Monday, July 19, 2021

3D Printing: The direction to go for the Indian Defense and Aerospace Industries

This article is by

Share this article

Article Contributor(s)

Pujitha Suribhatla

Article Title

3D Printing: The direction to go for the Indian Defense and Aerospace Industries


Global Views 360

Publication Date

July 19, 2021


Representative Image Indian Defense Industry

Representative Image Indian Defense Industry | Source: Schildpaddie via Unsplash

3D printing is the next big game-changer on the technological front, almost a revolution if you will. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of creating three-dimensional objects by layering two-dimensional cross sections on top of one another. The two-dimensional cross sections are computer-designed and rendered, which makes it all the more advanced. From Aerospace to Defense and Medical to Automotive, products manufactured via 3D printing are spreading their reach in the markets quite swiftly. This article will take a look at how 3D printing is beneficial and how the technology can transform the Indian and Defense and Aerospace sectors once utilized to its full potential.

Additive manufacturing has the power to unlock a wide range of opportunities. It uses a 3D printer to create a layer-by-layer “addition” of material which is digitally constructed. Different types of materials which are currently being used for the same are metals, ceramics, special plastics, synthetic resins, and etc. 3D printing not only reduces the cost of production of various components but also gives the power to manufacture locally with design flexibility. The technology significantly speeds the process of designing; this is mainly because there is no requirement of tools. Traditional manufacturing usually takes months to either acquire necessary tools and further produce parts and components or import components from various places. However, once 3D printers are acquired, which they might be costly in themselves, they would ensure a smoother production process. Hence, due to the combination of localized manufacturing and no tools, tailor-made designs can be produced to match the necessities of various industries.
Figure 2: A typical 3D printer. Source: Bre Pettis via Flickr

India is gradually growing with respect to its utilization of 3D printing technology. In 2014, the 3D printers market was at an early stage with just 200-500 combined workforce of engineers, designers and sales representatives. Currently, start-ups are springing up in places like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, etc and they are producing essential parts for sectors like the Indian Navy, Air Force, ISRO and the HAL.  India’s 3D printing market is projected to reach $79 million by the end of 2021, while the global market is at around $15.8 billion, which suggests that India has a lot of catching up to do.

Applications in the Aerospace and Defense Industry

The Aerospace and Defense Industries are keen to pursue additive manufacturing, mainly because of benefits such as weight reduction, cost cutting and to meet their highly specific requirements. The additive process uses less material to manufacture components and also ensures minimal waste of material. Overall reduced weightage means that less fuel would be used in aircrafts and hence result in better environmental compatibility. Let’s examine a few instances in India where 3D printing startups have assisted and provided the defense and aerospace sectors with unique solutions.

Recently, in 2020, the Centre-run defense company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Wipro 3D, the metal additive manufacturing branch of Wipro Infrastructure Engineering. The initiative would primarily focus on the design, development, testing, manufacturing, and repairing of aerospace components using metal additive technology. HAL is using 3D printing to manufacture engine components, although it also provides support to helicopter and rotary wing products. HAL also provides products to the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard. Speaking about this collaboration, Shekhar Shrivastava, CEO of the Bangalore division of HAL, said, “This initiative between HAL and Wipro 3D will create a unique synergy of capabilities that can accelerate the adoption of metal additive manufacturing in aerospace in India. Qualification of parts for aerospace is challenging as it would require prove out and extensive testing followed by certification by regulatory authorities which may also include flight testing."

Down south, Karnataka, which produces more than 65 percent of India’s aerospace-related components and exports, has taken a number of initiatives to promote additive manufacturing by setting up 3D printing clusters and sponsoring 3D printing startups. For example, through its flagship programme ‘Start Up Karnataka’, the State has given grants to ‘Deltasys E-Forming’, a Belgaum based start-up, to develop hybrid composite 3D printers. These initiatives are quite appropriate since two-thirds of India’s aircraft and helicopter manufacturing for the defense takes place in Karnataka, and 3D printing would revolutionize these processes quite rapidly.

