First 3D Printed Houses Completed by Indian Army

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The Military Engineering Services (MES), one of the oldest and most significant departments within India’s Ministry of Defence, recently announced that it finished construction on two 3D printed houses, built under the auspices of the Indian Air Force’s South Western Air Command (SWAC). The houses, located in Gandhinagar (on India’s western coast), were built in collaboration with Tvasta Manufacturing Solutions, a 3D printing construction startup headquartered in the southeastern coastal city of Chennai. Each structure is about 700 square feet and took about a month to finish, which seems to be more or less the industry standard at this point in time.

In the same press release announcing the completion of the houses, the MES stated that, previously, it had also successfully finished work on India’s first 3D printed sanitary blocks (standalone restrooms) in Jaisalmer, about 300 miles northwest of Gandhinagar. The military can be expected to put both projects to real-world use as soon as possible.

The Indian military serves in some of the planet’s most hostile terrain, such as Eastern Ladakh. There, winter temperatures drop as low as -40 degrees Celsius. Yet, India and China have been in a standoff with one another for over two years. Indian forces in Ladakh spent much of the fall of 2020 building living accommodations that, at the time at least, were meant to be temporary. Therefore, the ability to construct military accommodations quickly could be beneficial.

Regarding the houses in particular, the press statement noted, “These structures also stand testament for the solidarity of the Indian Armed Forces in fostering home-grown technologies that are focused on indigenization of Defense technologies, as a part of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.”

Translated to “Self-Reliant India”, ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is an initiative first rolled out by the nation’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration in 2014. A policy program I covered earlier this month, the Make in India initiative is the latest exponent of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Make in India calls for “50 India-specific technologies” related to 3D printing, 100 new startups, and 500 3D printing technologies in the next few years. In this vein, the air force’s project seems to be the first big example of Make in India, and can thus be viewed as a tone-setter for the entire campaign.

The startup that collaborated with the military on the project, Tvasta, was started in an incubator at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras. It made headlines twice last year, both times in connection with the American nonprofit Habitat for Humanity. In April 2021, the startup was covered for building India’s first 3D printed house, in partnership with Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter. In October, 2021, it was announced that Tvasta received almost half a million dollars in funding from Habitat’s Shelter Venture Fund.

Given the increasingly tight connection between the U.S. and Indian militaries in recent years, something I’ve mentioned in a few posts, it’s interesting to see an Indian company with funding from an American nonprofit working directly with the Indian military on such a symbolically important project. It also highlights the inevitable hypocrisy of calling an industrialization 4.0 strategy “Make in India”. Finally, considering how quickly this project was unveiled after the initial announcement of Make in India, we can expect more, and bigger, 3D printing projects coming out of India in coming months.

Images courtesy of Livemint.com

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