Karthik Madhavan

His innovation to modify looms will reduce weavers' burden

ERODE: "During school days, I disobeyed parents; questioned them frequently, and often acted against their wishes. I did not see it as acts of indiscipline but different ways of doing things.'' This is S. Shanmugam for you a few years ago. Today, he continues doing things differently, so much so that President Abdul Kalam presented him the Grassroots Level Young Innovator Award at a function recently.

"I always wanted to invent; come up with something new to help thousands of weavers like my father," says Shanmugam, who has replaced cobs with cones in weft in traditional looms.

His modification to looms with dobby prevents stoppage of looms every few minutes to change cobs. A shuttle loom is stopped every three minutes to change cob, which takes about a minute. This results in slowing weaving, says the third-year student of SSM Institute of Textile Technology and Polytechnic College, Komarapalayam.

He added that when he replaced cones with cobs, a minute's changing time was saved every three minutes, resulting in weaving an additional three metres every hour.

Shanmugam said he stumbled upon the idea while working in looms.

"After Plus Two, to support family, I worked three years in a powerloom unit, during which I thought of reducing weavers' burden." He adds: "I felt it could be achieved by continuously feeding weft yarn. In those three years, which had more night shifts, I spent long hours at the loom in the midst of noise, dust and grease thinking of ways to replace cob with cone. Those were days where weft, warp, cones and cobs kept me going and not food and water," recalled the boy. His passion was so strong that lack of technical education did not deter him. "I drew inspiration from Michael Faraday, who despite his poor qualification came up with dynamo, which made me believe that qualification was not a handicap," he said. After transforming his idea into a rudimentary model, Shanmugam wanted to fine-tune it. "I realised that only knowledge could help me further and decided to join a polytechnic college,'' he said. However, joining a diploma course was easier said than done. "Much against my parents' wishes, I spent my three years' savings to finance my education, for, my family was not in a position to afford my education." Polytechnic College Principal R. Muthusamy said though the boy had a three-year break after his Plus-Two, the management admitted him because they were able to see the fire in him. "I could see the boy pregnant with ideas,'' Mr Muthusamy said. After joining the college, he gave shape to his idea and wrote to the National Innovation Foundation, which after verification selected him. Now Shanmugam is on his way to acquire a patent. A voracious reader with a personal collection of 200 books on science and scientists, he said he wanted to pursue engineering in textiles. But he does not have the means.