On the other coast, Chennai-based 3D printing startup, Fabheads Automation, was established in 2015 by an ISRO engineer turned entrepreneur Dhinesh Kanagaraj. The deep tech startup designs and develops high-end carbon fibre helicopter blades for the Indian Air Force. Traditionally, carbon fibre parts are fabricated by laborious manual processes with a lot of fabrication time and money spent. Dhinesh also observed a lot of material wastage when he worked on carbon fibres at ISRO.  Based on this, Fabheads has designed an automated 3D printer series to eliminate material waste and also improve efficiency of production of carbon fibre. Sectors like the DRDO are currently approaching the company given these innovative methods of production.

3D Printing Saves the Day for the Indian Navy

Further, the Indian Navy has partnered with ‘think3D’, a Hyderabad-based 3D printing start-up, to produce spare components via additive manufacturing for both on and off-shore set-ups. The Indian Navy uses a lot of machinery on its ships which are imported from other countries and are quite old.  Whenever a component gets damaged, it is hard to replace it either because there is no availability of the part or because there is significant delay before a part is received. This often proved to be costly for the Navy since the machines would have to be kept idle before a spare part was replaced along with the fact that procurement of the parts was no less expensive.

This is where think3D had stepped in and supplied 3D printed parts to the Indian Navy, which were successfully tested and incorporated into its machinery. An example of such a 3D printed part, which proved to be of crucial help, is that of a centrifugal pump impeller- a key component for a ship’s operation.
Figure 3: An original impeller (left) vs. a 3D printed impeller (right). Image source: think3D

The impeller is a rotating component and it is very important for a ship as it transfers energy from the motor to a fluid that needs to be pumped by accelerating the fluid outwards from the centre of rotation.  On ships, this component is used to import seawater into various parts of the ship for regular use of the crew. These impellers are required to rotate at high speeds for long durations and need to be very carefully designed. 3D printing was the best solution to replace these parts, given the speed of production and lower expenses.

Given all the benefits of 3D printing, it is high time for the Indian market to expand its 3D printing industry and utilize it to its full potential. There are many other instances like the one of the impeller in the Aerospace and Defense industries which can easily be solved using 3D printing.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

July 19, 2021 11:59 AM

Detecting The Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays With Smartphones

Smartphones have become the most commonplace objects in our daily lives. The unimaginable power that we hold in our hands is unrealized by most of us and, more importantly, untapped. Its creativity often gets misused but one can only hope that it’s fascinating abilities would be utilized. For example, did you know that the millions of phones around the globe can be connected to form a particle detector? The following article covers the CRAYFIS (Cosmic RAYs Found in Smartphones) phone-based application developed by the physicists from the University of California—Daniel Whiteson, Michael Mulhearn, and their team. CRAYFIS aims to take advantage of the large network of smartphones around the world and detect the cosmic or gamma rays bursts which enter the Earth’s atmosphere almost constantly.

What Are Cosmic Rays?

Cosmic rays are high velocity subatomic particles bombarding the Earth’s upper atmosphere continuously. Cosmic ray bursts have the highest energy compared to all forms of electro-magnetic radiation. When we say ultra-high energy particles (energy more than 10<sup>18</sup> eV), we mean two million times more energetic than the ones that can be produced by the particle colliders on Earth.  These rays are thought to be more powerful than typical supernovae and can release trillions of times more energy than the Sun. They are also highly unpredictable as they can enter Earth’s atmosphere from any direction and the bursts can last for any period of time ranging from a few thousand seconds to several minutes.

Despite many theoretical hypotheses, the sources of these ultra-high energy cosmic rays are still a mystery to us even after many decades of their discovery. These rays were initially discovered in the 1960’s by the U.S. military when they were doing background checks for gamma rays after nuclear weapon testing. Cosmologists suggest that these bursts could be the result of super massive stars collapsing - leading to hypernova; or can be retraced to collisions of black holes with other black holes or neutron stars.

How Do We Detect Them?

When the high-energy particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, the air and the gas molecules cause them to break apart and create massive showers of relatively low-energy particles. Aurora borealis i.e., the Northern and the Southern lights are the lights that are emitted when these cosmic rays interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. Currently, these particles are hitting the Earth at a rate of about one per square meter per second. The showers get scattered to a radius of one or two kilometers consisting mostly of high-energy photons, electrons, positrons and muons. But the fact that these particles can hit the Earth anytime and anywhere is where the problem arises. Since the Earth has a massive area, it is not possible to place a detector everywhere and catch them at the exact moment.

