Dr. B N Mondal, Head, Centre for Advanced Materials Processing, Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute & Secretary, Investment Casting Society, India had invited me to attend the ‘National Workshop regarding super hard material and its cutting (machining) application’ at CMERI, Durgapur during 29-30 the March, 2007. As I am not keeping very good health these days, I found traveling to Durgapur a little trivial. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to write a brief update on machining industry in India, as I foresee. I did send this to Dr. Mandal, whom I knew from his IIT’s days. Rakesh, my eldest son was at that time in IIT, Kharagpur. Here is the writeup that I could do.
Machining Industry Can Lead Indian Manufacturing Sector
Machining has been an important manufacturing process for ages for engineering industry. A large number of parts going in the final assemblies of the products, be it aeroplanes or automobiles require machining operations to finish them within critical tolerances for optimum functioning over the life cycles.
Over the years, there have been sea changes in all areas of the machining, be its the machine tools, the cutting tools, fixturing, or other accessories such as cooling agents. But some changes are almost universal in all these. Flexibility, reconfigurability, modularity, ease and error free automatic operations, and serviceability have been the main goals.
CNC Machining centers and turning centers have replaced different machine tools for varying machining operations, such as drilling, reaming, boring, and even turning, grinding and even broaching. Even a complicated component such as cylinder blocks of an automobile engine or a sophisticated huge sheet metal stamping die tools can almost be totally machined in a single setup today on one machine.
Cutting tool materials today can machine harden above 60Rc pieces and that too without any cooling agent that used to cause a lot of nuisance on the shop floor. In next step, perhaps the cutting tools will be smart enough to automatically switch over the cutting parameters depending on the real machining characteristics of the material being machined.
Workholding fixtures are smarter to control precisely the grip force required for the cutting parameters without deforming the features as it comes out of the machine tools after the finishing operations.
But the most important input has come from the Internet compatible controls that has made troubleshooting and maintenance manageable even for sophisticated items by removing the need of the expert to be physically present to assist on the machine tools.
Some of new trends that has helped the machining to be more productive are the near net shape basic forming processes for precision casting and forging that have eliminated the need of three step machining to one. Simultaneously, in some sector such as aeroplane industry, the components are getting bulk machined from almost raw billets integrating number of components in one thus eliminating assembling operation and tolerance stack up. The advent of high speed machining and hard machining has also facilitated the production engineers to eliminate number of machining steps.
Surprisingly, no innovation has come in basic machine tool design to replace the machining/turning centers that once was predicted.
For India, it is necessary that it becomes a manufacturing nation so that huge employment gets created to exploit its demographical advantages to the best. Machining industry can be one area that can serve the purpose. Some may say that it is capital intensive, but with machining center when one machine can be used to finish many components totally, it can be commercially viable business.
I am pained that India even today does not facilities good enough to manufacture all the die tools of the automotive industry, and the OEM manufacturers both domestic and global with presence in India are dependent to get it from other cheaper countries such as Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, or perhaps from China and Thailand. One can appreciate the need by looking at the number of die tools involved in creating a new model of car and its cost. Will the OEMs keep on importing them with frequent changes of models that will be expected from the Indian automotive enthusiasts and consumers?
My other agony relates to the machine tools industry. Unfortunately, with all opportunity not a single machine tools company could grow to a global scale though all the necessary skill and talent with demand too was there. Naturally, an ambience is to be created by the government agencies such as National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NMCC) so that more and more of the graduate engineers start thinking of becoming entrepreneurs in manufacturing sector. CMERI can also be a motivating force.