3D printing is used in both rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing (AM). A team of surgeons from Medanta: The Medicity, Gurugram, last year successfully implanted a 3D-printed vertebra in a 32-year-old woman - helping her walk again after a bout of disabling spinal tuberculosis.
The 10-hour-long surgery was the first-of-its-kind for reconstruction with a 3D-printed titanium implant in India, and third in the world.
Not just healthcare, 3D printing has the potential to transform many industries in the years to come and sensing the mammoth opportunities, key players are now arriving in India with their 3D solutions and technologies.
In a bid to take industrial manufacturing in India to a new level, printing and PC major HP Inc this month brought its acclaimed Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D Printers to India.
"While verticals like automotive, defence and manufacturing in general will be the key focus for us, healthcare is a promising area for HP Inc in the long term in India," Sumeer Chandra, Managing Director, HP Inc India, told IANS.
Starting from Rs 2.4 crore, the HP printing solution includes pre- and post-processing unit, the 3D printer and initial consumables.
According to Alexandre Lalumiere, Director, Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) 3D Printing, 3D printing is the building block when it comes to transforming healthcare.
"Industry is yet to fully understand what this technology can achieve -- but beyond prototyping, the firms are now looking at building customised implants, prosthetics and fixtures that will transform regenerative medicine globally, including in India," Lalumiere told IANS.
Global spending in 3D healthcare printing has grown exponentially in the last couple of years.
Riding on growing R&D investments and improved healthcare infrastructure associated with the development of 3D printing products, the healthcare 3D printing market globally is forecast to hit $2.2 billion by 2024, says Global Market Insights Inc.
According to Samson Khaou, Managing Director, Dassault Systemes India Pvt Ltd, in today's complex and competitive global marketplace, Indian companies are striving to be a recognisable force that can offer the best "price-to-performance" offering.
"3D Printing takes companies a step ahead in this competitive journey. For example, an automobile component manufacturer was able to reduce materials requirements by approximately 35 per cent when virtual testing revealed routes to a better, stronger, light-weighted design," Khaou told IANS.
In another case, a waste treatment provider cut design cycles and development costs by 40 per cent while reducing the time to market by 50 per cent, he added.
Dassault Systemes is hearing a lot about 3D printing -- whether it is to print a prosthetic arm, or designing the favourite chocolate toppings, manufacturing a bridge on-site, or even printing an entire car.
"This technology is effectively used in manufacturing process in the aviation and automotive industry and can enhance production times as well as product performance in terms of strength, weight and environmental impact -- improvements that are impossible to obtain with traditional methods," the Dassault Systemes executive emphasised.
Imaginarium, an Indian 3D printing and prototyping company, is catering to a number of industries like healthcare, jewellery, and automotive and consumer products.
"We are working with medical specialists to bring personalised healthcare solutions. Using MRI scan, we can recreate internal organs like heart or kidney in 3D so that a doctor has a tangible organ to test on before the surgery," said Tanmay Shah, Head of innovations at Imaginarium.
The technology can be used to create implants and prosthetics and with growing consumer demand, there will soon be mass scale customisation in India when it comes to 3D printing.
"In India, there is a certain level of technology R&D happening in academic institutions as well as start-ups, who are working on building their own machines. But compared to the world, we are still some distance away from making industrial-grade 3D printing machines," Shah noted.
Meanwhile, Dassault Systemes is planning to roll out a "Marketplace" on Additive Manufacturing.
"The Marketplace will enable 3D printing of the product that can be delivered to a customer's location with the click of a button. The solution will be (useful) for all businesses: Small and mid-sized, entrepreneurs, and also large enterprises that want to improve their marketplace mechanisms to improve training in their departments," Khaou said.