MAKE IT THE INDIAN WAY: ADDITIVE TECHNOLOGIES
GS 3, MAINS: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth,
development and employment, Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy
and their effects on industrial growth.
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 technologies — we have to find a way of
making it work in India’s favour rather than against it.
Industrial 3D printing has begun to transform manufacturing in Western countries. The 3D
printing has not yet entered our everyday lexicon.
TRADITIONAL MANUFACTURING VS ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING:
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 be
customised. 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.
THE WORLDWIDE EXPERIENCE ON ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING:
Although it began as a quick and cheap way of developing prototypes, additive
manufacturing has now gone mainstream in developed countries and is beginning to replace
traditional manufacturing for many different applications.
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
This technology also carries dangerous implications for developing nations. 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 physical manufacturing. This would imply that labour intensive
manufacturing exports may be less profitable.
OPPORTUNITIES IN INDIA
It eliminates large capital outlays. 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 manufacturing.
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
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.
Maintaining uniform product quality is far easier because the entire system is built at the
same time and assembly is not required.
HOW INDIA SHOULD PROCEED?
For countries that have already invested in heavy manufacturing, this shift to adaptive
manufacturing will be difficult and expensive. For new entrants, it is easier to leapfrog. The
“Make it the Indian Way” approach we advocate will need public-private partnership and
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
A combination of science and art, with a pinch of Indian entrepreneurship thrown in, 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
conditions. 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.
PREVIOUS YEARS UPSC MAINS QUESTIONS:
- It is argued that the strategy of inclusive growth is intended to meet the objectives of inclusiveness and sustainability together. Comment on this statement. (2019)
- Account for the failure of the manufacturing sector in achieving the goal of labour-intensive exports rather than capital-intensive exports. Suggest measures for more labour-intensive rather than capital-intensive exports. (2017)
- Examine the developments of Airports in India through Joint Ventures under the Public-Private Partnership(PPP) model. What are the challenges faced by the authorities in this regard? (2017)
- “Industrial growth rate has lagged behind in the overall growth of Gross-Domestic-Product(GDP) in the post-reform period” Give reasons. How far the recent changes is Industrial Policy are capable of increasing the industrial growth rate? (2017)
- What are the impediments in marketing and supply chain management in the industry in India? Can e-commerce help in overcoming these bottlenecks? (2015)