Curiosity turns into business idea

Brahma3 founders wanted to see 3D printers, ended up building one

Bengaluru: “To see a digital file become an actual object is like witchcraft… it is magical!” says Nikhil Velpanur, co-founder of Brahma3. He is talking about 3D printers.

Nikhil and other co-founder Arvind Nadig had only heard about what 3D printers could do, and they wanted to see it for themselves. 3D printers are machines that allow you to make stuff yourself. It’s called ‘printing’ or ‘additive manufacturing’ because 3D printers make stuff by laying successive layers of material such as molten plastic into an object as per a design. “We wanted to buy a 3D printer, but there was none available in India.

Importing one would have cost us more than Rs 5 lakh. So, when we came across an open source community with schematics to build one, we ended up building one ourselves within a fortnight,” says Nikhil, a 30-year-old mechanical engineer, who thought going to university was a waste of time and began his first venture, a now defunct a “counter culture” campus magazine, as he puts it, even as a student at M.S. Ramaiah College.

But the prototype machine was not good enough for Nikhil and Arvind. They wanted to build the “world’s best” 3D printer, and they started to build one from scratch.

In five months, they had built the Brahma3 Anvil, which Nikhil claims is the world’s first 3D printer powered by the Android operating system, ensuring that the machine can be operated easily and independently, rather than being controlled from a computer. It was also the first commercial 3D printer built in India. “We wanted the printer to be independent of computers. The printer has a 7-inch touch-screen interface running on custom Android firmware,” Nikhil says.

The duo launched the Anvil in October 2013 and even showcased it at TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin. Priced at Rs1 lakh each, Brahma3 is in the process of shipping its first batch of 100 machines.

With orders flowing in from architects and design firms, manufacturing units and even hospitals, Brahma3 now has a multidisciplinary team of 15, comprising mechanical, materials, aerospace and electronics engineers, among others. “We design, manufacture and assemble it ourselves. The future is 3D printing”, Nikhil says.

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