3D Designing & 3D Printing
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I had just joined as the CMD, Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation in September 2014, than I was asked to go to Jammu & Kashmir as election observer in November 2014. I had started a series of innovations including development of an e-Commerce site for Poompuhar. But the beauty of technology is such that nothing needs to remain pending if the leader is away. Everything can and will still continue if one can communicate with my team of officers, staff and developers over the Internet, using Facetime, Skype etc. The Hon’ble Minister Rural Industries and Labour Mr. P.Mohan, launched 17 innovations/initiatives on 16th December 2014.
One of the major things I did while at J&K was to write out two proposals for consideration under the State Innovation Fund of the State Planning Commission. I imagined that 3D designing and printing could be used in handicrafts for creation of trivia in large numbers. That imagination went into the creation of the proposal for a Design Research and Development Centre (DRDC) involving 3D designing and printing. Similarly, our artisans who create those exquisite hand crafted products are nameless, faceless human beings, who just manage to survive on their art. The real beneficiaries are the middlemen. That thought gave rise to a proposal for an e-repository of Artisans...
Both proposals were considered and deliberated in the meeting of the State Planning Commission headed by Mrs.Shantha Sheela Nair IAS (Retd) and Mr.S.Krishan IAS, the Principal Secretary to Government, Planning & Development. I am thankful to my Boss Mr.Harmander Singh IAS for encouraging me and getting the sanction of the Government of Tamil Nadu for the proposals and issuing Government Orders for establishing a DRDC at our Corporate Office and for creating an e-Repository of Artisans for Rs.1.68 Crores and Rs.1.00 Crore respectively! Both will be firsts in India!
3D Designing and Printing in Handicrafts
Lest the Connoisseurs of the art go up in arms against my idea of using 3D designing and 3D Printing, let me explain what I am proposing. You have to carefully listen to and understand what I am trying to communicate. During my visits to the Poompuhar production centers, I have understood the method of making bronzes. First the artisan creates a mold of the proposed bronze in wax. This will take anywhere between 10 hours to 100 days depending on the complexity of the bronze proposed. Then the perfect mold is put inside a box of mud and heated, the wax melts and is flushed out through a runner. This is called the lost wax process. Into the empty space now created, the bronze mix is now poured and heat allowed to dissipate. Then the box is broken and the rough bronze is taken out and after a lot of handwork using different tools and machines that exquisite bronze that you see at our showrooms emerges! The USP of bronzes is that no two similar pieces are exact replicas. If there are hundred pieces of the same design made, all hundred pieces will be unique, because hundred hand made wax molds are used. There are two things here to be noticed. One, for each item of bronze, there has to be separate mold. Second, the moment the wax melts, the IP is lost! The IP is only in the mind of the artisan. They simply are in no position to monetize their IP!
I am not suggesting for a moment that the lost wax process be abandoned. What I ma suggesting and we have proved is that we can either design on the computer the image of the bronze that we want, or scan an already made bronze on the 3D scanner, and print out a plastic mold of the same. This plastic mold then goes into making the number of wax molds that we want depending on the order, and the same lost wax process is done. So instead of wasting thousands of Artisan hours, we just create wax mold replicas in matter of minutes and then come out with the bronze in the same old way!
This way we can mass produce Tamil Nadu’s iconic structures which can be sold as trivia, just like they well the models of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Statue of Liberty in New York that cost anywhere between 2 dollars to 200 dollars? Why shouldn’t we carry Tamil Culture to the rest of the world while we travel abroad? Why shouldn’t our Artisans benefit from this use of the latest technology? It is for precisely this reason that I am introducing 3D designing and printing technology. I am sure an Artisan who is adept at his art can also be trained to migrate to designing his product on a computer using 3D design software that is available in the market. He should be able to save his work on the computer and apply for patent for his design, and he should be able to monetize his creativity. We keep seeing multiple copies of the newly laid design in the market within days of the original coming out!
We are coming up with a showroom inside the international terminal T4 of the Chennai Airport. We plan to put up takeaway gift boxes inside which will be at least 10 pieces of Tamil culture, weighing about a kilogram, made through 3D molds. Lets see whether this will create a market for our Artisans.