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Construction 3D Printing in India: Impact of Recent Developments

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Construction 3D printing in India is seeing a rapid upswing as more and more Startups are entering the market. The recent developments around concrete 3D printing or construction 3D printing in India are note-worthy but what implications do these new developments have on the future?

Recent developments in Construction 3D Printing in India

IIT Guwahati develops Concrete 3D Printer

Concrete 3D Printer
Above: IIT Guwahati campus/Image Source: IIT Guwahati

India is seeing a rapid acceptance of 3D printing and it can be judged from the fact that more and more IITs, India’s premier technology institutes, are now investing heavily in 3D printing technologies. Besides the many metal 3D printers bought by multiple IITs, IIT Guwahati has invested in research to build a concrete 3D printer.

This was a joint development collaboration with Deltasys E-Forming, a Belgaum-based Startup that manufactures 3D printers. The interesting part of the research was that the concrete 3D printer uses construction waste material as its feed.

The IIT team built a few samples of furniture to test out their printer and process. According to the statement released by IIT Guwahati, its printer can build structures that measure 0.4 m in height and 0.4 m in width.

The team shared that the optimised designs are printed with 75 per cent less concrete and without the necessity of mould.

Implications

  • There is no doubt that 3D printing in India has a huge potential but for that we must explore the technology, its benefits, drawbacks and all its applications. This research is important from the standpoint that India relies on IITs to conduct research and if the institute is researching on the feasibility of the technology, the material & cost savings achieved, it is not long before these findings reach various state and central government agencies. This can prove instrumental in incorporating the technology in relevant governmental policies.
  • Startups are also knocking on the Governments doors to allow them an opportunity to build toilets under the Government’s Swachh Bharat Mission. Toilets are fairly simple and faster to build and can prove to be the perfect practical proof of concept for the government. This, if approved and allowed can pave the ways to the growth of construction 3D printing in India.
  • What may seem a bit far-fetched to some at this moment, may even be possible soon considering the governments push towards digital manufacturing (a part of its digital economy outlook). The concrete 3D printing technology will also prove to be beneficial to build houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). India has set a target of close to 3 crore houses by 2024 and construction 3D printing can be crucial in PMAY-G (G stands for Gramin/Rural).

Concrete 3D Printed Houses for Soldiers

Concrete 3D Printed houses for Jawans of the Indian Army
Above: Concrete 3D Printed houses for Jawans of the Indian Army/Image Source: Hindustan Times

The Indian Army also invested in concrete 3D printer structures. The aim was to rapidly manufacture houses for its soldiers in the South-Western Air Command in Gandhinagar, Gujarat and its engineers decided to rely on construction 3D printing technology.

The Army press release stated that the project’s chief engineer has extensive experience in building army structures and knew about the challenges in building such structures. He noted that long gestation periods for securing accommodation was a crucial problem that needed a solution. The engineer was also familiar with concrete 3D printing through his own research and decided to work with a IIT Madras Startup Tvasta Manufacturing Solutions to build these houses.

In a similar application in the US, ICON, developer of advanced construction technologies, 3D printed military barracks for the Texas Military department which can house up to 72 soldiers.

Implications

  • Any technology that gets a nod from the defence forces, is sure to turn heads. Though the use of construction 3D printing technology was very limited in this case, the idea was validated. So, it seems that the defence forces may be a bit more comfortable to use the technology again soon. This is a great precedent set by the Indian army and will certainly go a long way in easing the revolutionary technology into the defence psyche.

IIT Bombay purchases a concrete 3D printer for Research

Deltasys E-Forming concrete 3D printing in India
Above: Deltasys E-Forming concrete 3D printer built for IIT Bombay/Image Source: Deltasys E-Forming

In general 3D printing in India is now being pushed through research conducted in academic institutions. In a similar instance, IIT Bombay recently bought a concrete 3D printer from Deltasys E-Forming, a Belgaum-based Startup that manufactures 3D printers, for its SEMT Lab under the department of Civil Engineering.

This new concrete 3D printer will be used for research purposes by its faculty and students. Through the lab, the student and faculty teams will study the technology to better understand its useability and its factual advantages and long-term benefits and drawbacks. The lab will also find  research & develop compatible and sustainable materials to improve the gains from the technology.

Implications

  • Though this research may well be at the institute level right now, we all know that such a research by IITs across India are referred to, cited and used by government agencies while developing relevant schemes, or while making important policy decisions aiming to push R&D efforts and associated funding. Going forward, as and when the Government decides to test the feasibility of commercial concrete 3D printed structures, this research will be quite helpful. 

Conclusion

The Indian market is flooded with international as well as local FDM and Resin 3D printer manufacturers. This fierce competition in the market is forcing companies to look for newer avenues to explore which are comparatively lesser known. 

This has led to Startups exploring a rather unique and interesting yet intriguing niche, viz., Concrete 3D printing. 

The sudden boom in construction 3D printing across the globe is obvious and for everyone to see. Comparatively speaking, concrete 3D printers are easier to manufacture that metal 3D printers but complex and costlier enough than FDM and Resin-based printers. The barrier to entry is quite low at the moment and thus the race to creating a product line in concrete 3D printers. 

Like every other trend, once the market for construction 3D printing in India also starts to get competitive, many of the Startups that tried to jump on this bandwagon just cause of its popularity will fall into obscurity and shut down. Only those with a vision will survive and thrive. 


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About author
Abhimanyu Chavan is the founder of Manufactur3D Magazine. He writes on Additive Manufacturing technology, interviews industry leaders, shares industry insights, and expresses his thoughts on the latest developments in the industry. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
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