The Rusty Powerhouse: Central Workshop Review
The Central Workshop has served as an integral part of the institute, both for curricular and extra-curricular activities. While it is a work-house for some of the technical clubs, it is most importantly a place frequented by the students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Metallurgical and Material Sciences Engineering; undergraduates and postgraduates alike. Team Monday Morning brings to you a review of the workshop for this academic year.
The Workshop of NITR is housed right in the dead center of the main academic complex and houses 4 broadly classified shops—
- Carpentry and Fitting shop
- Electrical and Electronics shop
- Machine Shop
- Welding and Foundry Shop
As the Head of the Department, Prof. Saurav Datta pointed out, the primary objective of the workshop is to impart basic training knowledge of various power tools and machinery in fabricating a finished job. In fact, all the four shops have been designed and fitted with equipment keeping in mind the curriculum of the first year undergraduate and postgraduate courses and serve to impart them the general skills and know-how of handling the various equipment. Besides students are also actively encouraged to visit the workshop at other times and learn more equipment handling and job fabrication techniques from the instructors. All the shops are equipped with the necessary number of hand tools and heavy machinery to cater to the needs of thousand-odd first-year students who come once a week to the workshop for sessional classes.
The Central Workshop is headed by the HOD Prof Saurav Datta, who will be in office until his tenure ends this July. Also, the 4 shops are managed by PICs and instructors, the former of whom are as follows:
|Electrical and Electronics Shop||Prof. S.Gopalkrishna|
|Welding and Foundry Shop||Prof. M.Masanta|
|Machine Shop||Prof. Sandhyarani Biswas|
|Fitting and Carpentry Shop||Prof.S.K Behera|
INVENTORY OF EQUIPMENT
Hydraulic/Conventional Centre Lathe Machines
CNC Lathe Machines
Radial Drilling Machine
Universal horizontal milling machine
CNC Drill Tap center
Bench Drilling Machine
CNC Milling Machine
Cylindrical and Surface Grinder
2-lane cutter grinding machine
Electrical and Electronics Shop
Cathode Ray Oscilloscopes
Analog and Digital
Fitting and Carpentry Shop
Filler type Drilling machine
Hollow chisel mortiser
Wooden thickness planer
High Torque Bench Drill
Welding and Foundry Shop
Arc Welding Bays
Gas welding Bays (TIG)
Horizontal Bandsaw Machine
Note: The above excludes the hand tools availaible in the Central Workshop.
Student Projects under the Central Workshop
A number of issues plaguing the members of the various automobile fabrication teams, such as Team Black Mamba Racing, Team HPVC and ZON, Team RoadRunner and Team Tiburon were voiced out by the team members with regard to the workshop. Team MM categorically sought clarifications in all these matters through a direct interview with the HOD of the Workshop, Prof Datta.
- In response to the procedure for applying for equipment in team projects, he concisely laid out the formalities to be done step by step.
- For fabricating work related to student projects, the team can approach the PIC of the concerned shop directly and enquire whether the infrastructure and equipment present is sufficient to do the job.
- If it is within the capacity to provide the requirements for the job as per the layout submitted by the team.
- Then they are advised to go for online booking and fill up a job requisition form.
- This hard copy is to be approved by the HOD, and then the operator will give the slot so that it doesn’t clash with the regular classes. Students were also encouraged to utilize their vacation time to finish the projects so that they can work uninterruptedly for longer times.
Despite team projects generously encouraged by both the Institute and the Technical Society under the aegis of the Student Activity Centre, and teams winning multiple laurels in national level competitions in and around the country, cooperation from the part of the workshop has been poor, as members claim. Prof Datta clarified that lack of infrastructure and specialized high-precision equipment is the main problem that needs attention, as the precision which the various teams desire is not provided by the equipment of the workshops as they are not the state-of-the-art machinery.
Clarifying the allotment of space and requirements for the teams, he added that the teams are allotted a shed in the vacated space between 2 shops as of now. After discussing with all the groups and their faculty advisors, as well as the PIC of the shops, it was decided to allow two groups to work simultaneously in any shop, keeping in mind the space constraints. If one group has progressed to the verge of completion, another group is also allowed to work in the same shop together.
[The current worksheds of the automobile fabrication teams are visibly congested, with a pile of junk adding to the woes]
However, procuring the right specification of raw material seems to be a daunting task. The workshop only maintains an inventory suitable for first-year training courses. For example, there are blocks and bars of mild steel in the machine shop, so if someone asks for a super-alloy bar to produce something new, they have to purchase it directly from their own funds. Still, Prof Datta stressed that the workshop is willing to cooperate with the teams as much as possible, although taking first-year sessional classes is always the priority--
Recently we provided two portable machines directly to the team’s custody. CNC machines are required, but we need it for demonstration purpose, with soft metals. Hence the teams have to be given slots to use them so that they don’t clash with regular classes.
