Wiring harnesses used in the automotive industry have been undergoing tremendous development in recent times. To ensure optimum performance of vehicles as well as proper functioning of all electronic devices fitted in the vehicles, OEMs are focusing on developing advanced automotive wiring harnesses.
Various new technologies concerning environment, safety and comfort are applied to recent cars. In terms of wiring harness development, environmentally-friendly products such as hi-voltage wiring harness systems for HEVs and EVs and weight-saving wiring harnesses systems designed to improve fuel efficiency, are attracting strong demand. Harnessing experts around the world are undertaking R&D efforts to contribute to the environment facilitating a low-carbon society.
New technology and up-gradation of existing technology are the key drivers of the global automotive wiring harness market. New and flexible wires are being fitted in wiring harness set-up for better current delivery. Automotive wires are being manufactured to withstand more heat and handle the current flow to a large number of equipment fitted in a vehicle. Moreover, new wire connectors and cables are equipped with better insulation and bent-proof technology to ensure better lifespan of automobile wires under extreme conditions.
This has resulted in the use of newer technology in automotive wiring harness as a key driver of the market globally. “The global automotive wiring harness market is growing at a steady pace due to increasing demand for automobiles across the globe. The demand for more performance-oriented vehicles that largely depend on electrical components, is driving the automotive wiring harness market,” said Lars E Kjaer, Director, Area Sales Management, Komax AG.
In order to satisfy these customer demands, manufacturers are developing high-voltage wiring harness systems and weight-saving electric wire and connection technology. Although the gross weight of the wiring harness using a conventional electric wire is about 30 kg for each car, weight savings of about 30 % is possible by using a weight-saving electric wire.
The growing demand for high-tech devices and Government directives to implement safety features in vehicles are some of the major factors for the exponential growth of the automotive wiring harness market in Asia Pacific. Werner Raulin, Vice President, Global Sales Komax Testing, TSK said wiring harness for vehicles that run on alternate energy are creating an opportunity to develop more technologically advanced automotive wiring harnesses as these vehicles require complex combinations of wires and cables to be fitted in them.
The Ethernet cable, for instance, uses a combination of many cables twisted together to form a single cable, which is lightweight and costs less. Thus, there is increasing demand for automotive Ethernet cables that reduce the overall vehicle weight and increases performance. Automotive Ethernet is a relatively new concept and is undergoing extensive research. Thus, the installation of low-cost automotive Ethernet cables without compromising on the quality is expected to offer huge growth potential for the automotive wiring harness market in the near future.
Since the assembly of wiring harnesses is largely performed manually in the automotive industry, it causes high labour costs as well as a high number of defects. In order to minimise these disadvantages, both industry and research undertook massive efforts to increase automation in the assembly of wiring harness modules. Fully automated crimping and block loading machines are already being successfully used in the industry for automated assembly of small wiring harnesses.
However, there is immense potential to increase the efficiency and quality of the assembly of wiring harnesses. The new system can provide higher production efficiency as compared to both the competitive systems and manual assembly. This innovative concept also helps in saving resources as it uses the standard crimping machine as a basis, which is already present in many wiring harness factories.
Weight savings and thinning of automotive wires have been achieved in the past through contraption, mainly for thinning insulation material and devising conductor structures, including circular compressed structure. But newer techniques are required as the former technology is approaching its limits, industry experts said.
“Companies have developed different types of wires that will enable further reductions in weight and diameter according to their usage by reducing the specific gravity of conductors and strengthening them,” said Udo Wagenbach, Head of Sales, Wire Applications, Schunk Sonosystems Gmbh. One is an aluminium alloy automotive wire with high strength and high conductivity, while another is a copper-clad aluminium (CA) wire suitable for a thick wire such as a battery cable, and the last is a high strength wire suitable for signal lines that have the same strength with the one quarter cross section to that of a current soft wire.
As each conductor material has a suitable application area, the maximum effect of weight and wire size reductions can be achieved by using them depending on the sizes.
Chassis harness has emerged as the largest growth segment in the wiring harness market, owing to the complex installations in the instrument panel of passenger cars. The increased installation rate of high-end electronics in passenger cars increases the complexity in the cables. This factor drives the demand for chassis harnesses. The light vehicle segment is estimated to grow at the highest CAGR and is projected to account for the highest market share, in terms of sales. “Increased production of passenger cars will drive the wiring harness market for light vehicles, mentioned Raulin.
The Asia-Pacific region is estimated to grow at the highest CAGR, by value, over the period 2016 to 2021. High volume markets and increasing demand for high-end electronic and safety features in passenger cars make Asia-Pacific the largest regional market for automotive wiring harness. The upcoming legislation for safety technologies in developing countries like India is also a major factor that will drive this market.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Key challenge of the wiring harness technology lies in designing cost-effective techniques for rapidly and accurately assembling these connections. In order to address this issue, the harnessing industry has been developing new technologies and implementing efficient design principles to design, develop, and manufacture products the automotive industry wants.
Engineers today are using their research and engineering know-how to develop innovative as well as affordable solutions. In order to leverage the maximum market potential, stakeholders in the wire harnessing value chain are drawing on the systems’ expertise to streamline the entire product development process, from concept to prototype to manufacturing and delivery.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley