Saturday, October 09, 2004

Nepali machine shops

On Thursday and Friday, Nandu took Ewan, Nini, and I to the two local machine shops that do the fabricating, both prototyping and production, for EcoSystems. One place, although a full fabricator, just does the galvanizing for us. They're reputed to be the best galvanizers in Nepal, which is a big deal since galvanizing allows the use of inexpensive mild steel while assuring protection from corrosion. That place is in Thimi (pronounced Timmy), outside of Kathmandu to the east. It was a bumpy cab ride past fields of bricks for sale and water buffalo to get there. I'd never seen a chemical-finishing operation before, but like expected, they had acid baths, rinsing tanks, and a 2m X 1.5m X 10m tank of 450-degree centigrade zinc for dipping. There were piles of zinc ingots sitting next to it and a small Hindu shrine next to the power switches.

The primary shop though, the one that does our metalworking, is on the very Northern edge of Kathmandu and is run by a guy named KC. KC is known as the best prototype fabricator in Kathmandu, but his location is on the exact opposite side of the city as the test site, which makes for a real bump in the design/manufacture/test/redesign/tweak/test cycle. They have two lathes, a horizontal mill (the kind of machine that uses mill cutters, not end-mills, but mills - ask Shop TA Scott Kohn for more info on that), and a lot of stick welding equipment. KC has ten guys there, and we'll be spending more and more time there, getting our equipment made.

If there's one thing that I took away from seeing the shops, it's that the degree of safety that I've seen in America is incredible compared to here. All the arc welders have frayed and cracked cables, no one has boots, nothing has safety guards - including the grinding wheels, and safety glasses are rare. Kids, wear your safety glasses, and appreciate what OSHA is doing for you.


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