India’s new manufacturing opportunity: Rural manufacturing

Manufacturing on demand: The coming industrial revolution

We have ever so often seen Godmen producing for their devotees, a wrist watch, a necklace or other memento to demonstrate their abilities do do miracles.
Well it seems, young children can do so without any divine intervention, by just using their gaming kits as in XBox and a new range of devices called rather unimaginatively 3D printers.
I have personally been a witness to computing moving from big hall size computers ( of which the IBM founder Watson said once upon a time that 8 would if vice for the old’s computing need) to mid-frme, to minis, to PCs, laptops, notebooks, netbooks. Tablets, iPadminis in the course of about half a century.
CAD/CAM and 3D printing are perhaps following a similar path of evolution. At one time it was the TIFR in Bombay which had the biggest computer and similarly IIT Kanpur had a CAD centre.
I just learnt that the COO of Makerbot has ready a 3D Printer for US$ 500. This is named Soliddoodle and the price is less than what I paid for an iPadmini acquired a couple of weeks ago.
The potential of this in transforming the economy of the country by empowering youth with 21st century skills, without being dependant on FDI in retail and being reduced to salespersons ( which in turn will be replaced by robots) is enormous. It is an often held view that without manufacturing there cannot be a strong economy, and an economy based only on outsourcing and services cannot be at the top.
Manufacturing for one with efficiencies because of reduction of operating, sourcing and distribution costs, would be bring about a ‘ phase transition’ in the Globl economy.
There will of course be the usual noises by the ‘ big manufacturing’ against this ‘ small custom manufacturing’ but maybe new models of large enterprise like ‘Amul’ or ‘ Lijjat Papad’ will crop up. Who knows the new Soliddoodle and its successors will turn out to be the new ‘charkha’ in every hand that Gandhiji espoused. And its conflict with Nehru’s industrialisation model would have been reconciled.
And finally all of us who are opposed to the FDI in retail, can have the last laugh and Walmart may go the Lehmann brothers way.
Just look around the traditional arts and crafts of India and see the beauty, richness and creativity present. Just look at the ingenuity, labelled as ‘ Jugaad’ and imagine the economic output that could be unleashed by these.
Maybe the recent US prediction that India will become the world’s largest economy overtaking China by 2030 will become true.
All we need to do is to empower our people to become self- learners and tinkerers; and avoid like the plague AICTE approved engineering and Management programs as they come bundled with guarantee of low quality and rapid obsolescence.

For learners:
Tinkering not engineering is the future. Look though some of these resources. If you want to be in the IT field, a BCA or MCA will not be of much help in the future. Even B.Tech and M.Tech will become irrelevant very soon.
You have seen how just a short while ago there was clamour for Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar, and now they are saying he should have retired. Similarly they say that Dhoni should not be captain.
Obsolescence in the Computing Industry is even faster and more brutal. So explore self-learning and peer supported learning.

For teachers:
It is very important for teachers to augment their traditional teaching-learning practices with new creative and exploratory experiences. Constructing learning is if course about developing mental models, but this is often enhanced by making physical objects by hand. When we were at School, this was with plasticine or playdough. And one times with real stuff like clay. The modern version is sugru ( which is the exciting new self-setting rubber that can be formed by hand. It moulds like play-dough, bonds to almost anything and turns into a strong, flexible silicone rubber overnight.

For parents:
Encourage your children to be creative, imaginative and thinkers. If they have an interest in making things encourage them to do so. Buy them a tablet, gift them a raspberry pi , hex bugs the micro-robotic creatures and encourage them to unleash their creativity.

For knowledge workers:
Now you can go full throttle and build on the world of bits or the wold of atoms.
This is the best time in history for creative knowledge workers and there are almost no limits to what n individual can accomplish, thanks to the disintermediation caused by Internet and allied technologies.

