Although the new trends of alternate materials are setting in, use of sheet metal in automotive sector will continue to dominate this industry.
Steel is the single most versatile building material across the board, ever since its discovery. Consequently, sheet metal took prominence by providing the required malleability to form different profiles, shapes and non-moving components for building automobiles whether they were passenger cars, trucks or buses. In essence, sheet metal provides robust stability and in turn safety by virtue of its high tensile strength and durability.
In order to achieve a competitive edge in product designs, the megatrend of Lightweighting is becoming a prominent initiative in the auto sector. This has led to use of alternate materials which are lighter in weight. However, in critical areas of making the vehicles safe for passenger protection, steel is and will continue to be preferred choice for automakers.
Since this industry (as a whole) is on a growth path, both globally as well as in India, sheet metal will continue to play a significant role in this story..
Traditionally use of sheet metal to build the chassis, structural components, fuel tanks, body interiors and the outer skin in automotives has been in vogue, for reasons of durability, stability, robust safety and longevity. However, with changing concepts of light weighting, intricacy of vehicle profiles and use of alternate materials for auto construction along with adhesive jointing has been the recent game changer, challenging the use of heavier sheet metal.
On the other hand, increased safety awareness and redefinition of safety standards in automobiles, dictates use of sturdy, robust and strong materials like sheet metal to meet the safety criteria of direct and angular collisions and so on. As such sheet metal in automobiles is here to stay and will continue to be used for a long time, may be in a radically redesigned manner.
Nishant Arya, Executive Director, JBM Group confirms, “Sheet metal components have undergone a dramatic change with the ever evolving Indian auto industry. Vehicle dynamics are being critically scrutinised and designed as it directly reflects on the vehicle performance and durability. One of the latest trends that has taken precedence in the current era of sheet metal component design is Light weighting. This is being driven by increasing demand for enhanced safety and emission norms, getting rid of the extra fat from the vehicle body without compromising on the strength and durability, thereby ensuring safety and enhanced performance. Lightweighting has transformed the vehicle design process completely right from the design conceptualisation stage. With vehicle aesthetics gaining importance to the consumer today, the design process has become very crucial. He adds, “In my opinion, sheet metal will continue to play a pivotal role in auto sector. High tensile sheet metal and hot forming technologies will be increasingly used in the auto sector.”
Although use of composites and fibrous materials to build automobiles and even commercial vehicles is gaining momentum, sheet metal will continue to be used in all critical load bearing and safety components. The upcoming design trends are leading to the best fit of mix and matched materials to achieve the desired light weight without compromising on the fundamentals.
Arya explains, “Sheet metal will continue to play a major role in contribution towards chassis, doors, bumpers, hood, BIW (body in white) parts, fuel tanks, exhaust systems, etc. These are critical vehicle components that require usage of sheet metal essentially.” He goes on to say, “Light weighting of vehicles has rapidly become a given phenomenon today. As key systems suppliers to almost all OEMs in the country today, JBM has taken up the role of consulting with the OEM right from the product conceptualisation stage. We discuss and brainstorm with the client right from the scratch to get the desired and optimum usage of high tensile material and alternate technology particularly in load bearing parts of BIW. This participative approach has proved beneficial in getting the right design and ultimately the right product in a much lesser time duration.
On the issue of controlling vibrations and acoustics, Arya comments, “As of now, except for special and high-end vehicles where carbon fibre or composites have been used for mass market products, sheet metal will continue to be used with reference to vibration and acoustics optimisation.”
“India has a high number of deaths due to road accidents, and Indian automotive safety standards have been criticised as being insufficient and ineffective. India has the world’s sixth- largest car market, but is still the only country among the global top ten car markets without proper new car safety regulation or testing programs. It is estimated that vehicles in India will cost 8-15 per cent more resulting from compliance with these norms. However, harmonising India’s vehicle safety standards with global standards is expected to help automakers export locally produced cars globally. Regulations related to occupant safety and crashworthiness namely AIS 096-Full Frontal, AIS 098-Offset Frontal, AIS 099-Side Impact, AIS 100- Pedestrian Safety and AIS 101-Rear Impact are on the anvil for implementation. The validity of certification is for a certain period and recertification may be required in case of change in technical specifications of a vehicle,” says Pradeep Agrawal, Director, National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRIP). He went on to say, “It will be mandatory after October 2017 as has been announced by the Government of India and being included in CMVR for all new vehicles. It has been named as Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP). Under the aegis of the BNVSAP, cars sold in the country will be assigned star ratings based on their safety performance. It will be implemented in phases according to the plans being drawn up by NATRIP and the Government of India through the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. As per plans announced by the government, within two years of implementation, new cars sold in India will need to comply with voluntary/mandatory star ratings based on crash safety performance tests. Critical safety features such as airbags, ABS and seat belt reminders will become standard in cars sold in India resulting from rankings and mandatory crash testing. Offset front crash, side and rear impact tests will be required by 2017. Cars will gradually have to meet more stringent norms such as pedestrian protection, whiplash injury and child restraint systems, standards and requirements.”
