A large number of fluids are used in the manufacture of automobiles, even before they are powered up and filled with fluids like lubricants and fuel. These fluids are mainly used in gluing, weather-proofing, lightweighting, and coating of the vehicle's body and panels, as well as in the integrated circuits (IC) of electronic systems. While these fluids play their own individual roles in the various parts of the vehicle, they work as designed only when they are dispensed accurately.
Nordson India Pvt Ltd is a major dispensing equipment manufacturer for the transportation industry. While the company also works on applications for surface modification, its precision fluid dispensing technology finds use in the automotive segment. Suprotik Das, Managing Director, Nordson India, spoke about various techniques of dispensing of fluids in the application of adhesives, new technologies being adopted by Indian OEMs, and automotive trends affecting dispensing methods.
NEED FOR NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Nordson India designs and manufactures products for various applications, with a high level of its powder business equipment being localised. A large part of machines for the adhesive business are imported, along with components like controllers and actuators, and these components are imported largely from the US and Germany. The company works along with major automation technology suppliers in order to feature high level of automation in its equipment, Das noted. The automotive industry has been seeing relatively low growth over the past few years. However, at times like this, manufacturers find an incentive to invest in new and more productive equipment, leading to the benefit of repeated savings, he said.
There are a few other reasons for the absorption of new technologies, with regards to the dispensing of fluids. One of these is the export of vehicles, which has seen growth over the last few years, and requires the manufacture of vehicles according to global standards. Other reasons include the requirement of reduced environmental impact of vehicles through lowered emissions and reduced weight, as well as the development of hybrid electric and full-electric vehicles. In addition, material-related R&D is carried out in-house.
AUTOMOTIVE APPLICATIONS & TRENDS
The process of dispensing fluids for the automotive industry begins quite early, right from the metal processing stage. One example of Nordson's technology at this stage is in making the heat exchanger using progressive action dyes on thin aluminium sheets. The aluminium sheets have a precise amount of lubricant sprayed on them so that they are cut and released properly. Over or under-lubrication of the sheets could lead to damage of the sheet or the dye, explained Das. This spray system from Nordson leads to accurate use of the lubricant as well, leading to overall reduction in costs. The company has shifted to spraying fluidic powder for brazing processes, from other traditional methods.
In terms of applications employed by OEMs, Nordson provides solutions for various types of gasketing, bonding and glazing. The company's solutions are also used at the body shop and for robots to adjust the flow-rate of fluids dispensed. Gasketing is done for various powertrain components, with foam technology of gaskets gaining popularity. Das added that the days of die-cut gaskets are over, and form-in-place gaskets are taking their place. Form-in-place technology includes the application of liquid gasket using an extrusion applicator in the required part of the component accurately.
At the body shop, OEMs use Nordson's dispensing solutions for hem flanging, glass bonding with urethane and body sealing. The dispensing of fluids for most of these applications is done by robots for a uniform, fast and repeated process. Nordson also provides solutions in terms of add-on equipment for robots to dispense fluids accurately in the shortest time possible. "One high end application involves the accurate control of the material flow-rate very close to the point of material application. This ensures the dispensing of a uniform bead diameter in various parts of the components, whether in a straight line or at corners, and irrespective of the robot tool speed," Das said.
Nordson has a wide number of applications for the automotive component suppliers. Components employing the company's solutions include door liner, seat material, roof liner, sun visor, sun roof, instrument cluster, carpets, brake pads, filters, lamps, electronic systems, electric motors and batteries. They are also used to enable weather stripping and weather shields for components. The main processes employed by customers are hot melt adhesive and polyurethane reactive (PUR) adhesive, flocking, powder coating, potting, conformal coating, final finish coating, and lead plates anchoring inside batteries.
Das said that of all the automotive areas that Nordson supplies to, solutions for electronics and electronic component are ones that demand technology-intensive solutions. Weight of vehicles is constantly being reduced for better efficiency. Nordson equipment hence accurately applies materials and adhesives, together with the appropriate process, leading to higher accuracy in dispensing and thereby reducing the weight of a component, Das said. Another method of lightweighting is by using foam sealant instead of solid sealant, as it performs better and is also lighter.
Research & Development
Nordson India's R&D team in Bangalore develops products for the company globally. The team performs specialised hardware, software, and mechanical engineering development. It also consists of a laboratory that carries out various testing processes. Nordson also manufactures inspection and testing tools, which are mainly used for internal purposes. Testing is considered a very important part of the company's development process, which helps in determining the most appropriate materials and solutions, noted Das.
Text: Naveen Arul