HAL to tap 3D printing for 25-kN engine project

Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is all set to tap 3D printing technology to manufacture components for its Rs 458-crore 25-kN (kilonewton) aircraft engine project. In an interaction with Deccan Herald, newly-appointed Chairman Shri. T Suvarna Raju said the 6.5-year-long project was going on track until a vendor who was to supply critical components abruptly backtracked.  Undaunted, the company decided to buy 3D printing equipment to master the brains of component manufacturing.  Raju said the preliminary design of the engine has been completed, and the operational unit will be on display at the HAL pavillion for the tenth edition of Aero India. The country’s sole military aircraft manufacturer has conceived a strategic business unit (SBU) for tapping the potential $2-billion domestic market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). HAL has already designed an 8-kg class UAV which will be demonstrated at Aero India. It is now trying to manufacture a 10-kg rotary UAV. Towards this end, the company has established a chair at IIT Kanpur where researchers under Prof. C Venkatesan have already readied a quadcopter, the HAL chairman said. Big push on R&D  Instead of depending upon product obsolescence over 20 years and take up replacement activities, the chairman said HAL would like to get into R&D (research and development) vigorously.  The company has set apart 10 per cent of its profit after tax as an R&D corpus, which works out to around Rs 170 crore.  “We want to build cutting-edge technologies in-house and use them. Here I would like to develop platform-neutral technologies. Platforms like Jaguar, LH (light helicopter), Hawk and LCH (light combat helicopter) can benefit from such an R&D,” he said.  Another strategy which HAL is following is to set up chairs at reputed educational institutes like IITs and IISc, Bengaluru, and tap academia on cutting-edge technology. Research on gear boxes is taking place at IIT Chennai, on communications at IIT Mumbai, on radar and electronic warfare at IIT Kharagpur, and on UAVs at IIT Kanpur. Operational streamlining is big on the chairman’s agenda. “The BK Chaturvedi Committee’s recommendations for restructuring the HAL board has been accepted. Also, HAL has brought its 10 R&D units under our design director using the structure of the Committee of Institutional Network (CoIN),” he said.  Aero clusters With the Design Development Management Board (DDMB) in place, there is now an established platform to share ideas with the aero clusters at NAL and DRDO labs, Raju said. Also, a National Aeronautics Co-ordination Group (NACG) has been set up to create a new aeronautics policy.  On the revenue front, Raju said HAL will double its topline within a five-year period.  “In the last financial year (2013-14) we achieved revenues of Rs 15,000 crore. It will grow with production at our various facilities along with co-development efforts,” he said.


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