Make it the Indian way: Why the country
must adapt to additive technologies
Mains Paper 2: Science and Technology
Prelims level: Make in India
Mains level: Indigenization of technology and developing new technology
- If ‘Make in India’ is to succeed, it needs to encompass ‘Make it
the Indian Way’.
- It need not emulate mass production technologies, fuelled in
Detroit by massive capital investment or in Beijing by cheap labour.
- We are fortunate to be in a historic moment when the manufacturing
sector is about to go through a transformation wrought by disruptive
- We have to find a way of making it work in India’s favour rather
than against it.
Getting a measure
- Industrial 3D printing has begun to transform manufacturing in
- The 3D printing has not yet entered our everyday lexicon, and even
people who have heard of it view it as a toy technology that geeks play
with, creating prototypes of robots using small machines that create moulds
using materials such as plastic and photosensitive resins.
- Part of it must be the name, whoever heard of serious
manufacturing using a printer! Rename this to “additive technology” and
think of Ford Motors cutting down its cost of creating a new car prototype
from six months and several hundred thousand dollars to four days and
$4,000, and you begin to see its power.
Problems with traditional manufacturing system
- Traditional manufacturing of mechanical parts involves making a
mould and then stamping out parts by thousands every day.
- The equipment to make these parts and moulds is expensive, thus
the cost of the first hundred units is high.
- Per unit costs decline only when they are mass produced. Because
of limitations of how this technology works, one typically builds many small
parts, which are later on assembled on an assembly line using unskilled
labour or robots to build an entire system.
- Traditional manufacturing leads to high inventory costs of
multiple parts that need to be produced and stored before being assembled.
- This makes the design phase complex and costly, rendering it
expensive to redesign to correct initial mistakes or innovate to meet
changing consumer needs.
- In additive manufacturing, the physical object to be built is
first designed in software.
- This design is fed to computerised machines, which build that
object layer by layer.
- The technology is suitable for building the entire system in one
go, with hollow interiors without assembly or interlocked parts.
- Changing features or tweaking shapes is a simple software change
effected in minutes. Retooling of machines is not required and each unit can
- By eliminating the need to hold a large inventory of parts, set up
an assembly line and purchase costly machines, adaptive manufacturing
reduces capital and space requirements as well as the carbon footprint.
No longer geeky
- Additive manufacturing started out as a technology for nerds and
geeks trying to build an arm of a robot or a body of a drone in their
- Rapid progress in technology over the last five years has taken
this type of machines from using one nozzle and simple resin materials to
multiple nozzles, diverse materials and materials with different hardness in
the same system.
- Today it is possible to build an entire shoe, including shoelaces,
in a university laboratory. Tomorrow, Adidas and Nike may well start
manufacturing them en masse.
- One recent survey of U.S. manufacturers shows that about 12% have
started using additive manufacturing for their products and expectations are
that this will result in about 25% of products in the next three-five years.
- This technology is used to build helmets, dental implants, medical
equipment, parts of jet engines and even entire bodies of cars.
- In some industries, the progress is astonishing. Nearly all
hearing aid manufacturers now use additive manufacturing.
- This technological nirvana carries dangerous implications for
- It decreases reliance on assembly workers and bypasses the global
supply chain that has allowed countries like China to become prosperous
through export of mass-produced items.
- This may well lead to the creation of software-based design
platforms in the West that distribute work orders to small manufacturing
facilities, whether located in developed or developing countries, but
ultimately transfer value creation towards software and design and away from
- This would imply that labour intensive manufacturing exports may
be less profitable.
Opportunities in India
- This manufacturing paradigm has several features that play to the
strengths of the Indian ecosystem. First, it eliminates large capital
- Machines are cheaper, inventories can be small and space
requirements are not large.
- Thus, jump-starting manufacturing does not face the massive hurdle
of large capital requirement and the traditional small and medium
enterprises can easily be adapted and retooled towards high technology
- The Indian software industry is well-established, and plans to
increase connectivity are well under way as part of ‘Digital India’.
- This would allow for the creation of manufacturing facilities in
small towns and foster industrial development outside of major cities.
- It is possible to build products that are better suited for use in
harsh environmental conditions.
- Products that required assembly of fewer parts also implies that
they may be better able to withstand dust and moisture prevalent in our
tropical environment and be more durable.
- In a country where use-and-throw is an anathema, maintaining old
products is far easier because parts can be manufactured as needed and
product life-cycles can be expanded.
- Finally, maintaining uniform product quality is far easier because
the entire system is built at the same time and assembly is not required.
- The “Make it the Indian Way” approach we advocate will need
public-private partnership and multi-pronged efforts.
- On the one hand, we need to accelerate research at our premier
engineering schools on manufacturing machines and methods and encourage
formation of product design centres so that the products built suit the
Indian environment and consumers.
- We also would need government support to provide incentives for
distributed manufacturing in smaller towns, and for the IT industry to work
on creating platforms and marketplaces that connect consumer demands,
product designers and manufacturers in a seamless way.
- It will allow us to develop a manufacturing ecosystem that will
not only allow India to compete with global manufacturing.
- It will also create products that are uniquely suited to Indian
- The Industrial revolution somehow bypassed India, but we have a
unique opportunity to catch the wave of the manufacturing revolution if we
can learn to surf.
Q.1) Which of the following is/are salient features of National Health
1. It advocates a proactive engagement with the private sector for critical
gap filling towards achieving national goals.
2. It proposes free diagnostics, free drugs and free emergency and essential
healthcare services in all public hospitals.
3. It proposes the establishment of a National Digital Health Authority (NDHA)
to regulate, develop and deploy digital health
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Q.1) Why the country must adapt to additive technologies?