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New carbon materials

Января 21, 2014

R&D Institute “Grafit” was established over 50 years ago for research and development of special types of carbon materials and their full-scale manufacturing application. Today, the institute is engaged in development of state-of-the-art composite materials, carbon fibers and fabrics, antifrictional materials, etc. Whether it is easy or not to introduce such innovations in practice and to make them economically profitable, tells Evgeny Mayanov, Director of R&D Institute “Grafit” OJSC.

— Could you please tell us about production management process used by Grafit?
— Our institute has a pilot-scale production but not full-scale. We are focused on building up the full-scale production at other enterprises that use customized approach today. However, we do not want to shut down metalware plants, carry out mass layoffs, and establish a new production facility somewhere else so everybody would say: “Yeah, another metalworker died in battle with composites”.
We use a different philosophy trying to find a way to keep operating and at the same time to establish a new manufacturing process using the same labor and management resources at the plant that currently manufactures traditional products. Innovations should supplement, and not destroy. Our policy is based on this approach. Imagine somebody coming to the plant and saying: ‘Everything you guys have is so heavy, bulk, rusty, and we’re going to build something new and pretty”… Such person would never be a good friend to that plant. It would be better to use a different approach.
— Are there any developments that have already proved their economic profitability?
— Those are various antifrictional materials that enable equipment (first of all, pumping equipment) to operate in aggressive environments, under severe operating conditions, sometimes with no lubricants at all. Those are some end seals that may be used and may compete with their analogues when operated in severe conditions and aggressive environments. In other words, our principal position is carbon and graphitic materials. Their main advantages are durability compared to other materials, operability under conditions where other materials fail, or competitive price. It is possible to create some super expensive alloys but then, it would be tough to fight for the price.
— What else is important for the customer except for the price?
— The end customer does not care if those are innovation products or not, he wants quality and long service life. Also, environmental aspect is important. In my opinion, nowadays people pay more attention to the environmental friendliness than ten years ago, even in everyday life. In a supermarket, seeing an item in a plastic casing, customers ask if the material is not hazardous. When buying linoleum, they ask for a hygienic certificate. People are now trying to buy products that would not be harmful to life, health, and environment. That applies to office premises too since people spend most of their life in there. 
Carbon materials have been found on our planet since the advent of life. They are naturally integrated in all aspects of human existence, in any biological systems, and based on that, the Institute is working on development of medical materials. This is not typical for us but it is of high priority and of great concern because we see an obvious interest in new materials for human life and health.
On the other hand, one of IAEA objectives is to bring attention of the global nuclear industry to the environment. For our part, we proceed to resolving those issues with the help of our carbon materials.
— Does it take a long time from innovation development to product output?
— We are commercially interested in working with RUSNANO to be able to work simultaneously on a few different projects, and not one-by-one. I want to minimize the period between innovation and production. To achieve that, we need our partners to do their job, and we will be responsible for the piece of work that we are proficient in. Actually, we are fighting with the popular quotation that says: “If you bring together nine pregnant women, there still will be no baby in one month”.
— What obstacles does your company encounter?
— The first one is narrow-mindedness. Most people think that they are masters in the area where they work. If we come and suggest retraining them to be able to do something else, we will face resistance. It’s a wish to conserve their usual working environment where everything is familiar, common, and is always there.  
The second obstacle is regulatory system. However, if there is motivation, it is possible to evade the existing system by using a pervious standard or an individual technical solution or calculation. But to do that, one needs to want that, and to proceed to work on the basis of a legal regulatory system.
As a matter of fact, everything is developing very fast in the present-day world, and we need to introduce something new every year, and to grow constantly.
Recorded by Kira Patrakova
Translated by Vladimir Alekseev
Адрес: 115114 Россия,
620137 г. Екатеринбург, ул. Студенческая, д. 1 корп. 3
Тел. / факс  (343) 345-09-72
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