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From Researching Technology To Building 3D Printers: Global 3D Labs Journey To Disrupt $79 Mn Indian 3D Printing Market

From Researching Technology To Building 3D Printers: Global 3D Labs Journey To Disrupt $79 Mn Indian 3D Printing Market

Building A Hardware Startup Is Not About Building A Business, But Creating An Impact, Says Gopal Krishna, Global 3D labs Cofounder

3D printing market in Asia Pacific is poised to reach $4.3 Bn by 2021, as per 6WResearch. Globally, this technology has been projected to create a market worth $30.19 Bn by 2022, including the manufacturing and sale of 3D printers. Amidst all these sizeable figures, lies a comparatively minuscule forecast for India – $79 Mn by 2021. The four founders of Global 3D labs, a Bengaluru-based startup, are chasing to be innovators in this less explored market in India. At the same time, they also envision to make India stand amongst global names in the hardware startup community.

“It’s in line with this vision that the name of the company and our product has been coined. We wanted to go global, hence the name Global 3D Labs. And we wanted to prove that India can also make great hardware products, thus the name Pramaan (meaning proof) for our product range,” begins Gopal Krishna, co-founder of Global 3D labs.

Global 3D Labs was ideated in 2013 during the college days of the founders – Gopal, Aviral Kedia, Manish Amin and  M. Shreyas Kudva. The company was officially registered for commercial operations in September 2014 and is basically into the manufacturing, servicing and sale of 3D printers.

Global 3D Labs was also part of Innofest (now, InnoNation) 2015 held in Bengaluru which helped the startup in its initial stages and have played an instrumental role in building connects with ecosystem stakeholders. Gopal says,  “Innofest helped us in getting good media coverage and connect to right kind of stakeholders in the ecosystem. I believe, for any hardware startup it is must to attend this event and be a part of Innofest.”

During the initial phase, the startup manufactured industry-specific 3D printers such as Chocobot for bakery and a biomedical device printer for researchers in Vellore Institute Of Technology. It is currently providing a series of desktop as well as industrial 3D printers. The most popular is the desktop printer series, Pramaan. The team is working with the ultimate aim of producing high-quality and time-effective 3D printers. Recently, Global 3D Labs also made headlines for creating Asia’s largest 3D printer, the Pramaan One.

This intrigued us to delve deeper into the journey of Global 3D Labs founders, the challenges they faced and the way ahead for the young company.

Global 3D Labs: The Plunge Into The World of 3D Printing Technology

In 2012, Gopal and Aviral were pursuing their graduation from Manipal Institute of Technology. As part of their college project, they were required to build biomedical devices related to the dental healthcare space. “We were required to build the prototypes for cases and fixtures of the machine,” says Gopal.

The CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine manufacturers they connected with, were ineffective and expensive, both from a cost and time perspective. Ultimately, they ordered a 3D printer from China, but it also did not work out.

So, when in 2013, they decided to build their first company- Expiscor Technologies – a biomedical research startup, they simultaneously decided to build their own 3D printer.

During their two-year journey with Expiscor, (shut down in January 2015), they connected with Manish Amin and M. Shreyas, MITE Bengaluru graduates and part of a software development company.

Their common interests aligned them together. Later, they pursued on the path to build the foundation for Global 3D Labs and to become the frontrunners in Indian 3D printing market. “We first built the 3D printer for ourselves but later, when we received a positive response, we thought to commercialise it.”

Initially, they did face challenges as their manufacturing expertise was limited. They also struggled hard to understand the supply chain and connect with the right kind of vendors. But today, the company boasts of one of the best clienteles in the industry. This includes names like Bremer India, AppMob, Elechem Technik Pvt Ltd., Sylar, Indian Railway, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Indian Air Force and more.

Products On The Shelf: 3D Printers Stack From Global 3D Labs

In broad terms, Global 3D Labs provides two kinds of 3D printers or, as they call them, The Pramaan Series: Desktop and Industrial.

Desktop printers, come in two variants, Pramaan 200 and Pramaan 300. The numbers in the name signify their build volume. For instance, Pramaan 200 can manufacture products with a build volume of 200x200x200. These printers are ideal for hobbyists, makers and beginners in 3D printing, as well as research institutes and industries requiring products with small dimensions.

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The Pramaan 500 and the recently launched Pramaan One are of industrial grade capacity. These printers are beneficial for industries such as automobile, education, architecture, IoT, medical and many more. Pramaan One is more hyped, as it can build products of volume 1m*1m*1m. This means one does not need to assemble the parts of the products printed separately.

For instance, with this 3D Printer, one can 3D print products like whole furniture, functional robots, huge automotive and aerospace printers, etc., in one print. This was not possible before. “Worldwide only two-three companies make such huge-sized printers. But when you compare Pramaan One with our European competitors, the cost is one-fourth what they would charge,” says Gopal.

