Gestamp with hot stamping technology leads weight-reduction drive
Gestamp, specialises in design, development and manufacture of metal components and units for passenger car manufacturers. The Spanish multinational company, that is present in 20 countries, with 96 industrial plants and 9 plants under construction, 12 Research and Development (R&D) centres, had a turnover of Euro 7.035 billion in 2015. The turnover can be credited to its extensive use of hot stamping technology to create safer and lighter vehicles which in turn improves the vehicle’s overall energy consumption and environmental impact.
Hot stamping is one of the solutions that is claimed to allow manufacturers to reduce the weight of the body in white (BIW) structure. Gestamp, with hot stamping, claims to attain 30% weight reduction of Body In White (BIW) parts. For Indian OEMs weighed down by the pressure to meet several correlated regulatory deadlines in the short-to-medium-term, Gestamp senses an opportunity to leverage the early mover advantage.
With hot stamping said to improve the vehicle’s behaviour in case of collision, thereby additionally contributing to passenger safety, it is also perhaps the most opportune time for a company like Gestamp. Indian OEMs have been consistently failing the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP), and are now desperately looking to make the cut. It is here that Gestamp, one of the world’s largest providers of parts made by hot stamping, is looking to extend its industrial model such that it covers the entire value chain, with press lines and dies manufacturing at its facilities.
Its new plant in Talegaon, in Pune, will be the third in the Indian market. Apart from the focus on hot stamping, the group in India offers other technologies like cold stamping (including skin panels) and robotic welding. The diversity ensures a range of offerings, from large, medium and small stampings, BIW assemblies and Cross-Car Beams (CCB). However, the company with over 70 hot stamping lines globally, is banking on the newly commissioned hot stamping plant to sell OEMs the obvious advantages associated with adopting hot stamping. Hot stamping is especially the innovative offering that the manufacturer depends on to stay ahead of the curve as the automotive industry looks to reinvent itself in times to come.
Growth in India
Recently, in an exclusive chat with Auto Components India, Raman Nanda, Country Head and President of Gestamp India, shared his views on how the hot stamping technology plant. “The new hot stamping technology plant will prove to be beneficial in reducing the overall vehicle weight of passenger cars, while enabling OEMs to better adhere to the country’s new crash regulations, emission norms, fuel efficiency mandate and the forthcoming Bharat NCAP,” he said.
This confidence perhaps stems from Gestamp’s stellar performance in India over the years. Since it began the Indian operations, Gestamp’s turnover has increased almost 9 fold from Rs 1.3 billion (Euro 19 million) in 2008 to about Rs 10.4 billion in 2015 (Euro 157 million). According to IHS Automotive, the group has witnessed 8.7% year-on-year, increase in production volumes. It assumes significance, considering the rise in production volumes in India accounts for more than double the global growth accumulated during the same period, estimated at 3.9%.
Not divulging performance in terms of the key financial and business metrics, Nanda drew attention to the adding of plants as a testimony to the MNC meeting the set objectives. “We have been giving good returns to our shareholders as only then we are entitled to ask for capital in return for our plant investments,” he said.
New hot stamping plant
Since entering India in 2008, Gestamp has invested Rs 10.8 billion (Euro 150 million) in India operations. For the new hot stamping plant alone, claimed to be a first of its kind in India, the company has invested Rs 2.6 billion (Euro 36 million). Built over an area of 28 acres, covering an area of 10,000 sq.m, the new hot stamping plant which has begun to manufacture previous series,
is claimed to be on schedule to begin serial production in May, 2017. With a clear focus on passenger vehicles, it will provide services to OEMs like Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA), Ford and Tata Motors to begin with. The first trial part at the plant began on June 2, 2016. On visiting the plant, the level of automation attained for an Indian plant was also noteworthy.
“Automation and utilisation is key for high technology and competitive industry like us to meet quality and consistency,” emphasised Nanda. “Localisation is equally crucial,” he added.
