Fuel efficiency has always been a leading factor for consumers buying vehicles in India. On their part, OEMs have been increasingly focussing on reducing vehicle weight by leveraging newer materials, which eventually contributes to improved fuel economy
Bearing manufacturers too have been hugely focussed on vehicle lightweighting. Formed in 2000, igus India – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Germany-based igus GmbH, has been raising the bar in the area of developing high quality polymer bearings. Auto Tech Review caught up with Sebastian Bloechl, International Automotive Industry Head, igus GmbH, on the sidelines of the 2020 Auto Expo – Components Show, to understand more about its polymer bearings among others.
TYPES OF BEARINGS
Besides operating in the automotive space, igus India caters to diverse industries such as machine tools, packaging, automation, material handling, renewable energy and agricultural industry. With regards to the automotive industry, igus India bets big on its polymer bearings that are broadly classified into three types – iglidur polymer sliding bearings, igubal bearings and drylin bearings.
Iglidur bearings are high performance polymer bearings that are deployed in all vehicle segments, including two-wheelers, three-wheelers, cars, trucks, buses, etc. Iglidur bearings find usage in all moving applications like pedals, seats, wipers, transmission systems and suspension systems. These polymers are enhanced by precise compounding of polymers with reinforced fibres, solid lubricants and additives. Such polymers are tested thousands of times and proven over millions of cycles at its largest test laboratory. The individual components are not simply applied by coating, but are homogeneously blended to provide a self-lubricated running behaviour over lifetime, noted Bloechl.
Igubal bearings, also commonly known as polymer spherical bearings, are used for compensating misalignments and find usage in transmission parts like gear shift levers, headlight beam adjustments, turbocharger linkages and cable ends. These self-aligning bearings are easy to mount, suit all angular variations and, in many cases, are able to replace special housings. Igubal bearings offer all advantages of high-performance plastics, have excellent vibration dampening properties and are technically applicable in dry operations. Such bearings are insensitive to dirt and can operate in liquids and even in chemicals, said the senior igus GmbH official.
Drylin bearings, on the other hand, are self-lubricating polymer linear slides that are deployed in seating systems, armrests or in special vehicles like caravans for any kind of linear adjustments. The company also offers polymer nuts for actuations in vehicles.
POLYMER BEARINGS POTENTIAL
The Indian market is increasingly looking for long-lasting solutions and this brings the immense potential of polymer bearings into play. Polymer bearings are a strong attraction for consumers over traditionally used heavier metal bearings, as the former offers several advantages. Polymers bearings unlike metal bearings do not need additional lubrication throughout its life cycle, explains Bloechl. Such bearings are lightweight, corrosion-resistant, ensure higher life and are cost-effective.
However, it is important to understand that metal bearings in the Indian context still enjoy a heavy penetration – it enjoys a market share of over 90 %, but there is little doubt that polymer bearings are the way forward for the slew of benefits it offers to the customer.
The company currently supplies iglidur, igubal and drylin polymer bearings to 200-plus players in the Indian auto industry, including many leading OEMs and Tier I component makers. igus India supplies around 1.2 mn units of bearings to vehicle and component manufacturers every month.
VALUE DRIVEN MARKET
igus India does not engage in any hard-core R&D in the country. Its Indian subsidiary sources its products from Germany and carries out some degree of value addition and assembly work at Bengaluru to make them suitable for the Indian market. The Indian market is steadily transitioning itself from a price-sensitive market to a value-driven market. There is a strong market need for more reliable and proven quality solutions. Indian customers would settle for nothing but better-quality products and our bearings stands us in good stead, observed the senior igus official.
Electrical vehicles (EVs) are generating a lot of buzz in the country and igus India is keen to lap up the opportunities this space throws up in the coming future. EVs largely need lightweight, zero maintenance or non-lubricated solutions for their reliability, and this is where igus India’s solutions will come in handy. igus India offers bearing solutions that can eliminate any noise coming out of the bushes, said Bloechl.
The last 12 months have been exceedingly tough for the Indian automotive industry. The company saw this slowdown period as an opportunity to work closely with manufacturers, in terms of saving costs and new product development initiatives. igus India intends to double its growth over the next five years.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua