The current disruptions in the auto sector such as policy changes, introduction of EVs and pollution norms can badly impact the industries that exclusively deal with metal parts. On the other hand, the boom of Industry 4.0 can boost its growth. Will the casting and forging industry thrive in the future?The casting and forging industry’s largest customer base is the automotive ind–ustry, with any disruptions taking place in auto manufa–cturing, affecting it drastically. Sheet metals for BIW; transmission and engine components; anti-vibration and anti-noise components and other miscellaneous parts, are heavily dependent on the metal forging and die casting industries. The whole set of applications where the Indian foundry industry is active includes defence, aerospace, earth moving, auto, tractor, railways, textile, cement, machine tools, sanitary, pipe fittings, electrical, wind turbine generators, power machinery, pumps/valves, etc. The casting industry has certain major clusters known for catering specific end-use markets. These clusters known for their products, are located in Hyderabad, Howrah, Coimbatore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Indore, Chennai, Batala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Agra, Pune, Kolhapur, Belgaum, Faridabad, Gurgaon, Solapur, Rajkot, Mumbai, Ahemdabad, etc.Currently the automobile industry consumes approximately 32 per cent of the castings from this sector, spawning critical parts like brake drums, axles and engine parts. Any shift in teh automotive sector will impact the casting and forging industry. For eg, a major trend that is affecting the auto industry is the trend of lightweighting and its effects are sure to be felt. Lightweighting metalEmission norms may call for change in fuel grades and transmission technology. However, engine and fuel efficiency can be achieved with the help of reducing the weight of vehicles. However, the reduction in weight would require the casting industry to work with lighter grades of metal."It is not going to be smooth sailing but the environment norms are changing for vehicles. In the future all the vehicles will be made lighter which means the Indian toolrooms will have to gear up as well. In the advanced automotive world in Germany, the B-pillar of the car is being replaced by aluminium. There are many components in a car which are being replaced by aluminium casting. And these castings need to be thin-walled. Compared to sheet metal which is mainly steel, manufacturing thin-walled castings is a challenge. The tool making required for making thin walled casting is a different technology.Right now, the Indian toolrooms are still in the process of acquiring the capabilities to make thin-walled castings,” says D K Sharma, President of Tools and Gauge Manufacturers Association (TAGMA)-India and Executive VP, Godrej Tooling Division. While the effort is to make the car lighter a particular strength is required by aluminium to be safe to use in a car. “The challenge is to make the vehicle sturdy as well as light. I have witnessed in Germany, a lot of effort and a lot of R&D has gone into making those lightweight facets and they have done it successfully. If we adopted some of that technology we will not be lagging behind,” he adds.While in theory it is possible to adopt newer technologies, Sharma believes that there are still some hindrances. “Currently, the challenge is the design of those types of toolings. Simulation softwares will tell you in advance as to how the castings has to take shape. The simulation softwares that are available in the country and the research facility to be able to make them is bleak. Prototyping, however, is being done currently and they have started working on lightweight castings."Right now in Germany, the premium luxury cars already posses lightweight aluminium castings. In India it may take time but it is going to be happening, sooner than later.”So how would the introduction of alloys impact the casting industry? “In the 1940s and the 1950s, grey cast iron was used which made vehicles very heavy. These heavy metals then had to be machined. The industry gradually ventured into light grade steel which was much easier to machine and the weight of the vehicle came down too. Now, mostly aluminium and magnesium alloys are being used. So frankly speaking the world would migrate towards composites. That is the only way the vehicle weight can come down. It is evident that magnesium, zinc alloys and composites will be the future but then they finally have to be machined. Machining would be required irrespective of whether we have cast iron steel or various other alloys,” explains Nitesh Gupta, General Manager, Phillips Machine Tools, the Indian distributor for German tooling companies such as Hermle and Haas.While everyone is scrambling to fit with the pollution norms, for the casting industry, this can turn into a production problem. “The pollution norms are the biggest threat to the casting industry. Due to them, the foundries and the casting industry might be in trouble. This can result in the shifting of the casting and foundries base from here to Africa or some other Asian countries,” opines Sumedh Pethkar, Owner, Mechanite Engineering Solutions, a company that specialises in dies and injection moulds for the automotive industry.This push towards lighter metals could also impact the forging industry technology-wise. With the stringent emission norms, and the automotive industry moving towards lightweighting, the forging industry is also pushed towards developing lightweighting technology by using lighter materials like aluminum/magnesium in the place of conventional steel. This can be a big challenge for the forging industry. “A lot of companies in India like Bharat Forge and Super Auto Forge have also started forging of aluminum material in a big way. The OEMs are looking at lot of innovation in the area of lightweighting and they have started using aluminum alloys even for some of the critical applications like propeller shafts, braking etc. By lightweighting, the auto manufacturers are also using micro alloy steel and high strength material to reduce the part weight by optimising part geometry. Forging of aluminum requires a different approach as compared to the conventional steel and it also necessitates adoption of different equipment and processes as compared to steel. Forging industry is gearing up in adopting to this change,” elaborates S Muralishankar, President, Association of Indian Forging Industries (AIFI), on the effect of lightweighting on the forging industry.While the trend of lightweighting has led to investment in lighter grades of metal, there is a small but discernible shift to plastic components, given the durability and strength of plastics. “Some of the metallic parts are also replaced by high strength industrial plastics. But there is no threat to the forging industry by plastic technology,” assures Muralishankar.Leverging CAD and CAMSince there is a sincere effort to comply with emission norms, complying with safety norms is also a must. The sturdiness of the components manufactured depends on the how they are cast and if the dies will produce reliable products or not.“There are efforts going on by software companies to develop such software which will help work with the advanced machines. That investment is going on by the world majors and they have tied up with all the companies here. And these industry machine builders and CAM software makers are working very very closely. In this respect, TAGMA’s efforts have been to bring both agencies together under one roof. There is a huge improvement made already in the last few years in this direction,” says Sharma about the current scenario of using simulation and CAD/CAM/CAE in manufacturing of casting dies.The forging industry in India has started using CAD /CAM in a big way. Almost all the forging companies use CAD for their routine design operations. Some of the forging companies also use these tools for development of new parts. Lot of forgers are also using simulation software like DEFORM, Forge 3 and Simulfact software to optimise the process design. This also enables them to cut down their lead time for development. “The forging companies have adopted simulation techniques to such an extent that they achieve their product development ”first time right”. They also predict forging flow and residual stresses by proper simulation and fine tune the process sequence. They are also able to control forging defects like lap, underfill etc. This simulation software also predicts exact load requirement for the forging operations, thereby forging companies are able to optimally use their forging presses,” asserts Muralishankar. Along with that CAM is extensively used for manufacturing of tools by forging companies. It is also used in a big way to optimise machining process for forged parts. Rise of EVs and the die casting industryWith the government’s proposed policy of converting all vehicles to electric by 2030, the castings industry that supplies critical components for automotive engines will have to evolve in the future. The new EV technology will impact the castings players since many major castings parts used in the ICE powertrain will be replaced by the electric powertrain. The engine for one will be dispensed with and hence several moving parts will also be shelved. “From a working perspective yes the number of components in the engine will come down but then the exterior of the car or vehicle will remain the same,” affirms Gupta. “Sheet metal dies and the plastic injection moulding dies will, however, always remain. From that perspective the moulds for them will still be used, even if the EVs take over in the industry.”Machine tool builders for the die casting industry, Bharat Fritz Werner also seem prepared for the oncoming shift. “Any technological major disruption will always cause certain challenges in the initial phases. But it will turn into an opportunity, and lead to bigger ones. As far as EVs are concerned, definitely it is going to create a bigger challenge because it is going to eliminate basic engine. As we are machine tool builders, more than 50 per cent of our products are for the automotive casting industry. However, it will still bring opportunities in the transmission areas and on sheet metal parts,” says R S Agte, Vice President- Business Development, Bharat Fritz Werner.Agte defends this claim saying, “OEMs will start giving advanced sheet metal features with different profiles, and model changes may happen very frequently. The styling part will take a precedence in EVs as well.”Pethkar, too, takes a more positive outlook of the future of casting industry, saying, “While the engine will not be present in EVs, the drive system, transmission system and clutch motors all have aluminium housings. These will continue to be there so it shouldn’t affect the die casting industry much. Maybe 30 percent of what products are going into automotive will be reduced and there will be some impact.”Current Issues and Trends in ForgingLast fiscal year has been good for the forging industries, according to Muralishankar. All the segments of forging industries recorded an average growth of 10 per cent. This growth is primarily due to the growth of the commercial vehicle (CV) sector in India and also the growth of domestic passenger car market. The tractor industry also posted a marginal growth, thanks to a good monsoon last year. Apart from the domestic factors the forging industry in particular also had good opportunities in the global market. The export volumes for all the industries increased considerably during the last financial year. AIFI carried out a survey across the Indian forging industries (small, medium and large) during the last financial year and the sentiments of the entire industry is very positive. “The survey, that covered about 378 forging units across India, state that the Indian forging industry registered a growth of 7 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17,” says Muralishankar.However, the forging industry is facing a major challenge with regard to the availability of steel. There is a gap between supply and demand and Indian forging industry is struggling to meet customer requirements due to this gap.“Also the international and Indian prices of steel have been going up steadily in the last 12 months. It is a challenge for the Indian steel industry to get this raw material price increase back to back from the customer,” explains Muralishankar.Traditionally Indian hot forging industry has been using oil fired furnaces for heating input blanks but in the last few years there is a major shift to electrical heating and Induction heating which is environmental friendly and also energy efficient. Even though globally forging companies have adopted warm forging few decades ago, in India only few companies have adopted this technology for their manufacturing. But of late, warm forging is being adopted by lot of companies in India and they are also using the combination of hot a, warm and also cold forging technology to achieve almost “near net shape”.“Another major adaption to technology by Indian forging industry is by way of using residual heat of the hot forged products to carry out some of the post forging operations like normalising heat treatment etc. By this the industry has achieved huge energy saving,” says Muralishankar.Current issues with castingsWhile EVs and lighteweighting can pose a problem for the automotive die casting industry, Gupta highlights a threat that die makers can face.“From a disruption perspective or a technology perspective I think that additive manufacturing is the biggest threat to us. Tooling industry makes dies by cutting. Additive manufacturing deposits or adds and creates a component. So from a technology perspective that would be the only threat to a machine tool building company,” says Gupta.