Arya joins in, “Well, crash testing has started gaining importance in the Indian market very recently and I am glad that due importance is being given to that aspect. Safety of passengers in the vehicles is of utmost importance, given the driving patterns, traffic habits and the topography of the country. Sheet metal provides strength, durability and longer life span to the vehicle that’s actually indispensable for the consumer. Conventional material will be replaced increasingly with high tensile sheet metal and hot forming in coming years.”
Most automobile manufacturers are competing head-to-head with their contemporaries by introducing new vehicle models in all segments ranging from entry level to high-end luxury passenger cars, SUVs etc, two-wheelers and the entire range of commercial vehicles, trucks and buses commensurate with both domestic and export markets’ demands. In turn, this is a challenge for the sheet metal industry to deliver a diverse range of products to their customers. Prudent members of the industry keep their ears to the ground and eyes open to such developments and try to stay ahead in the game by being early adaptors to new technologies and production systems.
Arya reflects, “JBM believes in being ahead of the curve. Latest technologies like tailor welded banks (TWB) and high tensile steel processing have already been incorporated across our plants that directly result in achieving lightweight. JBM is rapidly adopting technologies like hot forming as driven by the auto industry. Our urge to upgrade technology is never-ending and we try to be the fastest in bringing in the best to our manufacturing systems. We are concentrating towards manufacturing more high value products such as chassis systems, suspension and exhaust systems, fuel systems, BIWs, etc.”
He adds, “JBM has been working with diverse clients across all segments of the auto domain for over three decades now. We manufacture systems and assemblies for four-wheelers, three-wheelers, two-wheelers, commercial vehicles, farm equipment and construction equipment. Our clients include names such as Maruti Suzuki, Honda, Mahindra, Toyota, Ford, Volvo, VECV, Ashok Leyland, Tata Motors, Isuzu, Scania, TVS, Hero, Honda 2-Wheeler, Royal Enfield, Piaggio, etc. We have been managing the diversity across products, clients, and locations in an efficient manner. We also adopt the principle of our customers and creating footprints close by for various OEMs.”
As per the automobile industry data, in line with AMP vision 2016-26, the aggregate revenue is expected to increase five times to hit $300 billion and the growth in volume will increase 3.5 times. This will enable the Indian industry to contribute around 13 per cent to GDP, generate an additional 100 million jobs and will attract investment of more than $80 billion, i.e., about Rs 4,90,000 crore. As of now, the industry is on the right track and has the potential to emerge as one of the largest in the world. The Indian automotive industry will probably make it to the top five markets by 2020 and unlike the US, EU and Japan markets, the Indian market is far from saturation. More importantly, the growth of economy over the past two decades has attracted global automotive majors to India with trained manpower at competitive costs, making India a favoured global manufacturing hub.
This is clearly reflected from the numbers of new automotive manufacturing plants that have been set up in the past few years. Most of these have been set up in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat due to their favourable industry policies. As per estimates available, some of these include Maruti Suzuki (investment of $380 million), Toyota (investment of $310 million), Volkswagen (investment of $750 million), General Motors (investment of $650 million), Hyundai (investment of $1 billion), Tata Motors (investment of $240 million), Honda (investment of $250 million) and Ford (investment of $500 million). Meanwhile, there is a need to promote new auto clusters and arrange mega automobile projects with economic spin-off potential as well as address the specific infrastructure gaps and deficiencies that affect the automobile and component industry.
Relating to the sheet metal industry, Arya confirms, “We are currently growing with a CAGR of around 20-25 per cent year-on-year which has been substantially higher compared to the industry growth rate. We expect to maintain this trajectory going ahead as well.” On product diversion, he informs, “We have recently diversified into the bus manufacturing domain as well. JBM introduced India’s first true low floor bus, Citylife, in 2014 and recently we launched India’s first 100 per cent electric bus, Ecolife, at the Auto Expo earlier this year. Our aim is to bring in modern as well as eco-friendly public transportation solutions that are viable and sustainable. Safety and passenger comfort have been given prime focus in all our products. You will soon witness the best of technology being used in the public transportation in India.”
Apparently, compliance to BS VI norms progressively from 2017 onwards, as directed by the government, could have been a stumbling block in the growth path of automotive sector in the country. However, Vinod Dasari, President SIAM, has allayed these fears. He said in a recent press release, “Indian auto industry is committed to meet the challenge of achieving to BS VI emission norms by 2020. The target is very stiff but the auto industry has accepted the challenge in view of the rising concerns on vehicular pollution, especially in the urban metros.” Dasari added, “This would not only entail a significant telescoping of long term investments into a much shorter timeframe of 3-4 years, but also deployment of a much larger technical resource drawn from worldover to enable compression in the time taken for technical development, testing and validation of the vehicles in Indian conditions. He also stated that the industry is fully committed and ready for implementing BS IV across the country on 1st April 2017 and was now waiting for the fuel availability on a pan-India basis.”
Cars will gradually have to meet more stringent norms such as pedestrian protection, whiplash injury and child restraint systems, standards and requirements.”
- Pradeep Agrawal,
Sheet metal components have undergone a dramatic change with the ever evolving Indian auto industry.”
- Nishant Arya,