Pune-based Sintercom India has made its presence felt in manufacturing sintered components in areas such as engine, transmission and chassis. Besides engines and transmissions, sintered components are also used in steering, suspension, door lock parts, brake parts, seat assembly components and alternators, among others. Auto Tech Review met up with Jignesh Raval, Managing Director, Sintercom India, to understand the growing adoption of sintered components in the automotive industry.
Sintered components are steadily gaining prominence in the automotive industry across the globe. According to data released by the Powder Metallurgy Association of India (PMAI), approximately 17-18 kg of sintered components are being used in a vehicle in the US, whereas around 12 kg of sintered components are used in a vehicle in Europe and Japan. The working depth of the sinter technology is huge in Europe and spans across industries beyond automotive – aerospace, medical industry, consumer goods, etc. Needless to say, the sinter technology has immense potential within the automotive industry, but this technology hasn’t been adequately leveraged in India, where around 4-5 kg of sintered components are used in a current vehicle.
Sensing this huge opportunity, Sintercom forayed into the Indian market to manufacture sintered components. The company’s journey into manufacturing sintered components began developing idler and driven gears through a sintering process for Bajaj Auto – its sintered components were successfully tested on around 100 vehicles of Bajaj Auto.
Raval said 30 % of automotive components have an impact load; these components with impact load cannot be sintered because there is low density than forging. Almost 70 % of automotive components do not have any impact load and these components can be converted into sintered components but there are obvious limitations, in terms of the process itself. Since this process works on a vertical motion and not on a horizontal motion, one cannot produce a thin-wall product or product that has much more cavity on the horizontal side products, he noted.
SHIFT TO SINTERED TRANSMISSION GEARS
The automotive industry across the globe is increasingly shifting its focus from forged transmission gears to sintered transmission gears. Over the years, such transmission gears have been aggressively produced from the forging industry and were identified by the European Union as one of the root causes of producing emissions. It is significant to mention that the EU has been urging OEMs to leverage sintered products for future transmissions in a bid to reduce emissions. The EU is determined to encourage manufacturing of sintered transmission gears globally and is willing to invest on R&D – in fact, around 100 vehicles have been deployed in Europe with sintered transmission gears.
Raval said a sintered gear can work in a transmission, save for the first and the second gear. Sintered components cannot come into play for the first and second gears because there is a jerk in the car. However, the EU has been urging OEMs to conduct tests of the third and fourth gears.
With the impending rollout of BS VI standards in the country, many products designed to meet the stringent standards are getting converted from ‘forging’ to ‘sintered’. Raval said these products, such as variable cam drive and variable valve drive, have been added to the engine to control emissions. There are products within the variable cam timing (VCT) and variable valve timing (VVT) that have to be produced through the sintered route owing to the complexities associated with these parts, he noted.
The automotive industry is also focussing on ‘sintering’ of mass balancers. Such mass balancers are produced through forging, but if produced through the sintered route, it can reduce engine weight, resulting in improving fuel economy. Split gears too are generally known to produce more sound because of the gear backlash. Sinter technology has ensured the male and female gears are of the same size, and the assembly job not only ensures zero backlashes but also reduces the sound produced by split gears, Raval explained.
Sintercom also converted the casting bearing caps on the Mahindra Scorpio and Bolero into sintered bearing caps. Leveraging sintered bearings caps resulted in a nine per cent weight reduction, translating into significant fuel savings. Delving deep, Sintercom said it did not change the dimensions while developing the synchro hubs and only inserted some pockets in the hubs that reduced its weight by 4-5 %. Each weight of a synchro hub is 250 to 300 gm, and when one calculates 300 gm over five per cent, around 75 gm of vehicle weight is reduced. This result in 2-3 % weight reduction, he noted.
Electric vehicles are a big buzz despite not much headway being made on the ground. For now, Sintercom does not manufacture any EV products, but it is betting big on manufacturing magnetic planetary gears used in EVs, as these gears are poised to be eventually sintered, Raval said.
Sintercom currently operates its plant at Talegaon, near Pune and has drawn up plans to set-up a plant in Gujarat by 2021. The nascent Indian automotive sintering market is pegged at around Rs 1,200 cr at the end of FY 2018 and based on the expected increase in the passenger vehicle segment, this market has the potential to touch Rs 2,000 cr by 2020, Raval stated. Further, with BS VI emission norms coming into play, there will more demand for sintered components owing to complexities and criticalities involved in the components, he said.
Text: Suhrid Barua