05/08/2022
Additive Manufacturing Gains Momentum
A disruptive technology that will shape the way we manufacture. AM will also help reduce cycle times , raise quality, enhance manufacturability and improve energy efficiency.
by Piyush Raut, Vishal Chandratre
Godrej E&E & Corporate Digital
A journey that began in 2015 with experimentation and basic visualization has now transformed into robust exploration of functional applications.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also commonly known as 3D Printing, is a process for making physical objects from three-dimensional digital models. It brings a digital 3D CAD model of an object into its physical form through a layer-by-layer addition process. The key differentiating factor of additive manufacturing is the way in which a part is made as compared to conventional processes. Conventional manufacturing is built around traditional processes of production such as Casting, moulding, forging, machining and others. Each of these processes involve multiple sequential operations and processing of materials for addition, subtraction and shape / form transformation. These conventional processes require significant amount of fixed tooling and machinery. In contrast, AM utilizes a layer-by-layer process where material is deposited only where it is required within a three-dimensional build area, thereby eliminating a large chunk of sequential work and corresponding fixed tooling and machinery. Also, conventional manufacturing setups are generally geared towards certain specific materials and geometries of components that cannot be easily modified to accommodate new component designs. Whereas in AM, as long as there is a digital file of a component, the same 3D printer can be used for several different materials, shapes and geometries. Hence, AM provides significant flexibility in design development and modification by allowing quick manipulation of objects in their digital form and rapid realization of these manipulated designs without having to change anything in the manufacturing setup.

AM Journey at G&B

Additive manufacturing journey of G&B began in 2015 with the first set of desktop grade FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) 3D printers at Proto lab of Innovation & Design center, Plant 13A. Preliminary usage involved form and shape visualization and basic prototyping. Since then, several programs and engagements have been carried out to onboard more users on the AM journey by identifying and working on impactful applications of functional nature. In 2018, we started ProtoEx initiative under which the AM exposure and exploration was driven on a much wider scale across BU’s and functions. BU teams were given easy access to experiment and learn about 3D printing capabilities and build strong use-cases. In parallel, we have also invested in new machines and new technologies to enable exploration of advanced use- cases with different types of materials such as carbon fibre composites, engineering grade liquid resins and others.

In recent years, especially from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant evolution in the nature and caliber of AM use - cases that are being identified and deployed by BU teams.
A journey that began in 2015 with experimentation and basic visualization has now transformed into robust exploration of functional applications such as jigs, fixtures, load bearing components for testing and validation as well as direct end-use components of Godrej products. And, more importantly, over these past 7 years an informal ‘makers community’ has been built in G&B, where we share and explore latest trends of AM technology, areas of applications and proof of concepts (POCs) to further drive AM at G&B.

Way ahead for AM at G&B

Over the years, considerable knowhow of various AM process and applications has been built amongst several BU and functional teams. There is improved understanding of polymers based AM technologies such as FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling), SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) and SLA (Stereolithography), as a result of which, the nature of identified use cases has matured significantly. Having built a strong foundation around the fundamentals of AM through awareness, exploration and application deployment across BU’s, we now intend to move onto full-fledged exploration of Industrial Additive manufacturing in high performance polymers, fiber composites and metals. Based on the learnings from the last seven years of collaboration with BU teams, we are now working on deploying a 3-step approach for driving industrial AM across G&B.

3 - Step approach for driving AM at G&B

1. Explore

Exploration and hands on experimentation with new 3D printing technologies as a common central resource

2. Establish

Build technology knowhow and expertise

Identify and try out BU specific use cases

Establish processes and parameters

3. Deploy

Deploy 3D printing systems onto individual BU shopfloors once the technology and use cases have matured enough

Potential of AM at G&B

Conventional manufacturing and mass production are here to stay and cannot be completely replaced with AM. But, with all the benefits that AM brings along, it has the potential to significantly complement conventional manufacturing processes. It can pave the way for highly efficient and cost-effective production, better optimized supply chains, quick and effective hyper local service models as well as several new types of product offerings that are currently not possible due to the constrains of conventional processes. Customization opportunities and the ability to make small production batches on demand, is a great way to engage with customers by quickly refreshing product lines, with the added benefit of reduced inventories. The advent of Additive manufacturing could possibly drive a transition from mass production to mass customization.

Additive manufacturing has the potential of integrating itself with conventional manufacturing as a key enabler of rapid, flexible and lean product lifecycles across businesses.
Additive manufacturing can play a significant role in a product’s lifecycle especially in the stages such as prototyping, design acceleration, small batch production, bridge production, customized production and on demand spares for service, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) applications as well as aftermarket requirements.

AM opportunities for Industries

Additive manufacturing has evolved into a much larger domain, comprising of several different processes and technologies that offer a full spectrum of capabilities for the production of parts and products using several different materials that are suitable for a wide variety of applications. In recent years, 3D printing has become more accessible and affordable even for small companies and individuals. Once seen as a prohibitively costly technology suitable only for huge, multi-national corporations, AM is now significantly affordable with desktop grade 3D printers starting at INR 50,000.

Affordability of AM technology has opened its access to a much larger user community, industries and individuals alike.
As the exponential rate of adoption continues, more and more technologies, materials, applications, services and ancillaries related to AM are emerging. It is also now evolving into a more open-source initiative with several community built hardware and software solutions taking the lead. Open-source availability of materials and spares are enabling rapid experimentation and upgradation at the user’s discretion without the limitations of ‘propriety lock-in’ with OEM’s. History of humankind has been shaped, to a large extent by technology than any other field. Over past two centuries, inventions such as light bulb, steam power, IC engines, automobiles, airplanes, semi- conductors and the exponential rise of the world wide web have significantly improved quality of our lives and opened a host of new possibilities. But it has taken years and even decades for the truly disruptive nature of these technologies to come into play. It is widely believed that the emerging domain of Additive manufacturing has immense potential to become one such disruptive technology which could have a profound impact on human lives in the years ahead.

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