Monthly Archives: October 2013

DMRL’s quest in developing material self sufficiency

The ex-INS Vikrant as a museum ship in Mumbai.

The ex-INS Vikrant as a museum ship in Mumbai. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When nation celebrated the launch of indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant II in August, not many knew that the metal used in making this ship was developed by the Hyderabad-based Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL). From supplying mundane aircraft brakes to developing technologies for making flagship carriers, this former ‘inspection agency’ has indeed covered a long distance. Take any indigenous project, helicopters, aircrafts, ships, tanks or missiles, this Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) lab has left its indelible stamp, albeit an invisible one.

The mandate given for DMRL is to develop and meet the ‘material’ requirement for indigenisation of defence systems, and the lab has achieved significant breakthroughs, Outstanding Scientist and DMRL director Amol A. Gokhale said. DMRL also focuses on developing material production technologies to gain self sufficiency in creating speciality alloys and products for critical defence use.

DMRL has successfully mastered a process to extract Titanium, a metal used in aircraft production extensively, from locally available raw material, ‘Ilmenite’ and has also transferred the technology to Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited for full scale industrial production, Dr. Gokhale said. MI 17 – 1V helicopter and indigenous Arjun battle tank have also been equipped with DMRL produced light weight armour made of composite material.

The lab is currently working on Aluminium alloys that have wide spread applications as they are light, have high strength and stiffness and are corrosion resistant, a senior scientist at DMRL, Ashok Kumar Gogia said. DMRL has perfected the art of making high precision turbine blades and supplied critical equipment for the Kaveri engine and this technology is being used in making gas turbines and other heavy equipment in civilian fields, he pointed out.

When asked about the difficulties faced by the lab in developing specialised materials, Dr. Gokhale said that the lab was on the restricted lists maintained by the technology denial regimes. “We do face some problems in importing certain critical equipment, but eventually, we do improvise and surmount the problems,” he observed.

People in general have wrong notions about the research and development activities. But cutting edge technologies cannot be produced in labs in isolation, another DMRL scientist Sameer Venkat Kamat said. “There is a need to work on materials over a period of time in association with the end users. Top quality material is usually developed based on the feed back received after extensive usage on field and close interaction with users,” he said.

Most metals developed by the lab are in their third generation and fourth generation metals are in the pipeline. The naval grade steel, DMR 249A produced by SAIL and used in INS Vikrant was developed in close cooperation with Indian Navy and other labs. Other version of naval steel, DMR 249B used for underwater assets like submarines, is also ready and is awaiting final certification after which Indian navy does not have to depend on importing special steel from Russia for building it vessels, Dr. Gokhale said.

DMRL is celebrating its golden jubilee on October 26. A two-day seminar on ‘Materials Technologies for Defence: Success Stories and Road Ahead’ will be held on October 25 and 26 in which representatives from DRDO labs, Defence Public Sector Units, industry and academia will participate.

(Full version of the article published in The Hindu on October 26. The article was edited in paper due to the space constrains)