The company is developing coatings, seal technology, lubrication oil, grease evaluation and development, contact mechanics, and fatigue evaluation for advanced product development, in addition to the development of bearings
At a time when the automotive industry is experiencing its worst-ever sales slowdown in a decade, NBC Bearings is focussing on further expanding its horizons by adopting a multi-pronged approach. The company has a sharp eye on the newer BS VI emission norms coming into force on April 1, 2020 as well as developing a portfolio that serves the steadily growing electric vehicle segment. Auto Tech Review met up with Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, NBC Bearings, to know more about the company’s approach towards developing new generation products aimed at facilitating a comfortable future of mobility.
NBC Bearings under National Engineering Industries – a part of the CK Birla group – has earned a huge reputation over the years for its massive scale of manufacturing bearings (it manufactures more than 200 mn bearings annually in more than 1,450 sizes). The company’s engineers have been capitalising on alloy steel with varied composition of elements while catering to various applications for a robust bearing performance. The company has been working on introducing newer materials like cleaner steel as it substantially mitigates the chances of any product failure. By reducing intrusions in steel and further introducing heat treatment as per the product application, the company is able to offer more strength to the product along with resilience, thus making it more robust, observed Saboo.
NBC Bearings has been working closely on a new configuration of raw materials in a bid to not only reduce weight but also to make bearings that are compliant with newer emission norms. As the bearing size goes down, a smaller size bearing is expected to perform in a similar manner like bigger bearings; thus, the load characteristics on the bearings change which affects its performance. Based on an extensive research, the company’s engineers optimise heat treatment processes and lubricants involved to develop bearings that can reduce friction as well as sustain more load.
BS VI NORMS & BEYOND
The automotive industry is fast moving towards the BS VI emission norms and NBC Bearings is developing low torque and low friction bearings across two-wheeler and passenger car segments to enable companies to adhere to new emission norms as well as reduce fuel consumption. The company is supplying low torque bearings for transmissions to passenger car manufacturers, while it is also supplying low friction bearings to customers in the two-wheeler segment. The team at NBC Bearings is engaged in development of coatings, seal technology, lubrication oil and grease evaluation & development, contact mechanics and fatigue evaluation for advanced product development. Saboo said the focus is on downsizing and reducing friction of bearings, which explains why the company is optimising its processes for advanced bearings.
The Indian government seems optimistic about the adoption of electric vehicles in the country in a bid to tackle pollution problems and NBC Bearings is staying focussed on this nascent market. Typically, there are 50 % lesser bearings in EVs as compared to traditional ICE vehicles and the company has already developed transmission bearings and wheel bearings for EVs. Electric vehicles need to deal with lot of electric current passing through the vehicle; thus, there is a chance of electric current passing through the bearings, which might lead to failure of the bearing itself. NBC Bearings is currently working on specialised coatings with ceramic material to develop insulated bearings finding applications in EVs – these bearings have been designed to handle the current flow, tolerance and heat management. Saboo believes that even if the EV market is still miniscule for the Indian market, it is important to be prepared as European and Chinese markets are witnessing a faster EV growth.
NBC Bearings’ current R&D team, which is based out of its Jaipur facility, is involved in the design, testing, benchmarking along with the basic research on material as well as lubricants. The company’s engineers regularly interact with customers to design and develop products meeting their needs. NBC Bearings continues to spend 1.5 % of its overall revenues on its R&D activities and it intends to increase the same to two percent soon. The R&D centre is equipped with calibration & testing equipment, CAD & CAM support as well as specialised heat treatment process to enhance product performance. NBC Bearings has also been making the most of simulation activities, where it conducts Finite Element Analysis (FEA), mathematical modelling for designing new products and optimising customer design that helps understand areas of strength as well as increase product efficiency. The company has been regularly interacting with international experts to further optimise its heat treatment processes.
While the company is resorting to extensive cost-reduction measures, it is also increasing supply chain efficiency. With vehicles turning sophisticated by the day and OEMs reducing product-to-market cycle, NBC Bearings has drawn up plans to further enhance Industry 4.0 application at its facilities. A lot of data and information are fetched from the machines that could be capitalised to enhance productivity, said the NBC Bearings top official. The company invested Rs 15 cr last year towards digitisation of its processes to minimise product defects, raise material handling efficiencies and improve process efficiencies – it has planned similar investments this year as well.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja