The growing demand for 3D printing services

Adding a personal touch to 3D printing

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Koyambedu, Chennai based Precious 3D is a 3D print service provider that was started three years ago by the young entrepreneur, Chinmay Rathi. In this quick span of time, the company has served more than 500 clients from various industry verticals like automotive, medical equipment, IOT devices, equipment manufacturers, industrial builders, and government agencies.

Right from my young days, I have always been an engineer, opening machine parts and trying to figure out how they work. This, I believe, has led me till here,” Rathi tells Indian Printer & Publisher in an exclusive interview.

A commerce graduate, Rathi runs his 3D printing business which is totally based on engineering. He not only prints 3D models but also lends valuable insights into how to make his customers’ products better with all technical details. After finishing his BBM in Bengaluru, Rathi, along with his friends, started working on a Smart planter project for which they needed to develop the product.

For product development we required 3D printing to make the plastic body because the mold was turning out to be quite costly. We went to a prominent 3D printing service provider but he gave us a quote of Rs. 30,000 for making a small 28-cm box. After carefully thinking it through, I decided to look for a 3D printer and I finally bought one for Rs. 24,000. Two kg of plastic material was procured and then I made my own prototype,” shares Rathi.

He took help from YouTube tutorials and learnt how to operate the 3D printer to build his first successful prototype. It was then he decided to launch his own business of 3D printing. The first order that Precious 3D received was a trial order of 2 pieces with Renault, which then converted into a 2000-piece order. However, it was not possible for him to deliver the order with the help of a single printer. So, he ordered three more machines from China and finished the order in just 20 days.

One advantage of 3D printing over other technologies is the initial time taken to manufacture parts. Prototypes can be made in a matter of hours instead of waiting for days,” Rathi adds.

The company creates 8-10 new unique products every day and offers services mainly in plastic and rubber components. We do CAD design and 3D print with materials like ABS, polycarbonate, nylon, nylon GF, resin, PP, carbon fiber, rubber, silicon, etc. We also provide injection molding services,” Rathi informs.

Currently, Precious 3D has 10 machines at its unit and a vendor network of 80 machines to ensure timely services for orders of any quantity. Rathi first started work on FDM machines and slowly added SLA, SLS, vacuum casting and polyjet printing to his portfolio. Some of the clients that the company caters to include Flintobox, ITC, Renualt, ColorsTV, CSK, Qualcomm, Ashok Leyland, L&T, Caterpillar, etc.

Talking about the various industries which Precious 3D services, Rathi says, “If we talk about the medical industry, all medical devices have casings which are primarily made of plastic. The challenge in this industry is that there is not a very high volume in medical devices so they always require batch production. That’s where 3D printing comes as a savior. We do low volume manufacturing for them using 3D printing. Also, we help startups launching IoT devices in the market by making a prototype of their casing in smooth finish. This is primarily to show to investors for fund raising. We then make a low volume manufacturing of 20-50 components so that they can do a quick round of user testing to see the market response. They don’t need to invest heavily in mold cost so investment is pretty low and it helps them improve their designs and test the market.”

Once there is demand for more production, Rathi helps them by making injection molds where he does manufacturing for final products in quantities of 100-5000 pieces a month.

The company also produces prototypes for the automotive industry and for engineering projects. Traditionally metal fixtures are made to fit components precisely during assembly. They are heavy and incur a lot of cost in the making. Plastic fixtures, on the other hand, are light weight and solve the same application as metal fixtures. Moreover, they can be prepared in just 4-5 hours.

We generally go to factories and do audits as to how to make the flow easier using 3D printing technology. As far as engineering projects, there are many students who come to us for training sessions on 3D printing,” Rathi shares.

A new market that Precious 3D has recently explored is that of sculptures. Traditionally sculptures are either hand-made or made using clay. According to Rathi, there is no dearth of artisans across the country, but sometimes even for the finest artisan, capturing every small detail is difficult. Also, the customer wouldn’t know what the end product would look like. “We have in-house designers to design sculptures as per specific requirements. We show a rendered image of how the sculpture will look like and then we make statues right from 2 inches to 4 feet size and above. Once a statue is made, we can replicate it in quantities of 50-5000 using traditional mold to get the same details on all the pieces,” he says.

Another vertical that Precious 3D is aggressively concentrating on is that of trophies and mementos. The company produces trophies which are fully customizable using 3D printing. Precious has designed and produced trophy miniatures for cricket team Chennai Super Kings, which was given out to the entire team and received a lot of praise. “We made these trophies in just 12 days using just pictures as reference,” says a proud Rathi.

Besides trophies, the company also designs mementos based on human characters.

Finally, sharing some insights into the 3D printing market, Rathi says, “3D printing is a part of manufacturing; it isn’t a big market but it is a technology to tap into a niche market. Mementos and trophies have a far better recall as they add a personal touch. Similarly, prototypes help make the product launch faster in market. There are quite a few quality service providers in Chennai and 3D printing has reached a standard quality. We go one notch higher by providing real-time consultancy.”

In near future, Rathi plans to increase his presence in cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad, which he feels are good markets for 3D printing.

We currently have 10 machines where 6 machines are assembled and 4 are high-quality Chinese-make. We are planning to add 5 more machines in the next 3 months due to high job demand,” he adds.

The company will also be launching a gift page, www.3Dgiftwala.com, to cater to all customized gifting requirements using 3D printing.

Besides gifting, my goal is to enter the training industry where I want to help and train 1000 entrepreneurs making 1000 different products. This is a long-term vision to make our country more export oriented and a world leader of innovative products,” concludes Rathi.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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