The depreciation of the rupee against major currencies like the dollar may be giving sleepless nights to various importers and policy makers. But, it is having a very positive impact on the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a wing of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
With composites coming into greater use in the aerospace sector, the need for those studying aerospace engineering to know about working on composites is becoming imperative. It is here the falling rupee is helping NAL gain orders for its autoclaves.
Autoclaves are mostly imported and are quite costly too. The autoclaves made by NAL come at half the price. These orders are coming from colleges that teach aerospace engineering or teach students to work on composites.
The first indigenous lab scale autoclave for aerospace applications is ready at NAL and is to be shipped to IIT-Kanpur. While the design of the autoclave is by NAL, the mechanical systems are from UCE, Mumbai, and the control systems come from Datasol, Bangalore. According to GN Dayananda, chief scientist, NAL, the lab scale autoclave is nearly half the cost of the imported ones at about Rs 50 lakh.
Among the others, who will be supplied the autoclaves soon, are Manipal Institute of Technology and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram.
CSIR-NAL has now established an autoclave complex with four variants. Its autoclave with 4.4 m working diameter and 9m length is the largest in the Indian aerospace sector.
As CSIR-NAL is not equipped to handle marketing and productionisation of autoclaves, it has decided to go in for a PPP arrangement wherein marketing and production would be handled by private partners and design and integration by NAL scientists.
Meanwhile, NAL said it had bagged a large order for the supply of autoclaves despite stiff competition from European and American companies after getting requisite qualifications.
According to senior NAL officials, the efforts to develop these lab scale autoclaves should help check imports, if not stop them. K Sham Sunder, managing director, NALTech, told Business Standard, NAL's cheaper systems had been forcing foreign vendors to cut their prices substantially. "The successful PPP model would pave the way for more such initiatives, exploiting the technical expertise of the public sector and marketing prowess of the private sector," he added.
According to Sunder, due to the embargoes on selling advanced systems to India in the 1980s, NAL had developed a large aerospace autoclave for the Tejas programme. It, later, also took up the challenge to develop much bigger autoclaves for the Tejas.