The field of 3D manufacturing in India is gearing up to have a golden period in the times ahead. UAE-based advanced composite aerostructures manufacturing company Strata has recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India's Reliance Defence Limited (RDL) to work together on advanced capabilities for aerospace manufacturing.

The agreement signed between the two will not only be looking into exploring opportunities in 3D printing aerospace components and producing carbon fiber composite aerostructures, but will also be aiming to further strengthen the economic and political bilateral ties between the two nations.

Strata and Reliance Defence Limited (RDL), which is a part of part of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, will be considering to try their hands at new commercial aerospace opportunities, cater to the currently emerging 3D printing aircraft components market and obsolescence management, and brainstorm about other important areas of growth that can prove to be beneficial from both India's Make in India initiative and UAE's Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.

The Make in India initiative came into action in the year 2014 when the current government assumed office with an aim of transforming the country into a global manufacturing and design hub. It's vision is to raise India's manufacturing sector’s contribution up to 25 per cent of the country's total GDP by the year 2020. On the other hand, the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 is a long-term economic progress roadmap adopted by the UAE to diversify the country's economy away from oil and gas.

The MoU will help Strata in realising its vision of becoming one of the top global aerospace companies. According to a statement given by Badr Al Olama, CEO of Strata, “As an established player in the advanced manufacturing of aerostructures, we are keen to grow our capabilities globally with Reliance and expand our operational footprint by capitalizing on innovative, cost-effective solutions that can benefit our customers whilst enhancing our financial performance."

In addition to the Reliance partnership, Strata is also in partnerships with Boeing and Airbus, two of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the entire world, both of which are already utilising 3D printing. Boeing made use of 3D printed parts in its Starliner Space Taxis, and Airbus has already unveiled its fully 3D printed unmanned aircraft vehicle called Thor.

According to a statement given by Rajesh K Dhingra, President of Reliance Defence & Aerospace, the agreement between the two companies has the potential of bringing in significant foreign direct investment (FDI) and cutting edge technology in this niche composite aircraft manufacturing segment. Stating how 3D printing will prove to be beneficial than the conventional machining, Dhingra added, "3D printing enables us to produce assembly and machining fixtures in one-quarter the time and at one-half the cost as conventional machining.”

Strata's Al Olama strongly believes that the field of material science and 3D printing technology have the potential of becoming the industrial game changers with its applications to go much beyond aerospace into the space and other manufacturing segments. Offering his reasoning for the belief, he said, "It introduces innovation, redefines processes and, more importantly enhances competitiveness.”

Dassault Aviation, which is a France-based company, has recently signed a joint venture with RDL, which gives Dassault Aviation “an opportunity to have a footprint in India.” According to experts, the joint venture, which is to offset obligations for Dassault’s Rafale twin-jet fighter aircraft, will also help in further strengthening the ties between India and France.

In addition to the aforementioned project, France is also in the midst of discussions with India, as part of the offset obligations of the Rafale, to help India with its next generation Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Dassault CEO Eric Trappier believes that a larger order of almost 200 Rafale jets would be “ideal to transfer high end technology and manufacturing capabilities to India at a ‘competitive level'”. He also added that the company is looking forward to helping India with its various its fighter jet programs.

Rafale, which is capable of operating from both a shore base and an aircraft carrier, is the only jet with dedicated air force and naval versions. According to Trappier, India's current order of 36 Rafale jets is most likely not going to be enough to fully transfer high-end manufacturing or technology to India to continue the upward trajectory of its Make in India initiative.

According to experts, while India might have been a little slower than most to adopt 3D printing technologies, it is better late than never. All of these above mentioned partnerships, initiatives and contracts are going to drive further innovation in 3D printing and additive manufacturing in the country.

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