Mechanical engineering is one of the most versatile disciplines among the wide spectrum of engineering studies. Some of the areas in mechanical engineering such as production automobile, aeronautical, marine, industrial, tool and die engineering have developed as independent full-fledged disciplines. Any industry requires inputs from mechanical engineering. There is substantial research work in the diverse fields of this broad discipline.
We import a lot of technology. It is estimated that mechanical engineering technology accounts for nearly half of the total technology imported. This points to the need for intensive research in this discipline, for ensuring self reliance. A key player in the field is the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Mahatma Gandhi Avenue, Durgapur – 713209. Web site: www.cmeri.res.in.
CMERI, which was established in 1958, is the apex R&D institute for mechanical engineering, under the aegis CSIR. The institute facilitates innovative studies utilising Indian talent. It is poised to expand its horizon of research activities so as to steer the country forward in cutting-edge and sunrise fields. It offers assistance to industries in the form of feasibility studies, research, training, and consultancy.
The institute aims at product / process development, import substitution, export promotion, waste recovery, quality control, and standardisation. It tries to provide complete technology package comprising design and manufacturing know-how, consultancy, and training. CMERI has an extension centre at Ludhiana, the Mechanical Engineering Research and Development Organization (MERADO).
Let us look at the various activities of research and development undertaken by the institute.
Robotics and mechatronics: CMERI has expertise in the field of robotic systems, control engineering, and other related areas.
It has undertaken the development of a vacuum mopping system for spilled heavy water for atomic power plants.
It has developed the first indigenous 60kg payload SCARA Manipulator. The first indigenous remotely operated vehicle for a depth of 200m for the Department of Ocean Development, Government of India, also came from this division.
Energy and process plants: The institute conducts studies in the broad field of thermal and fluid engineering. It offers technical support to the industries.
Heat power engineering: The essential focus is on process design and development in the area of thermal / fluid systems in power and process plants, drying for agro industries, and advanced energy conversion. Other areas of work includealternative energy, fuel cell, hydrogen generation from biomass and other sources, and application and improvement in drying system for grains and seeds.
Process plant engineering:Design, development, installation and commissioning of different kinds of process plants. Executing national mission programmes. Life assessment of process plants structures.
A significant contribution of the group is thedesign and development of carcass utilisation plant in Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai. Meat is processed as noodles. Tallow is used in the soap industry, bone powder as fertilizer, and the processed meat as poultry feed.
Chemistry and biomimetics: Biomimetics refers to man-made processes, substances, devices, or systems that imitate nature. It involves the application of biological systems found in nature to engineering and technology. The research in the chemistry and biomimetics group focuses on mechanistic studies of thermal reactions in solution, and photochemical studies. Modern kinetic and analytical techniques are applied for elucidating the molecular nature of the investigated reactions.
Some of the other areas are
Use of ion-exchange-membrane materials to emulate the operation of biological muscles
Miniaturisation in the chemical, biological and engineering sciences at both the micro- and nano scales.
Design methods, manufacturing techniques, and analytical methods that can be used to create and evaluate products based on bio-inspired concepts.
Metrology: It is the science of weights and measures, determination of conformance to specification or technical requirements, and development of standards. It hasapplication in all areas of science and technology including automation, robotics, space, and satellite communication. Metrological accuracy is an essential requirement for quality assurance.Any testing and calibration activity depends on good metrology.
The metrology laboratory of CMERI is a leading test centre recognised by the Bureau of Indian Standards for carrying out testing and calibration work. CMERI has links with national standards of the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi, which is the custodian of measurement standards. The high level of professional competence and stringent adherence to procedural norms ensure excellence in the service provided by CMERI in the field of dimensional metrology. Further, the laboratory has accreditation, from the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration of Science and Technology, Government of India, in dimension, mass, density, and volume. It gives timely and cost effective solutions to industries.
Tribology: This is the science of the mechanisms of friction, lubrication, and wear of interacting surfaces that are in relative motion. Bearing and lubrication in machines are the major tools that help to fight the problems from friction.
Even centuries ago man had evolved bearings, though of a primitive nature. There are great innovations in the design and making of bearings that have enormous impact on the efficiency of machines.
Reduction in wear can bring down wastage of materials as well as loss of energy. The consequent savings will enhance the economy in the operation of plants and machinery. The significance of this process may be appreciated, if we remember that nearly one third of the world's resources are being wasted in overcoming friction in one form or another. Tribology applies operational analysis to problems of great economic importance such as reliability, maintainability and wear of technical equipment ranging from household appliances to spacecraft. Many cases of machine break-down, failure, and stoppage are associated with interacting moving parts such as gears, bearings, couplings, cams, and clutches. These vital issues are constantly subjected to studies and analysis that lead to desirable solutions to various problems in industrial operations.
Manufacturing technologies: Hard prototypes have to be made for product development with high grade capability for manufacturing precision.
The development of reliable components is also important.To facilitate these, CMERI has equipped its workshop with state-of-the-art machinery. Equipment including advanced CNC machines and heat treatment furnaces helps to carry out research in this area. The manufacturing facilities are adequately supported by design, metrology, foundry, heat treatment services.
Spin casting and investment casting: The institute has modern foundry facilities with computerised operation.The rapid prototyping system helps the RP models to be converted quickly into functional components. Spin casting and investment casting assist in producing net-shape and near-net-shape functional components in the desired ferrous and non-ferrous metal specifications.
Casting that is ideally suited for producing intricate and precise components of small batch size is available.