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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | Digital manufacturing: Sketching the future of auto industry
Digital manufacturing: Sketching the future of auto industry
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Over the past three decades, manufacturing scene in the Indian automotive sector has transformed drastically with digital tools being used right from product development stage to final manufacturing. Digital manufacturing is helping companies excel in not just product design engineering, but also in manufacturing.
Few years back, an Indian unit of a leading German auto component company was developing a transmission system for two-wheelers to address the challenge of providing torque at a gradient for a scooter. As the product was new to the market, the development process was complex and was taking time. This is when the company opted to take the help of digital technologies to put up a new manufacturing process for this unconventional product.
Similarly, Mahindra Electric Mobility has deployed Dassault Systèmes’ SIMULIA family of applications to drive innovation and efficiency through digital simulation for all existing Electric Vehicle (EV) models and in their recently expanded product portfolio in electrifying existing Mahindra & Mahindra models. Mahindra Electric has performed the complete thermal, structural, electromagnetic interference, electromagnetic compatibility (EMI-EMC) of critical parts like battery enclosures, battery management systems using Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA applications powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for realistic simulation, before any physical prototyping.
Speaking about this, Mahesh Babu, CEO, Mahindra Electric Mobility, said, “Electric vehicles are now mainstream. From two-wheelers, three-wheelers to cars & commercial vehicles, the electric mobility revolution has received a significant push and the industry is poised for a big growth. Technology will play a crucial role in developing electric vehicle ecosystem including in design, simulation, manufacturing and developing the overall vehicle cycle. We at Mahindra Electric have deployed the right digital and simulation tools to drive this collaborative electric journey coherently in the company.”
Automotive industry is considered to the technological trendsetter among manufacturing industries. It keeps evolving at a fast pace and is the leading driver of the new era of digitalization, which is helping the automotive industry to turn ideas and concepts to reality faster, economically and more efficiently. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots and IoT are transforming industries around the globe as well as in India. The automotive sector is adapting to Industry 4.0 by leveraging technologies that help them adjust manufacturing specifications for reducing time to market, enhancing flexibility, improving efficiency and quality. Over the past three decades, the Indian automotive sector - comprising both OEMs and component suppliers - has evolved and today digital tools are used right from product development stage to final manufacturing.
“Back in 1998, when 3D modelling software were not very popular in India and were considered an expensive investment, DesignTech worked on demonstrating the value proposition of adopting these software to the SME segment, thus playing a pioneering and vital role in popularising the new technology to the medium scale industries. Similarly, today, DesignTech is helping companies leverage advanced technologies such as PLM, CAE software, 3D printing, IIoT, and augmented reality (AR) for achieving their product design, development, manufacturing, and productivity goals,” says Vikas Khanvelkar, Managing Director, DesignTech Systems Ltd - a leading CAD/CAM/CAE, PLM solutions, additive manufacturing technologies and engineering services provider from India.
Traditional manufacturing approaches and methodologies are giving way to new processes and technologies for manufacturing. “If the Indian companies have to remain relevant in the highly competitive global manufacturing segment, they will have to let go off the past ways and means of manufacturing and adopt the latest technologies and approaches to produce quality products at competitive prices,” opines Khanvelkar.
Besides CAD technologies, companies are now investing more in CAE solutions that can help them evaluate product design robustness, performance and identify weaknesses at the early stages of product design. CAM software are used for achieving manufacturing excellence through ideal tool path generation. PLM solutions are helping companies manage their entire design data and resources including man, money, machines and material, thus covering the entire product lifecycle processes to achieve greater efficiency. “Today, companies use digital manufacturing solutions to design plant layout through ideal assembly line planning, robotics and human ergonomics analysis for seamless man and machine coordination, for augmenting the manufacturing productivity, and reducing the wastage of time and efforts, while also increasing the safety and security of the work forces engaged in the manufacturing processes,” adds Khanvelkar.
Thus, digital manufacturing is helping companies achieve product design engineering and manufacturing excellence.
Transforming the supply chain
Additive manufacturing (3D printing) is transforming the entire supply chain. This technology is seeing increasing adoption not just for product design and performance visualisation and validation, but also are being used as production machines to produce customised parts for end user applications.
“Sports auto segment has been an early adopter and is extensively utilising additive manufacturing in their design iterations for exploring the most efficient design in the shortest possible time. With the tightening regulatory and environmental norms, all automakers are constantly seeking ways to lightweight in order to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles to meet standards and to also deliver greater value to the end users. Additive manufacturing is transforming the tooling for automotive industry in a big way. Few automakers have already started reporting its immense cost and lead time benefits in tool making that is directly affecting their time to market and overall design costs,” says Anil Kumar, the Lead Application Engineer of ANSYS - a leading provider of engineering simulation software solution.
An important effect of 3D printing is the shortening and simplifying of the enormous automotive supply chains that are currently under operation. Anil Kumar observes, “Using additive manufacturing, maintenance and repairs of automobile parts can be done in an on-demand basis. More and more suppliers are now realising additive manufacturing as complementing the traditional processes like casting and forging, and not as a threat to replace them. Traditional metal manufacturing like forming, milling, etc. need large amounts of energy and create lot of waste. As additive manufacturing enables components to be printed on the fly, have little or no material waste and can be manufactured on-site, it is significantly reducing the carbon and energy footprint.”
Rise in demand for digital manufacturing is increasing market of automation solution in automotive industry. “Yes, to a large extent. Some of solutions under the digital manufacturing umbrella, such as robots are shaping up the demand of automation solutions in the automotive industry well. In fact, automotive manufacturing segment is one of the most promising segments showing impressive results in the adoption of robotics solutions. One of the main reasons is, probably, it has a huge scope of customisation. Robotic solutions can automate a variety of manufacturing processes which are either time consuming, monotonous/repetitive or hazardous in nature (so as to achieve varied ambitious objectives such as faster manufacturing cycle times, better quality, etc),” says Sameer Gandhi, Managing Director, Omron Automation, India.
To stay relevant in the industry, it has become imperative for tier 2 and 3 suppliers to adopt the right elements of digital manufacturing. High cost of digital tools has been a big deterrent for their adoption. However, with demand for automation products growing, costs are going down which is enabling wider adoption of digital technologies among the tier 2 & 3 suppliers.
Digital manufacturing, traceability, quality inspection, robotics, data gathering and analytics are making today’s shopfloor in auto industry smarter. In the age of smart manufacturing, products from mass customisation segment pose different challenges to design and engineering teams. It is almost concurrent engineering where virtual validation is very critical to check and ascertain product performance before it is made.
“The application of smart manufacturing is not only transforming the way things are done in industry verticals like automotive, aerospace, etc but also clearly illustrates the benefit that generative design, virtual validation, and math data morphing bring to smart manufacturing. Smarter tool sets and methods to design and engineer products would go a long way to make mass customisation possible using smart manufacturing methods in smart factory,” opines Karthik Shankaran, Chief Innovation Officer, Detroit Engineered Products.
Digital transformation with IoT (Internet of Things) is a must to compete in the world of Industry 4.0. However, there is much ground to cover with Industry 4.0, before India can take on the next phase. And, there is no doubt that companies will have to rely on digital solutions to lead them on the path of new manufacturing transformation.
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