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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | Automotive slowdown to have short-term effect on metalworking
Automotive slowdown to have short-term effect on metalworking
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Indian automotive industry is currently struggling through a tough time due to low demand while the rise in domestic raw material prices of steel has added fuel to the fire. The industry believes that the upcoming deadline to comply with BS VI norms amid such time will worsen the situation. This article discusses effect on the automotive metalworking due to slowdown in the industry and its future.
With the development in the computer numerical control technology (CNC), there is a rapid progress in the field of mechanical processing and flexibility in the manufacturing techniques. The modern computer integrated manufacturing techniques are capable of producing complex geometries with high efficiency at a lower cost rather than the conventional manufacturing process. Nowadays, the modern integrated manufacturing techniques such as CNC are used drilling, boring, cutting operations which serves as a favourable option for both prototyping and production of automotive components.
Every aspect of automotive manufacturing technique demands high performance. Thus, many machining techniques are being employed by automotive companies for the production of different components like body sheets, windscreens, door panels and various internal and external components. Automotive component manufacturers are deploying CNC machines for faster, precise, and highly efficient production of components. The use of CNC machine in the automotive manufacturing is known as CNC automotive.
Many significant components of the automobile can be produced by employing the technique of CNC automotive. The cylinder of an engine is one of them, where a large block of aluminium can be transformed into an engine block or an engine’s cylinder where the piston travels up and down at high speed and temperature.
Automotive component makers, today, manufacture with precision. Many facilities are laced with advanced five-axis CNC simultaneous machine and the latest in CAD/CAM software technology. Five-axes machining involves using a CNC to move a workpiece or cutting tool along five-different axes at the same time. This enables the machining of very complex parts with complete efficiency and accuracy. In the automotive industry, every facet of the manufacturing process demands high-performance.
The cost of the laser cutting machines was extensively high and required trained manpower, so companies were outsourcing to job shops. However, with the drop in prices, these companies now have them in-house. This trend is growing, as the cost of machines is coming down-this is mainly responsible for the growth of the sheet metal cutting machine.
The market for laser cutting machine in India is driven by the automotive sector and, thus, job shops for sheet metal cutting. These are mainly located in automotive hubs such as Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Manesar (near Delhi), and Ahmedabad, which together account for more than 80 per cent of the job shop market for metal cutting lasers. Some manufacturers of laser cutting machines are based at locations where the machine tool industry is denser. It can be easily found in Punjab, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, and Coimbatore.
Steady rise of aluminium
Aluminium has become of the major component in the automotive industry. Auto components in aluminium have shown an increase. “Aluminium components are helping automotive industry to cut down weight. Out of our total automotive components, 30 per cent is aluminium components,” Mukesh Patel, CEO, Patel Auto Engineering Company.
The machining of aluminium is one of the most important applications of CNC technology in the automotive industry, but materials such as acrylic glass or Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) can be used to make other important components. By machining PMMA, manufacturers can produce lighting for a vehicle, including both its headlights and interior lighting. Although these acrylic pieces need grinding and polishing after the CNC machining, the entire process is still relatively fast, allowing automakers to prototype new light fixtures for their cars. PMMA is commonly used as a shatter-resistant alternative to glass, and can be made into windows, transparent shields, fish tanks and other objects.
Most alloy wheels are cast aluminium alloys, but some are forged from magnesium alloys as well, which gives them greater strength and ductility. Traditionally, car wheels have been made from steel because of its strength, durability and an appearance that was earlier perceived as decent. However, demands of motorsport saw alloy wheels increasingly adopted for their several benefits, and saw steadily appreciating demand from the commercial market as well.
Steel: a major component
Steel is used significantly used in automotive components for robustness from long. Its uses comprise of body, frame, parts and other allied areas. On average, 900 kg of steel is used per vehicle. 34 per cent is used in the body structure, panels, doors and trunk closures for high-strength and energy absorption in case of a crash. 23 per cent is in the drive train, consisting of cast iron for the engine block and machinable carbon steel for the wear resistant gears. 12 per cent is in the suspension, using rolled high-strength steel strip.
Advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) are now used for nearly every new vehicle design. AHSS make up as much as 60 per cent of today’s vehicles body structures making lighter, optimised vehicle designs that enhance safety and improve fuel efficiency. New grades of AHSS enable carmakers to reduce vehicle weight by 25-39 per cent compared to conventional steel. When applied to a typical five-passenger family car, the overall weight of the vehicle is reduced by 170 to 270 kg, which corresponds to a lifetime saving of 3 to 4.5 tonne of greenhouse gases over the vehicle’s total life cycle. This saving in emissions represents more than the total amount of CO2 emitted during the production of all the steel in the vehicle.