Energetic charged particles known as cosmic rays hit our atmosphere, where they collide with air molecules to produce a shower of secondary particle | Source: CERN

Detecting such a shower requires a very big telescope, which logically means a network of individual particle detectors distributed over a mile or two-wide radius and connected to each other. The Pierre Auger Observatory in South America is the only such arrangement where 1,600 particle detectors have been scattered on 3,000 square kilometers of land. But the construction cost of the same was about $100 million. Yet, only a few cosmic ray particles could be detected using this arrangement. How do we spread this network around the Earth?

In addition to being cost-effective, such a setup must also be feasible. The Earth’s surface cannot possibly be dotted with particle detectors which cost huge fortunes. This is where smartphones come into the picture.

Detecting The Particles Using Smartphones

Smartphones are the most appropriate devices required to solve the problem. They have planet wide coverage, are affordable by most people and are being actively used by more than 1.5 billion users around the planet. Individually, these devices are low and inefficient; but a considerably dense network of such devices can give us a chance to detect cosmic ray showers belonging to the highest energy range.

Previous research has shown that smartphones have the capability of detecting ionizing radiation. The camera is the most sensitive part of the smartphone and is just the device required to meet our expectations. A CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) device is present in the camera- in which silicon photodiode pixels produce electron-hole pairs when struck by visible photons (when photons are detected by the CMOS device, it leaves traces of weakly activated pixels). The incoming rays are also laced with other noises and interference from the surroundings.  Although these devices are made to detect visible light, they still have the capability of detecting higher-energy photons and also low-ionizing particles such as the muons.

A screenshot from the app which shows the exposure time, the events- the number of particles recorded and other properties

To avoid normal light, the CRAYFIS application is to be run during nighttime with the camera facing down. As the phone processor runs the application it collects data from its surroundings using a camera as its detector element. The megapixel images (i.e., the incoming particles) are scanned at a speed of 5 to 15 frames per second, depending on the frame-processing speed of the device. Scientists expect that signals from the cosmic rays would occur rarely, i.e., around one in 500 frames. Also, there is the job of removing background data. An algorithm was created to tune the incoming particle shower by setting a threshold frequency at around 0.1 frames per second. Frames containing pixels above the threshold are stored and passed to the second stage which examines the stored frames, saving only the pixels above a second, lower threshold.

The CRAYFIS app is designed to run when the phone is not being used and when it is connected to a power source. The actual performance would be widely affected by the geometry of the smartphone’s camera and the conditions in which the data is being collected. Further, once the application is installed and is in the operating mode, no participation is required from the user, which is required to achieve wide-scale participation. When a Wifi connection is available the collected data would be uploaded to the central server so that it could be interpreted.

There is much complicated math used to trace back the information collected from the application. The most important parameters for the app are the local density of incoming particles, the detection area of the phone and the particle identification efficiency. These parameters are used to find the mean number of candidates (photons or muons) being detected. Further, the probability that a phone will detect no candidates or the probability that a phone will detect one or more candidates is given by Poisson distribution. The density of the shower is directly proportional to the incident particle energy with a distribution in x and y sensitive to the direction in which the particle came from. An Unbinned Likelihood (it is the probability of obtaining a certain data- in this case the distribution of the cosmic rays including their energy and direction, the obtained data is arranged into bins which are very, very small) analysis is used to determine the incident particle energy and direction. To eliminate background interference, a benchmark requirement has been set that at least 5 phones must detect and register a hit to be considered as a candidate.

It is impossible to express just how mind-blowing this innovation is. As the days pass, Science and Technology around us keep on surprising us and challenge us to rack our brains for more and more unique ways to deal with complex problems. The CRAYFIS app is simply beautiful and it would be a dream-come-true to the scientists if the project works out and we are able to detect these high energy, super intimidating cosmic rays with smartphones from our backyard.

Further Reading

The paper by Daniel Whiteson and team can be found here.

An exciting book “We Have No Idea” by Daniel Whiteson and cartoonist Jorge Cham can be found here.

The CRAYFIS app can be found here.

Read More