The sintering technology is gaining steady prominence in the automotive industry across the globe. Automotive sintered components are used in transmissions, engines, chassis, steering, suspension, door lock parts, brake parts, seat assembly components, alternators, etc. In fact, sintered parts such as bearings and gears are common to all types of vehicles. However, the size, strength and function of these bearings and gears may vary depending on the application.
It may be worth recalling that the automotive industry started leveraging powder metallurgy through use of sintered self-lubricating bearings and low density structural parts in early 1930s, followed by shock absorbing components in 1950s. Larger and more complicated shapes such as timing gear sprockets and synchronizer hubs were developed in 1970s. .
Automotive sintered components are witnessing rapid adoption in the US, Europe and Japan, if data from the Powder Metallurgy Association of India (PMAI) is anything to go by. The US is witnessing use of around 17-18 kg of sintered components in a vehicle, while Europe and Japan are witnessing use of around 12 kg of sintered components in a vehicle. The penetration of sintered components in India is around 4 %, which only reinforces the fact that the Indian market holds huge potential for automotive sintered components.
There will be an increasing demand for automotive sintered components given the fact that BS VI emission norms are coming into play from April 2020 owing to the complexities and criticalities involved in the components.
It is observed that a large chunk of automotive components has densities of around 7.0 g/cm3, which effectively means that the industry will require more demanding applications. The industry is witnessing significant R&D for manufacturing components that require densities in the range 7.5 g/cm3-7.7g/cm3. This is where the sintering technology can help meet the need for more demanding applications.
It is important to understand that 30 % of automotive components have an impact load, while 70 % of automotive components do not have any impact load. Automotive components with impact load cannot be sintered because there is low density than forging, while components without impact load can be sintered notwithstanding the obvious limitations.
The automotive industry is also witnessing a shift from forged transmission gears to sintered transmission gears. It may be pertinent to point out that the European Union identified forged transmission gears as one of the root causes of producing emissions. No wonder, the EU has been urging OEMs to explore sintered transmission gears to reduce emissions.
The industry is also focussing on ‘sintering’ of mass balancers that are produced through forging. If mass balancers are produced through the sintered route it can reduce engine weight, resulting in improving fuel economy. Similarly, sintered bearings caps can bring about significant weight reduction, translating into significant fuel savings.
Clearly, the nascent Indian sintering components market for the passenger vehicle segment is estimated to be around Rs 1,200 crore at the end of FY 2018. “The sintering components market has the potential to touch Rs. 2,000 crore by 2020, asserted Jignesh Raval, Managing Director, Sintercom India, a company that has been at the forefront of manufacturing automotive sintered components in India.