When most people speak of the ill effects of plastics in the environment, he believes plastics can work wonders for mankind if used properly. K. Palanivelu, Deputy Director, who heads the Chennai centre of the Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology, emphasises the need for innovation in plastics engineering and technology for the city's pursuit of excellence in sectors such as automobile manufacturing.

He talks to Aloysius Xavier Lopez about the contribution of CIPET's scientists to industry and their importance in social transformation.

With a challenging role as the head of the institution, he is optimistic of its future achievements.

“The contribution of CIPET to Chennai ranges from making dustbins for source segregation of waste to helping entrepreneurs tackle technological challenges,” says K. Palanivelu.

“The facilities in the Chennai centre are the largest in the country. If our laboratories could not solve a technical problem for the industry, no laboratories in the world would be able to solve it,” he adds.

The technology support service of CIPET for small scale plastics engineering industries, which serve the automobile industry, has become more challenging as many entrepreneurs are approaching it for technological support as it has more sophisticated machines in the laboratories.

Cutting edge research is CIPET's forte but activities that reflect the social obligation of the organisation are more significant for the Institute.

Around 5,000 women belonging to the weaker sections received training in plastics technology at CIPET a few years ago and many of them have become entrepreneurs in the city. A similar programme will be organised this year, said Dr. Palanivelu.

Over 4,000 women belonging to self help groups have been trained in plastic segregation for reprocessing. Pointing to the Institute's capability in design, processing, testing and new material development which is one of the best in the world, Dr. Palanivelu adds that 15 per cent of its students have become entrepreneurs.

Research on areas such as synthesis of new type of additives for biodegradable plastics is in progress at the institute with the funding of the Department of Science and Technology.

“We have found that many biodegradable plastics made by private players are not completely biodegradable,” he says.

On plastics and environment, he says “Many people are scared of plastics. But plastics are wonder materials that have made life better. The problem for environment arises only because of misuse of plastics,” he says.

Pointing to the Institute's capability in plastic product design, processing, testing and new material development which is one of the best in the country, he says that an exclusive research and development wing for Advanced Research School for Technology Product Simulation (ARSTPS) has been established. The Institute is under the process of establishing Export Test Laboratory, which will contribute significantly to the export of indigenous plastic products.

The academic programmes of CIPET range from certificate courses to research programmes. “Our contribution to manpower supply for the plastics engineering industry is immense and after the completion of the export test laboratory we will contribute significantly to export of indigenous products,” says Dr. Palanivelu.

Advanced Tooling and Plastics Product Development Centre (ATPDC), a unit of CIPET Chennai is being set up at Madurai to cater the needs of plastic and related industries in the southern region of Tamil Nadu. The centre has started CAD/CAM programmes at Madurai. The Diploma courses (DPMT and PD-PMD) will be started from this year.