Chakan and Chennai plants
At the Chakan plant in Pune, Gestamp offers cold stamping and HSS stamping. Unlike in hot stamping, where advanced ultra high strength steel is formed into complex shapes, cold stamping involves the transformation of a sheet of metal at room temperature inside a forming die under pressure. At Gestamp, the press force ranges from 200-tonnes to 2,500-tonnes. The presses are operated in the upper range of force of greater than 1,000-tonnes where consequently high strength materials, with a typical strength of 1,000 Mpa are stamped. Then there are sub-categories of cold forming that include roll forming and hydro-forming. Roll forming is a cold forming process where a coil strip is bended by passing the strip through sets of rollers resulting in continuous deformation. Each set of rollers perform an incremental part of the bend until the desired crosssection profile is obtained. The process is said to be ideal for producing parts with constant profiles, long lengths and in large quantities.
At Gestamp, in cold stamping, several variations of roll forming are performed. These also include automatic cutting, piercing, separating and laser welding. Hydro-forming is a specialised type of cold forming that uses a high pressure hydraulic fluid to press room temperature tubes into a die. The process consists of pre-bending a metallic tube and placing this pre-shaped tube inside a die with the desired cross sections and forms, and applying pressure to the inside of the tube held by the die.
During the blowing or forming of the tube held in the die, holes can be pierced into the tube thereby avoiding secondary operations in most cases. Hydro-forming allows complex shapes with concavities to be formed, which would be difficult or impossible with standard stamping. One of the advantages of using this process is that it facilitates the creation of a 3 dimensional tube. In contrast, in cold stamping, it can be manufactured only by welding 2 shells together.
The ability to deform thick materials makes hydro-forming particularly useful for chassis applications. From the Chakan plant, commissioned in 2010, Gestamp serves OEMs like Volkswagen and Skoda, through products like large, medium and small stampings covering under body parts and structural components. Producing 90% of Volkswagen skin parts, the car models built for at Gestamp’s Chakan plant include Volkswagen models like: Vento, Polo and Ameo. It additionally produces parts for the Skoda Rapid.
From the Chennai plant, commissioned in 2012, Gestamp serves Renault Nissan (H79 platform) and Ford (B515 platform) respectively, including producing the pedal assemblies. With Renault Nissan, Gestamp achieved a 100% delivery rating for 9 consecutive months, since September 2015. With Volkswagen India VDA 6. audit, the company obtained ‘B’ ranking in the first attempt. “Customers like Volkswagen set tough targets year after year which are tough to meet for most people. We have met those,” he said.
At each facility of Gestamp, emphasis is laid on imparting training to all its employees. Employees in diverse job profiles like packers, production technician, CMM operator, forklift operator and maintenance undergo phase-wise training modules. At the induction level all employees go through 2 common modules over a period of 1 month. In phase 2, there are 3 modules that are undertaken (four in case of packers) that last for 11 months. An advanced module awaits in phase 3 followed by a phase 4 dedicated to the employees in the production technician and maintenance profile.
At the India R&D centre, activities
for Gestamp broadly centre around tooling design and conversion of cold stamped parts in to hot stamped parts both of which are deemed as significant activities. The hot forming experience being nascent in India, the investment in R&D is one claimed to be ahead of its time. With resources not a constraint for the MNC, the focus is clearly on serving the needs of the Indian clientele. During the process of conception, design and production of a product, the focus is on reducing weight and increasing passive safety, apart from focusing on comfort, durability and recyclability at the end of its useful life and quality.
Of the 35000 plus employees working globally at Gestamp, 1300 employees are dedicated to R&D activities. About 3% of the turnover globally is set aside for R & D.
Hot stamping in India
According to Nanda, the automotive industry has long been aware of the enforcement various regulations like the new crash regulations, emission norms, fuel efficiency mandate and the forthcoming Bharat NCAP among others. “Every one, from OEMs to component makers, has been aware of the regulations coming in to play but it takes courage to put money where the mouth is, like us,” he said.
The stress at Gestamp today is to market the concept of hotstamping. In the last 6 to 8 months emphasis has been on working closely with customers, trying to convert old cold stamped parts to hot stamped parts, conducting feasibility studies among other such efforts. Speaking of the lag in adoption of hot stamping in India, Nanda said that it was at a relatively nascent stage when compared to Europe and USA where it has been there as a process for about 15 years. It was only a matter of time for the technology to proliferate in India when body designers and OEMs take a firm stand on using hot stamping proactively.
Training and skill development is bench-marked to practices at Gestamp’s plant in Dongguan, in China.
Raman Nanda, Country Head & President, Gestamp India.