3D Printing technologies are not just disrupting the manufacturing sector but also small scale industries that are engaged in creating heritage metalcrafts.

Aravind Prasad, our next pathbreaker, 3D Printing Consultant, works on optimizing the manufacturing process of handmade metal statues & toys using 3D printing technology which helps artisans and sculptors to improve their work efficiency, save time and labour cost.

Aravind talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about the vast applications of 3D printing in a country like India where these technologies can create new opportunities for niche businesses.

For students, you have an unprecedented opportunity to transform the lives of highly skilled artists through cutting edge technologies such as digital manufacturing. Become a technologist for a good cause !

Aravind, your background?

I was born in Chennai and completed my schooling in Chennai. I was an active kid in my childhood days. I used to play all the time, which in turn became a healthy habit that ensured I incorporated some form of physical activity in my routine. I have taken part in marathon events that made me courageous and nowadays, I practice yoga that keeps me physically fit and mentally calm. My dad runs an engineering service company that influenced me to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I completed mechanical engineering in Rajalakshmi engineering college, Chennai. Immediately after the completion of my undergraduation, I got an opportunity to pursue higher studies in Europe after writing an entrance exam for admission to the University of Czech Republic. I chose Czech Republic because of its quality of education with affordable tuition fees and low cost of living.  I studied the masters program in mechanical engineering with courses such as Design, 3D scanning, 3D printing, Reverse engineering as core subjects. While studying, to manage my expenses, I did a part time job in decathlon sports. Apart from studies, I explored about different cultures by travelling to different European countries. 

What drove you to take up such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

Though I wanted to do something different, i still ended up doing engineering which is fancy in India. My dad, who is an engineer by experience, suggested that I choose mechanical engineering. During my undergraduate program I did a project in my final year which was about developing a prototype of a heat exchanger. It involved more practical work which kindled my curiosity for pursuing such projects.  

In my masters program, my thesis work focused on 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies. I developed a prototype of a new tool holder for a industrial machine tool by optimizing the design of the old tool holder. For prototyping the tool holder, I used 3D printing technology. That was my “Ahaaa” moment which led me to find my career path and start my career in the 3D printing industry.  

Tell us about your career path

Every step I took, played an important role in shaping my career. Initially, I worked for 6 months, as an unpaid intern, in a design startup where I learned about 3D modelling of machinery components. Later, as a paid intern in a 3D printing startup, I acquired technical skills on 3D printing. I learned to handle different types of 3D printers, how to optimize 3D printer settings and 3D printing software. I was involved in a project where we did a prototype of the hyperloop concept for a student team in IIT madras. 

Later I got an opportunity to work for one year in another 3D printing startup which was into medical applications. They made 3D printed skulls, knees, pelvic models for surgical planning, patient education and surgical guides for dentistry. It was a different experience as I was completely handling the business side of the startup by talking with doctors & surgeons, preparing sales pitches and writing proposals for funds. I attended various conferences and events where I cultivated few contacts in the 3D printing industry and got insight into the 3D printing industry in India.

Currently, I am a 3D printing consultant associated with R&D projects. I also educate students, professionals and hobbyists who are interested in 3D printing.

How did you get your first break?

I was active on linkedin, making connections with professionals in the 3D printing industry and exploring projects as a freelancer. One day I connected with the professor of my college and enquired about the scenario of 3D printing in the education sector. Surprisingly, he was leading a project in 3D printing and he offered me a position as an associate in his team. That was my first opportunity to work on a R&D project.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

During the initial stages of my career, the fear of failure was a personal challenge. But after working with different startups I learned that every failure opens a new door.

Working in R&D was very much challenging as there are deadlines and deliverables every day. It took some time getting to know the work structure and my team members. Also, my dynamic experiences in the past helped me a lot in adapting to the environment.

Setting up a 3D printer and making a product out of it is not easy as it seems. N number of trial and error iterations are required to optimize and standardize the 3d printer in order to get a quality output. It requires lots of patience. Here is where yoga helped me to stay focused on the work.

Where do you work now? Can you tell us what you do?

I am working in the R & D division of Rajalakshmi engineering college where we are developing 3D scanning & 3D printing solutions for different industrial problems. One of the problems which we solved using 3D printing technology was printing wax models of statues which took 10 hours compared to the 40 hours of manual wax model making. This addressed the issue of shortage of skilled labor in wax model making clusters. We also developed personal 3D Digital database for sculptors by 3D scanning technology which consists of their own statue designs that is beneficial for their business in terms of marketing and also 3D printing of wax models in required sizes

A typical day would be like communicating with the design team for iterations and modifications in design before 3D printing. Then I validate the 3D printed part for further stages of the product development cycle. To become a 3D printing engineer, one needs skills in 3D modelling and manufacturing which I acquired by doing projects and mostly through my work experience. I love my work because I gain new experience through every day challenges and it demands more of technical skill sets.

How does your work benefit society? 

I worked for a cluster development project funded by the Government of India. In that project, I trained traditional metal sculptors and artisans of Tamil Nadu on how to utilize 3D scanning & 3D printing technologies to improve their work efficiency, save time and labour cost.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

My most memorable work was completely out of my core skill. While studying for my master’s abroad, I enrolled in a program called “work and travel USA” where I was a camp counsellor for people with special needs. It was my first job and it was the most difficult job I ever did till this date. I got a mixed experience from that job and I started to value every moment of life.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Health as top priority 

At the end of the day, we need physical and mental strength to do anything. So practice some form of sports or any physical activity at least thrice a week.

Develop niche skills 

Figure out your interest area and start developing niche skills to stand out of the crowd and make sure your skills have demand in the industry to make money out of it.

Practice a hobby

Relaxing your mind is important in day to day life, so practice whatever hobby you like and keep in mind that whatever you do as a hobby should make you FEEL RELAXED and NOT STRESSFUL.

Travel and explore

If you get a chance, then just travel because it definitely teaches you lots of new things which makes your mind open to new thoughts and ideas.

Planning, decision making and patience 

Always remember these are the three important steps to be considered in whatever we do in our life,

Plan properly 

Decide wisely 

Wait patiently

Future Plans?

As of now I want to do more consulting projects in the 3D printing industry and provide skill training to students for making them industry ready. Apart from that for recreational purposes I wish to travel and explore different places.