Name : Yagnesh Mehta
District & State : Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Category : Utility
Award : Consolation
Award Function : 3rd National Grassroots Innovation Awards
Award Year : 2005
Yagnesh Mehta (39) hails from Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He did his B.Com from LG College of Commerce in 1986. His family consists of his son and wife. His father was director, Land revenues in the state government. After completing graduation Yagnesh joined a company called Magnet Duplicators, manufacturing Cyclo-style machines. He worked in that company for about two years and in 1988 he joined another company called Seagon Systems. He joined this company when it had just started manufacturing air curtains. So he was able to learn the manufacturing process during his tenure with them. In 1989 Yagnesh left Seagon systems and started his own concern in partnership with a friend. His company was called Natural Environment Control Systems. He was assembling air curtains and selling them through this concern. His partnership did not last for long and in 1992; he started an independent company called Natural Environment Controls (NEC). Today he has an office and a factory.He invests whatever he has into his other innovations. Some of these include an improved hand-disinfector with micro-processor control which he has started selling. He also claims that he was the first person to sell electro-magnetic locks Genesis Till 1992, Yagnesh did not manufacture the blowers used for air curtains but used to get the fabrication done from outside. He purchased the motors from the market and used to design and assemble air curtains. The air curtains he used to sell had a lot of defects. Initially two blowers were joined (whose ends remained open) and then mounted on a shaft which extended from the motor with the help of bolts. The fins, made of aluminium, were joined with the ring and then the blowers were joined with each other and thus the air curtain used to have too many joints. In Yagnesh’s words ‘the more the joints, the more the problems.’ He observed that the air curtain was making too much noise while rotating due to loosened blades, joints of blowers would come off and they used to slip, etc. Another major problem in the existing blowers was sometimes the fin of the blower itself. Yagnesh observed that if a particle as small as 0.1 micron comes in the way of the air, it acts as a hindrance. Also the fins of the blower were 1.8 micron in thickness. So when the air stroked the edges of the fins, due to the thickness, backpressure was generated. As a result of this two things happened a) If the motor was running at high power, it would force the blower to rotate and the backpressure exerted led to bending and ultimately breaking off of the fins. b) If motor was not running at high power, the backpressure would result in backward rotation and thus burning of motor. Due to these problems, the customers would always complain as the air curtains supplied by him would either break off or would not work properly. This affected his goodwill among customers.
Yagnesh has made an innovative design for the blower using ABS plastic material. He has been able to extrude ABS plastic and make fins out of it for the blower. The fins he made are of aerodynamic profile with the edges being narrower than the middle portion. Due to their aerodynamic profile, there is low obstruction to air flow as compared to aluminium/stainless steel fins which are flat and rectangular in profile. He uses a special chemical mixed with ABS plastic as adhesive for his blower. This adds to the strength of the blower.
Advantages of the modified blower
This blower would be cheaper than the aluminium/stainless steel blower. Power consumption is reduced in this blower as the backpressure is reduced on account of the aerodynamic profile of the fin. The strength of the modified blower is more than the conventional aluminium blower thus cutting down on maintenance costs. There is negligible noise and vibration as compared to aluminium blowers. Other plastic blowers which are used in Window and split Air conditioners have joints and are not suitable for high static pressure applications such as in package units of A/c plants. This innovative concept can also be used in industries dealing with the manufacturing of axial fan, continuous grill etc and many more where single mould is not applicable or product strength is essential.
In search of an alternative…
To overcome the stated problems Yagnesh began to think of other alternatives. At that time he was using fins made out of aluminium. Aluminium being a light metal, used to bend very easily. Secondly, part of the aluminium used to get converted into powder dust form due to certain chemical reactions. This caused the blower to break after about a year. There was at that time no other alternative to aluminium, as other metals would have increased the weight of the blower, which in turn would lead to increase in power consumption and increase in overall material and operating cost.
While he was searching for an alternative, one of his friends imported a wall mounted air conditioner manufactured by National Company of Japan for making duplicate models in India in 1993-94. Yagnesh observed that the blower used in that AC was made out of plastic. This gave him the idea of using plastic instead of aluminium for his blowers. Then Yagnesh imported a blower from Hitachi, Japan to study it. The blower used in the AC was made of multiple pieces and joined together. But at high rpm it would break off due to lack of strength.
Then Yagnesh decided to start working on plastic fins. The plastic fins used were irregular in dimension. One side used to be thicker and wider than the other because of the moulding procedure. Another problem was that of fixing plastic fins to the ring. No adhesive was available which could add to the strength of the blower.
