Thursday, February 17, 2011

AeroShow India 2011.

Last week i had the opportunity to visit the Aeroshow held in Banglore. Although this was my opportunity to visit, i must say it was a great experience. As we ( me & Bala ) arrived in Bangalore & were traveling down from the airport to the maincity, the entire ambience on the street showed how important the Aeroshow was to the city of Bangalore with huge hoardings on our way in from Aerospace manufacturers including SAAB, Alpha Design, Mahindra Aerospace. We had meetings on the same day, hence we had to schedule our visit to the Aeroshow the next day. 
When we entered the car park, we saw some shuttles & i though maybe that would lead directly to the entrance, hence we took one of them & were happy to not get stuck up in the car near the entrance as in any major trade show, thats a nuisance with a row of cars in a big queue. Although being in India, the driver took us to some other entrance & we had to walk our way back to the main entrance where we saw a huge queue for registrations ( i wonder when will our organizers learn to be more organized in such petty things by simply having more registration counters). Nevertheless, the queue was the same for business visitors & general visitors. We had already registered online but since we did not get a print of the registration email & just got the pin number with us, we had to go to a nearby cyber & get the printout.
However, we were entertained by the fighter jets rocketing though the skies all the way, hence it was not a bad experience. Finally, we entered the show at about 12 noon & spent some time at the booths. Since through Hindustan Magnesium, we are in the business of supplying aero grade magnesium castings, our prime interest was to evaluate the major players in the aero industry & the magnesium usage trends in the same.
The prime exhibitors were from Israel, Russia, France, Sweden, UK, USA, Italy, Germany & India. The major exhibits were UAV's, aero suppliers including electronics, systems, engineering design companies in the booths. Although there were also country specific pavillions displaying their technology in aerospace. UAV  ( Unmanned aerial vehicles) manufacturers seemed to be there in plenty including a couple of India, i guess there is a lot of emphasis these days for these systems in different departments of any country ( just today i read about 24 UAV's being purchased by the Mumbai police for anti-terrorism ). Further, we came across different missiles on display from Russia, Israel & other countries on which we came to discuss about the business of destruction which is pretty ironical because the price of these systems is not based on the material cost but the destructive ability of the system. Some may be purchased and may not be used for years together, so we never would know whether it really works or not. But since we have a defense budget of more than $20 billion dollars every year, a lot of shopping is done on these systems. 
Coming outside the hall, we came across the Mahindra Aerospace booth & it was pretty interesting to know that Mahindra is entering into Aerospace as well. It seems that Mahindra has acquired some aerospace company in Australia & had a commercial 10 seater ( or so ) aircraft on display. On enquiring, i was told it costs 3 Crore and on a first glance, it was not at all impressive. On a closer look, it looked like a toy plane with doors resembling the old fiat car, age old instrumentation which were entirely analog & poor upholstry. I wonder who would spend that kind of money when you can buy much better planes at much less.
The highlight of the show were the fighter jets on display which were taking turns to display their muscle in air. Amongst them were the Rafaele from france, the EuroFighter from European Union, the SAAB from Sweden, the F16's & F18's from USA, the LCA Tejas from India and a couple more. Looking at the air display's i was particularly impressed by the maneuverability of the SAAB fighter jet from Sweden ( they also had a huge booth where they displayed the miniature version of the jet which was awesome ).
Towards the end, we had the opportunity to visit the booths of HAL, ADA, BDL, GTRE & CVRDE & meet some of our old customers from these organizations there, it was great looking at our progress in aeronautical engineering as well, however there are many milestones to be covered. We look forward to working with all these esteemed companies in India & abroad and are extremely delighted to be part of this great industry. 
Looking forward to my next aeroshow & i would love to visit the Paris Aeroshow as well which is in June but i wonder if that would be possible this year.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Future is Light, Hindustan Magnesium Products is born.

We are all part of the "rising fuel price" conversation at some point or another which is an issue we often like to argue about & blame politicians and taxes. However, the fact remains that the fossil fuel resources in this world are limited resources which would at some point of time get depleted and as we approach that scenario, we will be faced with paying higher and higher prices for our consumption. Although a lot of research is being done in exploring alternative fuel systems, the biggest challenge is replacing the same in transportation systems. Nuclear energy offers a promising alternative for electricity generation, however its usage in vehicles is far from reality. Alternative fuel systems like hydrogen, fuel cells, solar would be a viable option in transportation systems, however they will need lighter vehicles to propel. Imagine yourself carrying a metal suitcase with your luggage vs carrying the newer plastic ones. You obviously would spend less energy carrying the latter. The need for lighter transportation systems is imperative & alternatives are limited but promising. Amongst them are carbon fibre structures, magnesium alloy castings, high strength plastics etc. Magnesium offers the highest strength to weight ratio with its weight almost 2/3rd of Aluminum.
A couple of years back, when my friend Bala ( who is more of a techie & quite an engineering genius ) approached me with this concept of setting up a magnesium based foundry, the concept looked appealing. However, there were a lot of challenges including technical & financial. The technical challenges were huge since the know how of casting magnesium is held by only a few companies in the world & is not available off the shelf. Mg is an extremely fussy material to handle in molten stage since it oxidizes almost instantaneously when exposed to atmosphere & reacts violently with water. It can even cause an explosion, however when casted under specific parameters, it offers itself to casting. Now to recognize those parameters for aerospace  & other complex components is a challenge which many companies have taken years to acquire. However, with Bala we managed to cast mg within a year. In the process, we established new processes & techniques which are extremely innovative & due for patent registration. The financial challenges were also as much since the amount of research done required huge inflow of capital.
With the advent of 2011, our concept has finally turned into reality with the registration of Hindustan Magnesium Products Pvt Ltd ( ) as a corporate entity and an order from ISRO to kickstart the new year.
Hindustan Magnesium Products would contribute to a new era of light weight engineering technology catering to industry segments like aerospace, space, defense, automotive, consumer & industrial machinery. Our mission is to make a lighter world.