3D Printing in Nepal: Applications

3D Printing is the process of making physical objects from a 3D CAD file, the process comprising layer wise deposition of melted material for the formation of objects. Since the commercialization of 3D Printing technology in Nepal, remarkable progress has been made in the field of additive manufacturing. Application in various fields has been explored. Most of the applications made use of FDM 3D Printer (Fused Deposition Modelling of plastic filaments) and a very few with SLA/DLP (Resin based material) – mostly that relates to the medical applications.

In this article we are going to share about the application of 3D technology in different sectors in Nepal. How the advent of 3D Printing in those fields has transformed each sector for better with efficiency and accuracy.

  1. Architectural Models: One of the very common applications of 3D Printing is to make complex architectural and construction models with ease. 3D designs made in various softwares like Sketchup, 3Ds max, SolidWorks and the likes can be easily modified and adjusted to 3D printable format (.stl). Advantages: flexibility in iteration, easy control over projects, durable and more attractive models, and less lead time. As a result this has sought the attention of numerous architectural firms, professionals and the construction industry. The fact that models can be made modular (in different parts that can be assembled later) has opened possibilities to well demonstrate the models’ interior and exterior parts for effective presentation to clients and laymen.

Image: Nuwakot fort Nepal, designed and 3D printed by Zener Technologies in collaboration with The Khukuri House as a part of heritage conservation.

  1. Prototyping: 3D Printing has been a boon for rapid prototyping due to its flexibility for quick reiteration. From engineering students to fabricators and manufacturing industries that make tool/die/mold and Injection Molding, everyone requires a very reliable and quick prototyping to proceed further with the production process. Here, 3D Printing serves the best.
Image: GPS module prototype for Ramlaxman Innovations/Technology Sales Nepal.

  1. Spare Parts: In the context of Nepal and other developing nations, most of the machines and equipment are directly imported from abroad, be it personal or industrial. Sometimes a small part can go dysfunctional or get damaged or broken. Such a situation brings an entire process and operation to halt. And the whole process of connecting to vendors/manufacturers and procuring items from them can be time consuming and sometimes very costly. In such cases, 3D Printing can be used to make functional spare parts in no time.
Image: Leg brace rod for camera tripod. Lokendra Khati, a freelance photo/videographer, says some fragile parts often get damaged during field shooting and in between transportation. He has been able to quickly fix with 3D printed spares at Zener Technologies.

  1. Product Design: Product development is a nonlinear process that moves through multiple stages of brainstorming – designing – prototyping – redesigning and so on before mass production. Now that Nepal has achieved advancement towards manufacturing and production, new product design has acquired value and demand in the market. But, producing anything in mass without multiple iterations and design modifications demand more time, money and effort at stake. Our clients have been using 3D printed samples to visualize and modify new products before hitting the go for CNC die cutting – which often is an expensive process for mass manufacturing.
Image: Product design prototype for shampoo bottle of Herpal Shamphoo Industry, Chitwan, Nepal. The bottles are already in production.

  1. Art and Craft: There are numerous applications of 3D Printing in the field of Art and Craft industry. Digital 3D designs of art and craft can be 3D printed which acts as a master copy (pattern) for mass production using lost wax (investment) casting process. Similarly, jewelleries printed in castable resin can be used directly in a lost wax casting.   It has got equally great importance in making human portraits and figurines. Shape and size variation of idols and sculpture can be easily produced with the combination of 3D Scanning and 3D Printing.
Image: Shape, size and form variation form original piece. Brown – existing copper part and Grey – modified 3D printed part.

  1. Research Development and University Thesis: From Engineering undergraduate student projects to Master Thesis and PHD research, 3D Printing has opened the world of possibilities in Research, development and educational thesis in Nepal.
Image: 3D printed turbine model for Graduate Scholar, Pulchowk Engineering Campus, Lalitpur.

  1. Medical Prosthetics: The power of customization with 3D Printing can be used to the utmost label in the medical and prosthetic sector. Each case of physical disability are unique to difference in body shape and size and the readily available prosthetic or wearable might not fit well.  Thus, scanning the organ and designing the prosthetic accordingly and 3D Printing helps achieve personalized assistive devices.
Image: Mr. Sanjeev lost his lower feet due to an unfortunate fire accident in his childhood. A pair of custom shoes were required for the ease of his mobility. The production of which required the exact shape and form. Grey is 3D printed part of his left and right foot. We 3D scanned both feet and 3D printed it in real scale. The printed parts were then sent to the prosthetic factory to design custom shoes  that would perfectly fit Sanjeev.

  1. Dental: Dental sector demands high degree of customization as per patient’s cases.  Zener Technologies has been promoting the concept of digital dentistry in Nepal since the very beginning – with introducing effective tools and capacity building of dentists and now already in practice for good. 3D printed teeth models can be used for many purposes to make surgical guides, planning of bracing, caps and many more.
Image: 3D printed (skin color) teeth model used in thermo form to produce surgical guide (transparent). One of the cases for Dr. Ujwol for Sangrila Dental, Kathmandu.

  1. Education: 3D Printing could be very effective in enhancing the teaching methods and to elucidate complex concepts in education. Envisioning a STEAM education system without 3D Technology can be misleading. Simple concepts from customized gears and connectors to advanced jet engines demonstration models made with the help of properly designed and 3D printed models, learning can be fun and meaningful.
Image: Education models. Lecturer Er. Surya Pandey, Himalayan college of engineering uses the 3D models to explain drawing concepts to young engineers as well as encourages  colleagues and institutions to follow it.

  1. Custom Products: As goes the phrase ‘with 3D printing, complexity is free’ , it has attracted people to think and produce personalized products in Nepal. Exclusive items like souvenirs, keychains, real human portraits or other fashion related items can be produced at ease.
Image: Golden mic souvenir for Nepal Idol (musical reality show franchised by AP1 television). Exclusively produced only 10 numbers to be awarded by judges for the best voices.

  1. Innovation: Among others, the advent of 3D Printing has sparked the culture of innovation and making in young enthusiasts, tech companies and professionals.
Image: Drone enthusiast Adharsha Bhusal – 16, with his custom made drone using 3D printed parts he says it is possible to quickly produce required parts that are not available in the market. Another advantage he adds is that the parts can be highly customized during the design phase to fit in different places and are very light weight that would in turn increase the flight time.

  1. Model Making: Training and Demonstration model making yet is another great application of 3D Printing in Nepal. Various companies – governmental and non-governmental organizations are using it for technical training at various levels. The advantages of such models include: modular design that can be disassembled to show different parts of the model which resembles the real world model, beside 3D printed models are strong, durable and weatherproof that enable the same model to be used multiple times with ease and portability.
Image: Earthquake resistant housing model for mason and technical training. The model is based upon the guidelines prepared by the Reconstruction Authority of Nepal. The model shows different crucial parts from foundation below earth, sill bands and lintel bands at different levels. Models can be disassembled to show the construction procedure from the very start to end.