india-3d-printing
Business Management

India: 3D printing jewelry & other goods

Just the other day, my wife decided to buy some gold jewelry. This has a lot of significance for many Indian women. And the designs have always been based on time-honored traditions, with set patterns which are probably a legacy of old princely India. I was therefore surprised at the level of technology involved in designing and producing jewelry in India today. I could see 3D printing virtually everywhere and this got me thinking about the business.

A while back I corresponded with a bespoke Jewelry startup from Coimbatore and so I decided to speak to him again. Vivek Krishna is a tech startup guy with a Masters from the US. When the startup bug caught him, he persuaded his brother to quit Adobe and dragged him into the venture. Initially they launched an ecommerce site selling jewelry. However, soon Krishna went broke and shut up shop.

“[Then] one fine day, I got an email from my ex-customer asking to make a product similar to what we shipped to his friend,” explains Krishna. “The product was a unique gold coin, with the photograph of the bride and groom. That was my ‘aha’ moment’ – Augrav (Au – Gold and Grav – engrave) is now a bespoke jewelry platform using 3D technology.”

Augrav is not alone. Velvetcase is an online marketplace using 3D printing technology for creating custom jewelry from designers across the globe. Cremagine3dlabs is another player in the business of providing customized jewelry using 3D printing.  

But obviously 3D design and printing technology is not restricted to jewelry sector. It’s a powerful technology which is now deployed to design and create products from a rocket to a toy car. In fact, it’s predicted that one day we will have 3D technology to cook up new livers. Though we may not have reached such a level yet, Indian entrepreneurs are providing novel solutions in 3D printing.

In a bid to escape a nine to five Rathish Chidambaram, Founder of D Cube Studio, decided to set up a 3D printing business. “We sell and service 3D printers. We also conduct certified courses on 3D technology for the college students.  And we are planning to hit the commercial market too with a new approach on making prototypes,” explains Chidambaram.

This may sound quite elementary but at the other end of spectrum are the 3D equipment manufacturers. This is a thriving business and hundreds of entrepreneurs have entered this market. The opportunities are endless and 3D applications can be found all over the industrial landscape. ALTEM Technologies based in Bangalore provides a whole gamut of 3D technology – printing, scanning and distribution of 3D Printers. Brahma3 is another 3D equipment seller with its own indigenously developed 3D printer using open source.

The technology allows numerous individuals to set up businesses and the founders of Brahma3 believe that innovation and creativity will be major drivers for growth in 3D printing, prototyping and manufacturing. They have launched a design-in-residence program to encourage new customers and those interested in 3D technology.

The Indian market is extremely price sensitive. Most 3D equipment manufacturers are therefore in a race to provide the cheapest machines. 3D-ing has been in the news for selling the most affordable desktop 3D printer made in India. Digging a bit deeper, I found that the machine is for hobbyists and small prototyping. Obviously, it cannot be used for large size prototyping.

According to a Gartner survey however, a major roadblock to the growth of 3D technology worldwide has been the steep cost of equipment despite the fact that 3D printers can reduce the cost of finished products by more than 4%.  Awareness seems to be high across verticals like aerospace and medical, but implementation is slow.

This is due, in part, to the fact that startups in the 3D sector are finding it difficult to attract investors because of high initial costs. While another issue which has to be tackled is the general lack of knowledge about the technology. In this scenario, the announcement that US-based Autodesk has the intention to support 3D printing startups with a new $100-million Spark Investment Fund has been a boost for many.  Autodesk is an old player in the 3D space and understands the technology behind it. This makes it easier for it to assess startups and evaluate their needs.

3D technology brings huge benefits to all industries. By embracing it, India can expect to manufacture bespoke products and export to the world. Traditional Indian jewelry and artifacts are extremely popular everywhere, but in the past the problem was always the prohibitive cost of production. Now using 3D technology, these products can be made reasonably affordable for everyone.

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Sankarambadi Srinivasan

Sankarambadi Srinivasan, ‘Srini’, is a maverick writer, technopreneur and a geek. He writes on transformational social processes and technology trends which influence our daily lives.

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