Searching for some solution for these problems the innovator contacted CIPET (Central Institute for Plastic Engineering and Technology). From there he was told that it was very difficult to extrude aerofoil shape from ABS plastic. The innovator regularly went to the institute for two-three months, but CIPET was unable to provide him with some solution or take the idea further.
A risky venture…
Around this time, Yagnesh contacted Mr. Parera (an expert in the field of plastics) who told him that he already had a similar concept based technology with him. But to test that, a die needed to be made. He offered to take up the project with Yagnesh, if he was willing but warned him that risk was involved. The project cost was estimated at two lakh rupees. At that time, Yagnesh was already struggling under a debt of about 6-7 lakh rupees. Still Yagnesh was willing to take the risk and he borrowed money from lenders on interest and invested it in this project.
After six months the fins were ready but not the outer ring. So Yagnesh got a die made for the outer ring according to the newly designed fins. Now the problem was how to join the fins to the outer ring so that the blower doesn’t break. Yagnesh followed the saying ‘ask and learn’ and started discussing his problem with various people. He contacted Bayer ABS, manufacturers of plastic granules. There he was told about the ultrasonic wielding technology. But the machine used for this is very expensive and Yagnesh could not afford it.. More over for different dies he would have to invest more money, which was not feasible as he was living on his past savings which were almost nil by now.
During this time, Yagnesh had no source of income. He was managing the household on whatever past savings he had. To bring in some cash, he rented the master bedroom of his two-room house for Rs. 1700 p.m. But being a man of principle he refused to borrow money from his relatives. Yagnesh acknowledges that he was able to get through that bad phase only because of his wife. She has been his constant support and source of inspiration while going through the ordeal.
Yagnesh continued to visit the Bayer plant at Baroda in the hope that something might strike him. He spent about two months searching for an adhesive. At last he got to know from Bayer that a particular chemical could be used as an adhesive. But they were not so sure about the chemical reactions. Yagnesh did a test experiment by putting a small amount of that chemical on ABS Plastic, and it reacted. When put into this chemical, ABS melts in about twenty four hours and results in a paste, which can be used as an adhesive. With this adhesive he joined the fins with the outer plates. This was in 1998-99 and by this time Yagnesh was already under a loan of seven lakh rupees and had even sold off his car and the other things he could.
Negotiating with the formal sector…
With this prototype Yagnesh thought of manufacturing a blower for the AC. In 1999 he contacted Amtrex Hitachi in Kadi. At that time, Hitachi was purchasing blowers at the cost of Rs 1200 per blower. Yagnesh calculated the cost and found that he could manufacture the blower at Rs 200 and sell it for Rs 700 to Hitachi. Hitachi had a requirement of about 1500 blowers per month. But for manufacturing these blowers a die was required which would cost one lakh rupees. Yagnesh made a proposal to Hitachi to share the cost of the die on 50:50 basis. But Hitachi took six months to consider this and still reached no conclusion. So Yagnesh decided to go for it himself and take a risk. He got the die made and took his product to Hitachi. By this time Hitachi had changed its policy and any new product had to be approved by its Japan office.
In 2001, Yagnesh opened a new firm which he named Sri Aerodynamics products and started manufacturing air curtains. He started assembling the blower himself in the hall of his home (of which one room was rented and his family was living in the second). He and his wife were the sole employees. He got his first order on 14th Jan 2001 and he made the delivery on Jan 18th. Since then Yagnesh has not looked back. He is just relieved that his bad times are over.
This is what Pankaj R Dhirkar, Executive Director Dikshit Consultants and Engineers Pvt. Ltd and past President, Indian Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, has to say about this blower:
“Yagnesh Mehta has developed the ABS Plastic fabricated blower which has all the advantages of a metal blower as well as that of a plastic one. It will solve the problem of using a large sized blower as in the case of a metal one and besides will not face the problem of corrosion or powder separation. ABS plastic blower will be more durable as compared to a metal blower but will have equal precision… The power consumption would also be reduced due to this innovative design which is need of the day. This might prove to be a valuable product for Heating, Ventilation, Refrigeration and air- conditioning industry looking at the high growth potential in this field.”
Yagnesh Mehta wants this innovation to contribute to the air conditioning market in India which is currently dominated by imported blowers manufactured by EBM, Nicotra, Nadi and PUNKER. “Whatever is with you, share it and learn from others – you can even reach heaven this way” this is what Yagnesh believes in. He feels that we have not succeeded in this market because we do not have facilities for laboratory testing for providing technology feedback. He wants Indian markets to dominate in the world – he believes that we have enough hard workers and potential but misguided brains.