Desktop 3D printers are now typically sold for a price range of $1,000 to $3,000. On the other hand, the industrial 3D printers come with a price tag of $5,000 to $10,000. At present, desktop units are sold 80% higher than the industrial ones.

Global 3D Labs also sell 3D printing filaments and accessories and organise workshops for corporates, college faculties and more to make them aware of the 3D printing technology.

As Gopal states, “The purpose of these workshops is to make people aware of the power of 3D printing technology. So, ultimately you can manufacture it yourself. You will not be dependent on larger corporations to manufacture your kind of personalised and customised products. You will manufacture what you want and will not be dependent on what is available outside. This is why everyone should know about 3D printing and we are doing our value add.”

Global 3D Labs: Pumping Money For Survival And The Road Ahead

Initially, they supported their venture from their previous savings. As Gopal reveals, he was earlier running a few student-run businesses in college, including a restaurant for college students as well as a college magazine.

“The college magazine Chillmaari was quite popular and we were able to get associated with almost 200 advertisers. So, we ended up being profitable and so had money from there.” Also, they were able to receive a grant of INR 1 Lakh from their college.

With initial low profits from the sale of 3D printers, in order to gain a strong foothold in the industry, the founders also counted on their one USP,  in-house service. Be it the manufacturer, or their clients, they can reach out to Global 3D labs for any kind of issues with their 3D printers.

As Gopal adds,

“If we have a look at the market opportunity, then there are 15 Mn manufacturers in India alone. Even if we tap 1% of this market, we have got 150K manufacturers who can buy our printers in the next two years. Multiplying this 150K with an average $2,000 sale, I believe the monetisation scope is immense. We are also fulfilling service requests, so overall we are keeping the ecosystem with us.”

Those who do not wish to buy a printer, can also send their 3D design to the company and get it printed. This service is typically charged INR 40 per gram. “Over 2,000 such orders have been fulfilled to date. By end of the year, we aim to reach 10,000.”

The founders, to date, have raised funds only from friends and family and have been growing on the core business values of revenue and profitability. Giving a glimpse of the revenues earned so far, Gopal states, “In terms of revenue, whatever we achieved in the last one year, we have already achieved this quarter. So, we are almost growing 4x right now.”

On the competition front, Global 3D labs do not consider any competition from India, at the moment. As they have plans to go global by the end of this year, they only consider Ultimaker, a Netherlands-based 3D printer manufacturer as the one to contend with.

When asked about the kind of challenges he expects in the global markets, Gopal says, “In India our biggest USP is service, and this will not be there in global markets. So, that will be the challenge for us when we will scale globally. Also, India directly competes with the European as well as Chinese manufacturers. There is price competition from China, and there is quality competition from Europe. So we have to move head with a right product that fits both this metrics.”

The Hardware Revolution In Indian 3D Printing Industry: Where Are We Heading To?

In the global arena, we have heard names like MakerBot, Stratasys, Fabbster, Leapfrog, Flashforge and Optomec in the 3D printing space. However, India is relatively new to the technology as compared to its global counterparts such as China, and North America.

10 years ago, 3D printing was considered alien technology, but not anymore. In this hyper digitisation era, India is in the position to forge ahead with its own startup brigade. There are startups already making their names both in India as well as globally. The list includes Altem Technologies, Imaginarium, Brahma3, JGroup Robotics, REALiz3D, Fracktal Works, df3d, Supercraft3D, 3Dexter, Maher Soft’s flagship product Indie and more.

With PM Modi’s further efforts and Make In India initiative, Indian hardware startups are now in a position to leverage this demand. According to 6Wresearch, demand in India is primarily driven by “Tier-I cities,” and those areas account for the major potential growth for domestic manufacturers, local assemblers and distributors.

However, gaps still lie in the system and, as believed by Gopal, there is not much change in the ecosystem for hardware startups.

“Look at how many successful hardware startups have come up. Building a hardware startup is about creating an impact. And this happens steadily. Even if we get a  $100 Mn fund today, we cannot scale up suddenly. Being in the hardware business means growing with experience. 3D printing is not just about the technology, and one needs to understand different business aspects too such as pricing, vendors, supply chain and more to become successful and this comes with experience. Even today, hardware startups have to prove their worth to gain attention from the community. Just boasting of a business plan doesn’t work here.”

3D printing technology is revolutionising many industries globally such as aerospace, architecture, automobile, manufacturing, healthcare, dental, product design and research, education and even gifting. But India still has to go a long way to anchor its position in this arena. Essentially, the attention this technology has gained in India does not match with the adoption rate.

At a time when we are struggling to provide normal printers in many parts of the country, the world is preparing for mass penetration of desktop 3D printers. While globally, 3D printing is observed as a technology to develop working models, it is only recently that India considered it for use as an alternative technique for customised small batch productions and manufacturing tools. While hardware startups like Global 3D Labs are already on the verge of leapfrogging to a global status, how the 3D printing industry will evolve in the coming generations remains to be seen.

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