Another particular problem that the teams faced was that they were charged for using the TIG welding facility for the various car manufacturing processes. When asked about standardizing the rates of the TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas welding) personnel, Prof Datta emphasized
We do not charge anything. It is absolutely free of cost. It is our duty, and it applies not only to the car fabrication groups, but for any student related projects, be it B.Tech final year projects or M.Tech projects or anything else.
Delineating the Dilemmas
One of the main issues that Prof Datta pointed out is that when it comes to comparing our workshop facilities with those of institutes like IIT-KGP, our institute needs many upgradations. While IIT-KGP has state-of-the-art workshops with specialized Railway Research Centres and dedicated fabrication shops, our institute has a single Workshop building that handles almost all of the job preparation processes, including those of specialized Team projects like those of Road Runner, Tiburon, HPVC, ZON, and BMR. The stark reality is that most of the building and fabrication process undertaken by these teams occur in makeshift sheds with no fixed equipment to aid the assembly process. Prof Datta admitted that a separate fabrication shop and a basic ‘workshop’ for fundamental training is the need of the hour.
However, the biggest hurdle in upgrading and expanding the workshop premises is the lack of space. With the single-storeyed facility sandwiched between the Department of Chemical and Mechanical Engineering in one of the most crowded sections of the academic area, there is seemingly no plans to extend the building as of now. As Prof Datta puts it:
We certainly could have applied for purchasing new equipment, but where is the space to install them? As such we have no choice but to put up with the blames of the students, who don’t get all the necessary equipment for their fabrication activity.
Regarding the prospect of expanding the workshop facility to the upcoming Mechanical Sciences building, what we learned was that the Workshop won’t be shifted as of now, as machinery that has been once installed at a location might not be as effective or functional if replanted at a different location. However, Prof Datta said that new high-precision equipment for lab activities might be installed in the Production branch of the new upcoming Department buildings. The current buildings adjacent to the workshop will be given to the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering to ease the congestion in the Main Building.
Recently a host of new industry-grade equipment like CNC machines was installed in the TIIR building for catering to the needs of numerous germinating start-ups which use them for manufacturing processes. The permission to work on them currently has to be acquired through a written application from SS Mohapatra, HOD of the TnP cell, as the machines come under his purview.
The HOD also reiterated that the primary objective of Workshop is catering to the first year courses and it lacks sufficient sophisticated equipment to aid the club projects—
Our previous Director, Prof. S.K Sarangi had dreams to separate the workshop and fabrication shop. That was also a reason the TIIR building came up in its place later. Recently sophisticated instruments were installed at TIIR, keeping in mind that ‘Technology Innovation’ was one of the focus of TIIR. We ask students to go visit and learn more about those machines. TIIR was supposed to be solely dedicated for fabricating student projects, no operator or instructor will be there, students themselves will go and do their job.
Courses on the plate
Courses offered by the workshop currently are
- Workshop Practice 1 and 2, for 2nd-semester B.Tech. students
- Advanced welding courses for the Department of Metallurgical and Material Sciences(5th Semester) and the Department of Mechanical Engineering.(4th and 5th Semester)
- 1st-year workshop Practice for M.Tech. students
In Search of Solutions
Apart from the space crunch, the other main problem was granting free slots to teams for working on their projects, as the Workshop has to primarily cater to more than 800 students. In this semester, thanks to the academic restructuring, there are 3 empty slots per weekend when students may approach and utilize the Workshop facilities.
When asked about any upcoming developments or upgradation to the Workshop, Prof Datta confirmed that there are no such plans currently on board. Proposals for replacing the long-defunct furnace in the foundry shop has been sent through, that will be installed after due procedures are completed.
Prof Datta added exasperatedly:
I have been the HOD for approximately 3 years now. All in all, it was not a healthy experience, as I felt I was not fit for administrative aspects, and more inclined towards working with research scholars. I am thankful that my tenure will be ending in 3 months and a new incumbent will take over this charge.
Drawing out his long-term visions for the development of the Workshop facility, Prof Datta said--
A planned expansion of every shop is very much necessary. For that, the scrap items dumped outside the workshop needs to be cleared first.Around three months back a committee was formed for scrap removal. The committee had weighed and estimated the monetary value of the junk metal, but nothing has been done since. After that, we dumped the remaining scrap from inside the shops to the space between the Workshop and its adjacent building.
As of date, the workshop authority stands to be unaware of the current status of the committee, as the quagmire of junk metal not only remains an eyesore in the various nooks and corners of the building but also poses a safety hazard.
Summing up, while the Central Workshop is working just fine for day to day activities, there is still scope for improving facilities that are being provided. These long stagnant issues are recognized by the concerned authorities and hence improvements will come along. Team MM hopes that these improvements come sooner rather than later and the holistic development with regard to production is continued.