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3D Printing and Advanced Manufacturing On the Rise in India

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strata_logoJust a few weeks ago, we heard about a partnership between the UAE’s Etihad Airways, Siemens AG, and Strata Manufacturing PJSC, to develop the first 3D printed aircraft parts in Asia, the Middle East, and the UAE as a whole. Now it’s been revealed that Strata, a UAE-based advanced composite aerostructures manufacturing company, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate with India-based Reliance Defence Limited (RDL), which is part of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, on advanced capabilities for aerospace manufacturing. This agreement will not only investigate opportunities in 3D printing aerospace components and producing carbon fiber composite aerostructures, but also continue to further deepen the political and economic bilateral ties between India and the UAE.

“As an established player in the advanced manufacturing of aerostructures, we are keen to grow our capabilities globally with Reliance and expand our operational footprint by capitalizing on innovative, cost-effective solutions that can benefit our customers whilst enhancing our financial performance,” said Badr Al Olama, CEO of Strata. “The collaboration between the UAE and India has been instrumental in promoting knowledge transfer and strengthening ties between businesses to jointly invest in developing world class products. Working together with Reliance, we see a significant opportunity that can lead to the creation of a new tier-one global supplier: designing, developing and manufacturing major aircraft components – such as wings and empennages – for the next generation of aircrafts.”

make-in-indiaBoth companies, under the MoU, will consider new commercial aerospace opportunities, address the emerging 3D printing aircraft components market and obsolescence management, and think about other important areas of growth that are related to the Make in India initiative and the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. Make in India, not to be confused with the Start-Up India Initiative that Dassault Systèmes helped out with, was launched in 2014 by the country’s Prime Minister, as a way to transform India into a global manufacturing and design hub. The ultimate goal is raise the manufacturing sector’s contribution up to 25% of India’s total GDP by 2020. The Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 is a long-term economic progress roadmap to diversify the economy of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi away from oil and gas.

reliance-logo“India’s composites industry is at a nascent stage and projected to reach Four Lakh metric tons by 2020,” said Rajesh K Dhingra, President of Reliance Defence & Aerospace. “The project has the potential to bring in significant foreign direct investment and cutting edge technology in this niche composite aircraft manufacturing segment. 3D printing enables us to produce assembly and machining fixtures in one-quarter the time and at one-half the cost as conventional machining.”

Industrialist Anil Ambani (second from right) [Image: Forbes India]

Industrialist and Reliance Group owner Anil Ambani (second from right) [Image: Forbes India]

This partnership lines up with Strata’s vision to become one of the top global aerospace companies. I’d say the company is well on its way to achieving this goal: it already has existing partnerships with Boeing and Airbus, the two largest aircraft manufacturers in the world. Both manufacturers also already utilize 3D printing: Boeing used 3D printed parts for its Starliner Space Taxis, and Airbus unveiled Thor, its fully 3D printed unmanned aircraft vehicle.

“Material science and 3D printing technology are set to become industrial game changers with applications going beyond aerospace into the space and other manufacturing segments,” said Al Olama. “It introduces innovation, it redefines processes and, more importantly enhances competitiveness.”

Rafale jet [Image: The Economic Times]

Rafale fighter jet [Image: The Economic Times]

The Airbus Group also teamed up with Dassault Systèmes to enhance its 3D design capabilities with Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Speaking of this France-based company, another Dassault Group subsidiary, Dassault Aviation, recently signed a joint venture (JV) with RDL, which gives Dassault Aviation “an opportunity to have a footprint in India.” The JV, which is to offset obligations for Dassault’s Rafale twin-jet fighter aircraft, will also help India and France further their relationship. Reliance Aerostructure Ltd (RAL) will have 51% shareholding in the JV company, with a proposed name of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), while Dassault Aviation will have 49%.

Continuing with the relationship development between the two countries, France is also discussing with India, as part of the offset obligations of the Rafale, to help with its next generation Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft (AMCA). Dassault CEO Eric Trappier said that a larger order of almost 200 Rafale jets would be “ideal to transfer high end technology and manufacturing capabilities to India at a ‘competitive level'” and continued that the company was ready to help India with its fighter jet programs.

“We have already discussed with Indian agencies and have proposed that our capabilities be integrated,” said Trappier. “We have started the discussions as part of the offset framework.”

Reliance Defence fabrication facility [Image: Business Standard]

Reliance Defence fabrication facility [Image: Business Standard]

Trappier said that the versatile Rafale, which can operate from both a shore base and an aircraft carrier, is the only jet with dedicated air force and naval versions, and believes that the current order of 36 jets is not enough to be able to fully transfer high-end manufacturing or technology to India to continue growing its Make in India initiative. Dassault decided to sign the JV with RDL because HAL, its previous partner company in India, was busy with other projects.

“We were told that HAL was fully booked,” said Trappier. “We talked to Reliance and they were very keen to create such capabilities in India. They have a track record and the financial capability as well.”

RDL has one of the largest dry docks in the world, and is the first private sector company in India to get a license and contract to build Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) for the Indian Navy. Last month, the US Navy qualified the Reliance Shipyard, which is over 2.1 million square feet, as an approved repair contractor for its Seventh Fleet vessels operating in the region, so it’s no surprise that RDL has signed a Master Ship Repair Agreement (MSRA) with the US Navy. This is the first Indian shipyard to receive MSRA certification.

So, what does all of this mean? According to the general manager of Stratasys India, the country has been a little slower than most to adopt 3D printing technologies. So all of these partnerships and initiatives and contracts just go to show that we shouldn’t count India out just yet – the country is continuing to strive for further innovation in 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Discuss in the Strata RDL forum at 3DPB.com.

[Sources: Forbes India, CNBC’s Money Control, Economic Times, Business Standard, Reliance Group]


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