide them the information and clarity about this business, and die & mould is a low hanging fruit right now.
How strong is the medical/dental segment in India?
Additive manufacturing for dental is already well established in India and we have about 8-10 installations for making dentures. In the medical field too there is good potential. Last year we had an installation at the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) at Chandigarh where custom medical implants are manufactured not just for demonstration but actual use, and more recently one at IIT-Mumbai. Quality is of course very important in this segment.
What are the job sizes in additive manufacturing with EOS 3D printers?
In the polymers range the job size starts from 250 x 250 mm and goes up to 700 x 700 mm. In metals the range starts at 100 mm dia x 70 mm height, and goes up to 400 x 400 x 400 mm (LxWxH) – these are with multiple lasers – up to 4 lasers.
How many types of technologies are there?
There are four technologies – the first two in Powder Bed process with laser beam method and electron beam method. Then there is Binder based method, where the metal powder is coated with binders. In this method the part is not 100% dense but good enough for prototypes. The fourth one is the direct metal deposition method or DMD which is used not for components but structures where the size can be much bigger. By structures I mean aerospace structures or gas turbine structures where the part can be 5 to 7-metre long. At EOS we are purely focussed on Powder Bed process laser method for both polymer and metal printers.
The jet engine nozzle is said to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the aerospace segment. What is the outlook in this crucial segment?
The aviation industry is under a lot of pressure, first on account of the large carbon footprint for which it is paying heavily and needs to reduce it. Every gram of weight saved contributes over the lifespan of the aircraft. Secondly with the life of a commercial aircraft is quite long and the tools and dies need to be preserved during this period which is again very expensive. With advances in 3D printing a lot of components can be manufactured on need basis which will also extend to the MROs. So it is quite a big market.
Do you see a thriving job shop market or a ‘parts on order’ model emerging in 3D Printing?
We have a different view on this, though every business model has potential for growth. We look at metal 3D printing as another manufacturing process which is needed even for SMEs. That is the reason our focus is on meeting the price points, not just on Capex, but also on running costs. Suppose a part that is manufactured at x amount today on machining centre costs 2x when manufactured by 3D printing, it may be acceptable in aerospace thanks to benefits like weight reduction, but will not be accepted in other fields. But if we increase the productivity of the process the cost will come down and that’s precisely what we are doing – increase the productivity of the machines and process to meet the price point. At this point we are confident that we have met the requirement of the tooling industry. And the idea is to offer them a better alternative for conventional manufacturing.
Is any finishing required for the parts manufactured by additive manufacturing?
It depends. Metal parts manufactured by 3D printing come out with supports attached which need to be sawed off or removed by EDM process. Another thing is surface finish in terms of Ra value in a 3D printed part, which may be alright for some applications and no finishing is needed but if smoother surface or mirror finish is required than polishing is required.
Where is the business coming from in India?
At the moment 70% of our business in India comes from the government or public sector, which is mainly from HAL, ISRO, DRDO, etc., which is related to aerospace, or some other organisations like the MSME cluster – the Indo German Tool Room, for example, has one of our machines. The private sector which is only 30% at present has growth potential in future. At the moment the private sector is still watching the developments, trying to figure out how to use it. We have had a good last fiscal in India and expect to do better this year. The next 5-10 years is going to be a good period to watch for this industry.
How do companies like EOS propagate the benefits of additive manufacturing?
We have a consulting programme called Additive Minds – a four step programme – where our experts connect with potential users of additive manufacturing and help them identify components that can be 3D printed and then develop a business case – not just technical viability but also economic viability and material viability, and help them. The second step is to help them with developing and improving the application in terms of design, optimisation, light weighting etc. The third is to certify and scale up production – all parts manufactured will have to be certified for application and quality and we have the necessary experience to do so. The fourth and final step is to ramp up production with a detailed plan to help achieve optimum output.
About Mr. Anand Prakasam: Country Manager – EOS India:Mr. Anand Prakasam has been with EOS since 1998, ever since EOS began operations in India. With over 19 years of experience in the industry, Anand heads the Indian business and lead direct sales and channel partners in India and ASEAN region. He has been instrumental in introducing EOS 3D printing technologies & developing a market for EOS RP systems, software, and consultancy services in India & Asia directly and through distributors. Prior to joining EOS, Anand was the country head for Helisys Inc USA and worked with EDS Technologies and CADD Centre India Pvt. Ltd.
EOS, the world's leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers, is opening a new location in Germany, the EOS Innovation Centre Düsseldorf. The customer and technology centre offers companies regional support for their 3D printing innovation projects with a wide range of consulting and training services that address key aspects along the entire process chain. The EOS Innovation Centre has been formally opened on March 13, attended by numerous EOS customers as well as representatives of the regional capital of Düsseldorf. EOS is the world's leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers.
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