Kalam commissions India's first carbon fibre factory

The Rs 250 crore facility begins manufacture of carbon fibre under technology transfer from the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) that had developed the ultra-light material for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

Carbon fibre is stronger than steel, lighter than aluminium and corrosion resistant. Such qualities make it the best bet for manufacture of critical equipment like satellites, missiles, aircraft and rockets.

The NAL, a constituent of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), will get upto five per cent of the turnover of this facility as royalty for the next seven years.

"We are also discussing about having a notional equity in the company as this is a strategic sector enterprise," Samir Brahmachari, Director General of CSIR, told reporters here.

Kemrock Industries' Chairman and Managing Director Kalpesh Patel said the facility's 400 tonne per annum output will primarily service the domestic aerospace needs, including that of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The LCA, developed by HAL, uses 45 per cent carbon fibre in its airframe and the country's air force has placed an order of supplying 20 such aircraft with HAL.

"Carbon fibre can also be used for manufacture of sports goods, wind turbines, windmill blades," said A R Upadhya, Director of NAL. Patel said in-house production of carbon fibre was the first step towards establishing a self-sufficient domestic capability to produce composite products for aerospace, defence and wind energy markets.

"The carbon fibre capability will be a strategic fit to our existing operations, augmenting our resin production, technical fabric capability and moulding ability," he said.

Patel said that Kemrock expects to supply 1500 tonnes of carbon fibre to the strategic sector over the next four years. He said the company will manufacture carbon fibre composites and prepegs for advanced composites applications which would serve defence, aerospace, wind energy, transportation and infrastructure sectors.

Patel said the second phase of the carbon fibre facility with an additional 400 tonnes capacity per annum will be commissioned within the next four months. Kalam, as Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister in the late 1990s, had suggested indigenous development of carbon fibre.

The global composite industry is estimated at about USD 85 billion with North America and Europe accounting for about three quarters of its total market value. The Asia-Pacific region represents about 20 per cent of the market and projections suggest that Asia will be leading the growth in global composites industry.

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