Book of the week: Chris Anderson : The Makers

Video of the week: this video was created at the beginning of the year, and there is rapid progress since then:

Website of the week:
Thingiverse – Digital Designs for Physical Objects
Thingiverse is a universe of things. Download our files and build them with your lasercutter, 3D printer, or CNC.
Thingiverse is a website dedicated to the sharing of user-created digital design files. Providing primarily open source hardware designs licensed under the GNU General Public License or Creative Commons licenses, users choose the type of user license they wish to attach to the designs they share. 3D printers, laser cutters, milling machines and many other technologies can be used to physically create the files shared by the users on Thingiverse.
Thingiverse is widely used in the DIY technology and Maker communities, by the RepRap Project, and by 3D Printer and MakerBot operators. Numerous technical projects use Thingiverse as a repository for shared innovation and dissemination of source materials to the public. Many of the objects are for the purpose of repair.[1]
Thingiverse is seen as a “go to” site for those interested in 3D printers.[2]

Resource of the week:
Instructables – Make, How To, and DIY
Instructables is the Biggest How To and DIY community where people make and share inspiring, entertaining, and useful projects, recipes, and hacks.
Once registered, members can create Instructables that are step-by-step descriptions of projects they want to share online. They are written in such a way that they easily allow other members to replicate, and share with the rest of the community. Members can also upload videos and slideshows, depicting a project that they haven’t documented.

App of the week:
Tinkercad – Mind to design in minutes
Tinkercad is an easy-to-use 3D CAD tool. … With Tinkercad you can quickly turn your idea into a CAD model for a 3D printer. Free trial, no credit card required …


“The creative person wants to be a know-it-all. He wants to know about all kinds of things- ancient history, nineteenth century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, hog futures. Because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later, or six months, or six years. But he has faith that it will happen.” — Carl Ally

“As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases. It is no longer enough to do the same thing better . . . no longer enough to be efficient and solve problems” — Edward de Bono

Story of the week: by Chris Anderson
{ Summarised from :}

Back in the early 1940s my grandfather had a great idea. Noting the obsession Californians have with perfectly green front lawns, he decided that what they needed was an automatic sprinkler system. He lavished time and love on it, inventing this and fine-tuning that, and eventually came up with what was essentially an electric clock that could be timed to turn water valves on or off at given times of the day and night. Patent number 2311108 was duly filed in 1943, at which point my grandfather started knocking on manufacturers’ doors. It was a long, arduous process. Finally, in 1950, after endless discussions, the Moody Rainmaster hit the stores. It earned my grandfather a modest income.

Recently, I decided to follow in his footsteps, but apply a little 21st-century know-how to the mix. Online I found a few like-minded souls interested in producing an improved water sprinkler. We used open-source software to help us create a sprinkler system not only capable of being operated remotely via an app by worried gardeners on holiday, but also sophisticated enough to factor in the latest local weather forecasts before deciding whether to switch the system on or off. We then sent our designs to an assembly house who duly came up with a smart-looking finished product. It has proved quite popular. It took my grandfather a decade and a small fortune to perfect his device and market it. It took us a few months and $5,000.

And that in a nutshell is the Maker movement – harnessing the internet and the latest manufacturing technologies to make things. The past 10 years have been about discovering new ways to work together and offer services on the web. The next 10 years will, I believe, be about applying those lessons to the real world. It means that the future doesn’t just belong to internet businesses founded on virtual principles. but to ones that are firmly rooted in the physical world.

This has massive implications not just for would-be entrepreneurs but for national economies. The fact is that any country, if it wants to remain strong, must have a manufacturing base. Even today, about a quarter of the US economy rests on the creation of physical goods. A service economy is all well and good, but eliminate manufacturing and you’re a nation of bankers, burger flippers and tour guides. As for software and information industries, they may get all the press, but they employ just a small percentage of the population.

It’s almost a cliche that anyone with a sufficiently good software idea can create a fabulously successful company on the web. That’s because there are practically no barriers preventing entry to entrepreneurship online: if you’ve got a laptop and a credit card, you’re in business. Manufacturing has traditionally been regarded as something else entirely. But over the past few years, something remarkable has begun to happen. The process of making physical stuff has started to look more like the process of making digital stuff.

Various innovations are helping to make this possible. The first, of course, is the crowdsourcing power of the internet – if you don’t know all the answers, there is someone out there who will. Put out a call for help on a blog or online forum, and somewhere there will be an expert prepared to help you. The second innovation is the increasing sophistication of design programs that can take raw ideas and transform them into executable files. Just as word-processing software has become ever simpler and more intuitive for the user, so Cad (computer-aided design) programs are becoming simultaneously more sophisticated and easier to handle. You design something; the Cad program works out how it can be produced.

And then there is the first generation of 3D printers. These take “geometries” on screen (3D objects that are created with the same sorts of tools that Hollywood uses to make computer generated movies and turn them into objects that you can pick up and use. Some 3D printers extrude molten plastic in layers to make these objects, while others use a laser to harden layers of liquid or powder resin so the product emerges from a bath of the raw material. Yet others can make objects out of any material from glass, steel and bronze to gold, titanium or even cake frosting. You can print a flute or you can print a meal. You can even print human organs of living cells, by squirting a fluid with suspended stem sells on to a support matrix.

