By Vineeshkoomully, via Wikimedia Commons
India's tech-focused businesses may not yet be making 3D printing a priority.
India is keen to put itself at the forefront of technology, but has the nation begun investing in 3D printing like its developing rivals China and the Middle East?
In this third feature in our series of looking at how 3D printing is being adopted by the emerging markets, we add India to the mix and take a peek at how some companies have begun to look into the innovative technique as a means of complementing existing manufacturing systems and netting investment.
India has been keen to invest in technology hives - business parks that act as a hotbed for research and development. There are dozens of these hubs, but some of the largest include the Export Promotion Park of India in Hajipur, Peenya in Bangalore city and Electronics City in the Bangalore Urban district.
But despite the number of businesses setting up shop in these industry zones, very few of them are emerging as front-running 3D printing pioneers.
This is something European investment could be set to change, as leaders such as UK prime minister David Cameron and organisations like the European Research Council (ERC) have been keen to pay India a visit in recent weeks to forge business partnerships and source tech talent.
Ahead of the ERC visit, secretary general Prof Donald Dingwell was quoted by the Times of India as saying: "The ERC is pleased to visit India, which has long-standing traditions in science, learning and technology, and is fast becoming a dynamic global research centre.
"We are here to forge closer ties, to learn from one another, and to encourage excellent Indian scientists to perform some of their research in Europe."
3D printing on four wheels
As India is home to major production facilities for brands including Ford and Nissan, in addition to Tata Motors' headquarters, it is unsurprising 3D printing is making its most confident steps in the automotive sector.
India has been a long-time centre for manufacturing vehicles and the Sahara Force India Formula One team has signed a technical partnership deal with global 3D printing giant 3D Systems to develop the technique and utilise it for making cars.
The multi-year agreement will fortify the relationship between the two firms, allowing Sahara Force India to make use of its existing 3D Systems equipment and reduce the manufacturing time of wind tunnel model components.
Senior vice-president and general manager of 3D production printers at 3D Systems Kevin McAlea commented: "The opportunity to partner with emerging innovators like Sahara Force India provides tangible customer benefits that extend well beyond motorsports."
Project management tool
In Chennai, 3D printing is being used not in manufacturing, but as a project management tool, showcasing yet another way in which the technology can be utilised in the business arena.
R Parthasarathy (Partha) has been using 3D printing since 2010 to provide on-demand identical sets of 3D models of buildings and communities at every stage of their construction to be used by architects and developers at bids and exhibitions.
When used in this way, 3D printing cuts out the long lead time and expenses required to produce these miniatures, as well as cancelling out wastage and inaccuracies.
Partha has christened his service iKix, which prints a typical project in six-to-ten days using Z Corp technology.
He said: "The time and cost advantage is even more pronounced when plans change and models need to be modified on the fly."
As a nation, 3D printing is not something India has taken up with great vigour - particularly not on a wide scale. Canon India president Alok Bharadwaj put it succinctly that the country is "as global as most developed nations and as primitive as the most developing nations". So while India is working hard to make itself a key global technology centre, 3D printing uptake may be out of many businesses' reach for the time being.
Speaking to PrintWeek last month, Mr Bharadwaj said: "As of now it is not a very big priority for most of the digital production press manufacturers. Naturally, the entry barrier [of] cost is still very high. India being a small market in comparison to other countries, opportunities that can be scaled faster are on the radar. We are yet to see the effectiveness and successful proposition of 3D printing."