Padmini VNA Mechatronics Pvt Ltd has been working on developing a portfolio of products that offer fuel economy, rationalise costs, reduce carbon emissions and make automobiles more energy efficient. Auto Tech Review recently visited the company’s Gurugram facility to understand how it is helping India graduate to a greener tomorrow.
Padmini VNA (PVNA) has been spearheading innovation in the journey towards smarter automobiles and a greener planet by engineering emission control systems of global quality standards. The company enables auto manufacturers to achieve carbon emission standards and operate within permissible pollution limits laid down by regulatory bodies and local governments across geographies.
PVNA currently works with 150 vendors from whom it collects raw material at the plant’s underground level. The collected material is segregated among the metallic parts involving casting parts and also among rubber and plastic parts after obtaining necessary quality approvals. The segregated raw material is tagged with date and bar codes and the company subsequently ensures it follows the first-in-first-out (FIFO) system for maintenance of shelf life of raw material, especially rubber parts, depending on their respective grades. Every raw material is checked for bar codes because the material life is fixed and should be picked in necessary order and has to be discarded after the expiry date for high quality maintenance, said SC Pandey, Plant Head, PVNA.
The company has also installed an optical coordinate measuring machine (Optical CMM) at the underground level to check the coordinates of every new part that is introduced at the shopfloor level, irrespective of the size. The machine works on the concept of dynamic referencing to keep a check on the profile movement in 3D for up to four microns. The child parts utilised at the shopfloor undergo PVNA's inspection standards (PVIS) in Quality QSE section to fix parameters (including customer requirements), which are critical for the part performance, Pandey added.
PVNA has also installed more than 23 injection moulding machines (inclusive of horizontal and vertical moulding machines) to develop plastic mouldings of 50-600 tonne capacity. The critical components, high volume parts and also mouldings for premium customers are specifically developed in-house to meet high quality requirements. PVNA also has an endurance test lab with a fixed schedule for the full calendar year that spans across both new and existing businesses to ensure zero-defect parts go into production. The company also has a vibration and environmental test chamber to check the vibration capabilities of the product and also creates a practical environment for checking performance under requisite temperature and pressure.
An Indian emission control systems major, PVNA has a workforce of 600 employees equally spread between blue collar and white collar personnel, which also includes women to a large extent. Around 150 employees are dedicated for new product development in various R&D departments, where PVNA spends around 8-10 % of its revenues annually. The company adopts a module system to segregate five departments – EGR group, solenoid group, vacuum pump group, ASV & fuel cap group and electronics. PVNA operates different R&D labs for all the five segments to avoid any kind of focus diversion from the set vision for engineering and prototype development. Barring the electronics lab, which is located at the first floor, all other R&D labs are at the underground level. Over the last two years, the company has registered 23 patents out of the total 45 patents it has won across emission control systems, personal cooling and solar technologies.
PVNA also has a special innovation lab that dedicatedly explores innovations to open up new markets. In order to reduce the usage of cabin air-conditioners, PVNA engineers have developed cooled and heated automotive seating system that will be fitted in the cabin seat. Cooled (or heated) water will flow through a polymer layer below the seat surface and offer ambient temperature to the body directly for better comfort within 10 s, as against air ventilated seats and reduce the need for cabin ACs. The company has already won a patent for the technology, which is undergoing testing stages with DICV and Mercedes in India and with Tesla and Ford in the international market.
On the ground floor, PVNA has placed computed tomography (CT Scan machine) that checks the parts for deformity from the set dimensions and density without dismantling the part. The machine helps to see through the part whether the plastic or metal is creating a problem. The company’s engineers are also working on additive manufacturing for adding layer-on-layer of material, whether plastic or metal to reduce material wastage and are currently undertaking studies for mountings only. A vacuum and helium leak detector has also been installed at the plant to detect large leaks up to 1,000 hPa and inlet test pressure. The facility also houses a full-fledged material testing lab with density metre, x-ray machine, spectrometers for plastics and rubber.
The shopfloor undertakes manufacturing of ASV (air solenoid valve), fuel caps, vacuum pumps, different parts of EGR and electronics. Following the Heijunka system of manufacturing (Japanese system of manufacturing), the assembly of products is highly automated to ensure product development precision. The quality checked child parts are placed manually by the worker, which is followed by every assembly line following the Poka Yoke system. The process is managed by sensors to ensure the right product is picked up by the line operator for assembly operations and suspends further operations until the right child part is placed. The fuel cap assembly is undertaken by ultrasonic welding to join two plastic parts, which is followed by placing of fuel caps on rotary to automatically check the product performance under heat, flow and vacuum. Every section has a separate packaging section to avoid any mix up of products during the final dispatch process.
BS VI emission norms are set to be implemented in little over a year from now, and will see introduction of newer technologies across EGR valves, EGR coolers and pneumatic actuators. PVNA has installed an engine-dyno section on the ground floor along with vacuum brazing furnace, and EGR module test machine to test the working of the EGR system. In BS IV, all EGR valves are pneumatic or mechanical, but with BS VI, EGR valves will have to be motorised; so it is imperative to build capacities accordingly, said Pandey. Vacuum brazing is performed using controlled heating and cooling of components to reduce residual stress in the component and is conducted under vacuum with temperature uniformity for joint strength and integrity. The process helps in maintaining base material properties, facilitates joining of dissimilar materials and ensures the product is leak-proof.
On the first floor, PVNA also makes brush and brushless motors along with electric water pump that can be used for water cooling, battery cooling and vehicles operating with SCR systems. Every electric vehicle will come up with three to four electric water pumps; thus, demand will pick up in coming times. The company is already exporting water pumps to Daimler for cabin cooling, and it will also soon initiate supplies for the same to Tata Motors and M&M for BS VI. In addition, it will also supply pumps for their electric vehicles for battery cooling. Since plastic moulding of such components is critical, PVNA manages its production in-house.
Under the solenoid section, the facility undertakes production of TSCV (turbocharged solenoid valve) and VSV (vacuum solenoid valve) for passenger cars. The company initiates production of TSCV with bobbin assembly from where the part is sent for leakage testing and terminal crimping operation, followed by automatic copper winding machine and subsequently by DIP soldering machine. The part is subsequently carried forward for deployment of housing. The parts are then laser marked to track in case of any warranty issues, and checked at the supplier level from which the child parts were sourced. PVNA also conducts profiling of vacuum pumps, throttle body, gear housing, EGR and actuators as well in-house through its 29 CNC machines. The endurance testing of vacuum parts, pressure pulsating test set-up water pump, erosion test bench are also undertaken in-house.
PVNA is currently offering various solutions for the rapidly-changing emission control requirements for faster adoption of stricter norms. The company has already started supplying anti-corking valve, refuelling vent valve along with sensors for hybrid and electric vehicles of Mercedes Benz and BMW for their European and Chinese commitments. The company is aiming to double up its exports over the next few years, which currently hovers around 22-25 % of its volumes, while meeting demands for EVs and hybrids.
PVNA has also started supplying fuel tank isolation valve to Volkswagen, both for the domestic and international markets. The company is currently building a new facility in Gurugram, which will be three times that of its existing facility and will focus on domestic demand. The current facility, which is more export-oriented, is operating a single shift. Subsequently, this will be followed by the roll-out of 70 more products to help the industry comply with BS VI norms, as most customers are expected to start production of such vehicles from Q2 2019.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay