‘Sonder’ this term describes the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. This is how Abhijit Shete has chosen to name his 3D printing and prototyping venture. He says, “As you realize that all the people around you have such different and vivid lives running parallel to yours, you also realize they have that many ideas, and I wish to bring these ideas to life with 3D printing technology.” Well for him, it all started with his twelfth results when his dream to become a surgeon missed its mark by just two marks! So he sought admissions in Engineering colleges, got admission for MIT (Maharashtra Institute of Technology, Pune)Polymer Engineering.
For those who do not know about 3D printing, it is a type of additive manufacturing. Ever bought Udid-dal papads? The packet as a whole is of a cylindrical shape, isn’t it? Each Papad (circular) makes up a layer. When these layers are stacked one upon the other we get a 3D model(cylinder). Now, in 3D printing, we have the freedom to print each layer in a unique shape, to decide the number of layers for a certain height(constraint being the resolution of the hardware and software used in the machine). This is how we get a unique 3D model. What is done, is this, a 3D CAD (Computer Aided Drawing) is converted to ‘.STL’ file and then divided into ‘n’ number of layers. Each of these layers is then printed one above another(using one of the many 3D printing techniques available in the market). As you might have guessed higher the ‘n’, higher is the accuracy. Advantage? We can make any kind of complex, intricate shape with this new technology, which might not have been possible with conventional manufacturing techniques. Moreover, this technology gives us the opportunity to make customized products, tailored to an individual customer’s needs and wants. It helps in bringing down the prototyping time and cost as well.
After completing his Bachelors, Abhijit got an offer from NCL(National Chemical Laboratory, Pune), he worked there for around four years with exceptional people. He had planned to further his education by going for his doctorate studies, but due to various reasons it did not pan out. He had always wanted to do something different and impactful, around that time 3D printing was a new buzzword in town and so Sonder was born.
The journey, so far has by no means been easy or smooth. With no experience in business management (having worked in and Research and Development in NCL), it has been an uphill battle. All the knowledge he gained on the matter was from online videos, blogs and books, which according to Abhijit’s experience, do little to help you in an eastern consumer-based market. So, when he had set out on this mission, it was with an incomplete market survey (at least this is what he has come to believe with hindsight) and a mind, full of ideas and optimism. Now, with time he says, “I have learned to temper my optimism to realism.“
His parents live in Nashik and both work. The thing I found the most amazing is that when Abhijit approached his parents to inform them of his plans, they did not try to dissuade him, though what he was trying to do was risky and especially so for a married, twenty-eight year old (specifically in our society if he is a man, even more so if his wife is earning). They said that they would support him financially for the next few years and he should figure things out in that period. So thus with full support from his wife, his parents’ blessings and all of his savings, Abhijit set out on this journey.
He has now acquired all the technical know-how, to repair and modify the 3D printing equipment to the extent that his friends working with 3D printing equipment call him up with their problems; and has experimented with various polymers. He paints the 3D printed product for achieving different colours instead of using different polymer compounds for different colours. This strategy reduces inventory and helps combat market uncertainty to an extent. Currently, he is working on Proof of Concept projects with Automotive manufacturers to bring 3D printing to shop floor instead of limiting its use to the prototyping stage. He is a regular supplier for mementos for NCL. His recent clients have been bio-medical device manufacturers for tools, implant prototypes and gauges, an Architect from Mumbai for city models and some individuals for Lithophanes (3D photos). His experience and knowledge in the field of polymer science and engineering has come to his aid more than once in his endeavours and I suspect it makes the process all the more enjoyable for him. Meanwhile, he also has been working on in-house projects to design and manufacture gadgets to make life simpler. He plans to expand his business by branching out in various fields.
His initial investment has yet not evened out, but he has received an investment from a Pune based entrepreneur, who is renowned in 3D printing business. He has started getting interesting projects in the engineering, architecture and art fields; and is hopeful for the future.
As always, I will be back in June with a new venture or venturist, hope to see you too….