Engineering Innovation in India
1. MIDHANI’s new plants to make bulletproof vests, armoured vehicles
Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited (MIDHANI), the specialised metals and metal alloys manufacturing public sector undertaking under Ministry of Defence, is getting ready to fully commission two new production facilities, including the ₹550-crore special steel, titanium and nickel alloy sheet and plate-making plant at Kanchanbagh, Hyderabad. In the second ₹60-crore plant at Rohtak (Haryana), it will be making a maiden foray into making bullet-proof vests and armoured personal vehicles for the armed forces, disclosed chairman and managing director Dr S.K. Jha on Friday.“Both facilities will be commissioned in the next few months. In fact, even as the Rohtak plant is under construction, we have delivered about 20 armoured vehicles for BSF on an urgent request in view of the face-off at the China border,” he said, in an exclusive interaction.
The PSU is assuring armour bullet-proof plating or even mine-proof without affecting the overall vehicle performance for any chassis sourced by the end user with capacity to make up to 25-30 vehicles a year. After scouting for a technology partner in vain, it has taken the support of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) for bullet-proof vests to make 30,000 units annually, to be scaled to 50,000 units.
“Demand is for one lakh bullet-proof vests in the country. Though in defence area, this is a complete diversification. We are going to harp on good quality and reliability to the end user,” said Dr. Jha, who took charge last May. It was able to meet COVID pandemic challenges ensuring there was no slack in production, in commissioning ‘unique’ projects to meet the needs of strategic sectors like defence, aerospace and nuclear power even while strengthening indigenous efforts as part of ‘Atmanirbhar’ policy.Last year’s lockdown did cause some loss and decline in sales in the first quarter but the period also enabled the personnel to come up with innovative solutions towards production of high-grade alloys and composite material. Vaccination for entire staff and safety protocols are in place, he said.
MIDHANI has supplied steel and cobalt alloy material to ISRO human flight ‘Gaganyan’ mission, titanium alloy metal for HAL-AMCA (Advanced Multi-Combat Aircraft) and light weight nickel-titanium engine for the unmanned aerial vehicles engine in collaboration with DRDO.Other ‘novel’ works were in production of indigenous RHA steel used for missiles development replacing expensive imported substitute, special impeller blades for uranium mining replacing German-made with the first assembly set to be tried out at Kadapa mines and steam generators, earlier imported from Europe, for new nuclear plants in association with NFC for BHEL.New defence procurement policy with mandatory clause of sourcing for special metals from within the country augers well for the firm. MIDHANI is aiming to double turnover of current ₹800 crore within the next five years with 15-20% growth, even as the third greenfield project of developing composite material with HAL (Tumkur near Bengaluru), could take off with detailed project report under preparation, added the CMD.
2. DRDO develops high strength titanium alloy for aerospace forgings
Landing gear drop link was first component forged successfully by ADA at HAL, Bengaluru
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has recently developed a high strength titanium alloy on industrial scale for applications in aerospace structural forgings. “The high strength beta titanium alloys are unique due to their higher strength, ductility, fatigue, and fracture toughness – making them increasingly attractive for aircraft structural applications,” a DRDO statement said. Further, their relatively lower lifetime cost, owing to superior corrosion resistance in comparison to steels, was an effective trade-off to justify the use of this expensive material in India too, it stated. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) had identified over 15 steel components that may be replaced by the alloy forgings in the near future with a potential of 40% weight savings. “Some of the components which may be forged from this alloy include slat and flap tracks, landing gear and drop link in landing gear – among several others,” the DRDO said. The high strength metastable beta titanium alloy, Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al, containing Vanadium, Iron and Aluminium, was developed by the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL). These alloys were being used by many developed nations in recent times as a beneficial substitute for the relatively heavier traditional structural steels to achieve weight savings, the statement said. The landing gear drop link was the first component forged successfully by the ADA at HAL, Bengaluru, with the DMRL’s involvement and duly certified for airworthiness. The excellent forgeability of high strength-to-weight ratio Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al alloy facilitated the manufacture of intricately configured components for aerospace applications with potential for significant weight savings, the statement added.
3. Hyperloop pod developed at IIT-Madras to compete at European competition
Imagine being encapsulated in a bus-sized pod, traveling at speeds in excess of 1000kmph, in a vacuum tube that connects two cities. Popularly known as Hyperloop, this concept is touted as the probable fifth-mode of transport in the modern world. This concept was proposed by American billionaire and techpreneur Elon Musk, back in 2013. Since then, teams of engineers and governments from across the globe have been exploring ideas and working on prototypes that attempt to bring this futuristic concept closer to reality. Among them is a 40-member team, Avishkar, from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M). Building upon the lessons they learnt from competing and earning a spot in the top 21 at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition 2019, the team had been making modifications to their prototype. Enter 2020 and COVID-19 disrupted both their academics and work on the Pod Prototype. As classes gradually resumed via the virtual mode, their work on the pod also took the same route. According to the team, design, 3D modeling, simulation and software programming were all done while the students were in their respective cities, owing to the lockdown. After returning to campus, they barely had three and a half months to work on the manufacturing and fabrication process. When queried on the major modifications that find place in the latest prototype, “Our 2019 vehicle was a simple-model and was similar to a basic Electric vehicle. We tweaked and modified all the eight subsystems on it. The most significant changes have been made in the propulsion and braking systems of the pod. We installed more battery packs on this one, plus also developed our own DC-AC inverter” Neel Balar of team Avishkar told Zee Media. Regarding the percentage of components that were purchased and indigenous, the students said that it was 30 and 70 percent respectively. “Battery pack had to be purchased and we used them with an improved packaging and configuration. Dampers, semi-active suspension, microcontrollers had to be purchased off the shelf, but nearly 70percent of the pod was indigenously developed” added Bharat Bhavsar, a student of the Aerospace department, who is part of the team. The team competed at the European Hyperloop Week, that was held between 19th and 25th July. Owing to travel restrictions, the Indian team participated virtually. The week-long event was said to comprise of many technical rounds. A large part of it had teams presenting the capabilities and components used in their vehicles and the engineering reasons behind it. Following that, the test videos of the teams were evaluated for performance and various other facets. Unlike the real-world hyperloop, this competition is different. It’s not all about breakneck speed, but the pods will be judged on their superior technology, scalability, and innovation. It is for this reason that the team has readied a 60meter long test track at the institute. Besides the pod, team Avishkar is also working on the design of the hyperloop infrastructure. According to Kishan Thakkar, Team Avishkar Lead, they are conducting research on reducing the cost of construction of the tubes and pylons that take up nearly 70 per cent of the Hyperloop corridor budget. Their efforts also include adapting this technology for Indian use.