What’s important here is not so much current reality as potential. 3D printers, laser cutters and “CNC” (computer numerical control) machines, which use a drill bit to shape a block of material, are already sophisticated devices – a few years ago they would have seemed distinctly sci-fi – but I suspect that they resemble the technology of 10 years hence in much the same way that the primitive single-colour dot matrix printers of the 1980s resemble the colour laser printers we having sitting in our homes today. Even now scientists are talking about creating manufacturing tools that use “structural DNA” to create physical objects. In other words, the technology still has a long journey to make. However, its liberating implications are already there, and I believe that when they are combined with other online innovations, a very powerful manufacturing force is created.

Moreover, you can, if you choose, make every item bespoke: number 150 does not have to be precisely the same in appearance as number 100. And you can manufacture at home, perhaps using your own 3D printer (in the US prices are already dropping to $1,000) or sending your files to a third party fitted out with the necessary kit.

Having said that, I don’t believe that Makers enterprises have to remain small-scale. Many, of course, will opt to do so, creating customised goods for a specialist market. Others, though, can utilise all that the Maker technology has to offer to get an enterprise off the ground, road test its products, respond to customer feedback, and then build a larger-scale company. What they’ll have going for them in addition – and it’s something that many larger companies lack – is agility and flexibility built into their DNA.

Imagine a new company, WindCo, making its first product: a small backyard wind turbine generator. They make the first prototype themselves, as well as a handful of others. Then, it’s time to go into serious production. WindCo is small, and they don’t have sufficient manufacturing capacity themselves, so they outsource to a factory in China that can handle small batches cheaply.

If the product is successful and demand builds, they may well opt to move production back home to cut out delays. If it’s astonishingly successful, then they may decide to move production to a different factory in China that specialises in bulk manufacturing. They have to be flexible because their business is constantly evolving. They are able to be flexible because their design files are digital, the tooling costs of setting up a new manufacturing operation are minimal, and they all use the same robotic machinery.

This adaptive business of the future will need to be accommodating in other ways, too. It needs to be in constant contact with its customers and be prepared to respond quickly to their feedback and criticism. It needs to be able to draw on skills wherever they are, not merely on people who happen to be close to home. The co-founder of a small robot aeroplane enterprise I run, for example, is not someone who answered an ad, but an enthusiast who came to my attention when he started posting inspired ideas for improvements on a online forum I was hosting.

That this can work is demonstrated by the success of a Colorado-based company, Sparkfun, which operates in one of the most ruthlessly cut-throat of all areas of business – electronics. Back in 2003 its founder, Nathan Seidle, was an undergraduate engineering student, who was finding it frustratingly difficult to locate electronic components that he needed for his projects. Today, Sparkfun designs and manufactures specialist printed circuit boards, using sophisticated pick-and-place robot machines to assemble them. Its website makes a major feature of its blog, with chatty tutorials and videos from employees, and forums that are full of customers helping one another.

Its employees are young, passionate and appear to totally love their jobs. Dogs and hobbies are indulged at work (though not on the production floor); tattoos and indie punk rock reflect its culture. It’s a far cry from the “dark satanic mill” vision of manufacturing – much closer in fact to the maverick image of software companies in their startup days.

And it works. Today Sparkfun has more than 120 employees and annual revenues of around $30 million. It’s growing by 50% a year. A basketball-court-sized ground floor is dominated by robotic electronic production lines, running day and night. Daily blog posts and tutorials have turned its retail website into a high-traffic community, with more than 50,000 visitors a day.

The Maker movement has a long way to go before it can really be said to have come of age. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored or regarded solely as a hobbyist’s or niche manufacturer’s paradise. It represents the first steps in a different way of doing business. Rather than top-down innovation by some of the biggest companies in the world, we’re starting to see bottom-up innovation by countless individuals, including amateurs, entrepreneurs and professionals. We’ve already seen it work before, in bits, from the original PC hobbyists to the web’s citizen army. Now the conditions have arrived for it to work again, at even greater, broader scale, in atoms. If the Second Industrial Revolution was the Information Age, then I would argue that a Third Industrial Age is on its way: the age of the Makers.

About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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