3D printing and additive manufacturing
New solutions like 3D printing and additive manufacturing have moved long way from prototyping to one of the very significant part of manufacturing. Industry experts have noted that the 3D printed parts are more reliable, robust and durable than the conventional manufacturing techniques. Sagar Dubal, CEO, Autobits Labs Pvt. Ltd, says, “About five to six years back our products landed up at the companies as a prototyping tool and today has evolved into a part of manufacturing process. Our small and compact models have developed into scalable and more complex models.”
Dubal adds, “A complete vehicle many not be manufactured by a 3D printer any time soon, but the number and size of parts from the 3D printer will increase significantly. Our goal is to integrate printed structural parts into the next generation of vehicles as quickly as possible. In the long term, we can expect a rise in unit numbers, part sizes and technical requirements.”
3D printers are complex machines, and some amount of customer engagement is required with the 3D printer for proper maintenance. Dubal states, “We have made each of our components, like our stepper motors, easily accessible to the customer. The customer can mount or replace these components with very little difficulty.”
India’s automobile industry accounts for 49 per cent of the country’s manufacturing GDP, and it directly and indirectly employs 37 million workers. According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), 350,000 jobs (mostly contractual) have been lost and over a million are at a risk due to plant shutdowns and bankruptcy of dealers and component makers.
With automotive sector experiencing low demand and slowdown, all allied industries have also been affected. Almost all of the automotive companies have announced their no production days. Auto component manufacturers are finding it difficult to sustain in such negative market. Madhava Kumaraswamy, Project Manager, CNC Automotive, says, “We are operating on just 40 per cent of our capacities. This is more severe than the 2008 recession. We have orders of just 50 per cent of our usual production from one of our client- SEG Automotive. Our other client, Bosch, has also reduced the orders. Half of our plant is closed.”
Kumaraswamy adds, “We procure steel and alloy steel from Khaitan, SAIL and other leading companies. Considering aluminium, we manufacture some auto components in aluminium. Post steel issues on import, now situation has become more complex with slowdown.”
Owing to exponential growth registered in 2017-2018, component manufacturers who expanded their units have been hit. “We do not have work almost half of our plant is vacant. Machines are idle and we are paying salaries. We have cut down 80 personnel recently. Commercial segment where component manufacturers like us depend on have been completely affected, leaving us with almost no jobs,” says Patel.
Owing to the market conditions, established automakers demand also have shrinked. These established brands have long term relations and business relations with the component manufacturers. Even the regular business from the established brands has been suffered. In such a situation, companies that have focussed on component exports to the US and China have managed to grow. Europe and South America are witnessing a perceptible slowdown, making it difficult for exports.
“Chinese component makers are a threat”
With slowdown affecting all allied industries, Vikesh Mehta, Head-Technical & Business Development, Sanghani Auto Components Pvt Ltd, sheds light over the current situation of the auto component manufacturers.
What have you experienced in the automotive slowdown?
Components are essential for established automakers. Our business is directly dependent over them. Till February 2019, we saw great business. Steel prices had already suffered after August 2018 but growing automotive sector was more promising back then. Based on which we added two more machines, a CNC machine and a 5-axes cutting and a finishing system. Post July, we have are suffering. Our stock is lying and we are on the verge of cutting down our employees. Many machines are lying idle due to no work and demand.
Could you tell us about current trends in the industry?
With electric vehicles being introduced, there is a parallel move towards hybrid vehicles. Automakers in India are helping existing customers in conversion towards renewable mode of transport through hybrids. Conversion requires new fitments and components. Our customers pertaining to service stations or car cares have increased recently. Based on the demand of the service stations, the components which they placed orders for every three months have doubled. But hybrids account to a very small market which does not compensate over the current losses.
What are the challenges you face for exporting components?
China has an extensive global portfolio of offerings. Chinese component makers are a threat. In India, there are many auto component suppliers which can hamper Government’s initiative of ‘Make in India’. Chinese components are manufactured using extensive technology, developed in China itself. Indian manufacturers are upgrading themselves slowly but such market conditions will definitely have an impact over the growth.
Indian Automotive Industry
Computer Numerical Control Technology
Sheet Metal Cutting Machine
Cast Aluminium Alloys
Advanced High Strength Steels
3D Printing And Additive Manufacturing
Society Of Indian Automobile Manufacturers
Sanghani Auto Components
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