Meritor India introduces Slipper suspension
Meritor CVS India Private Ltd, the manufacturer of axles and brakes, is now entering the suspension market with its new Slipper type system.
It is a well-known fact that the excessive vibrations in heavy vehicles affect driver comfort, cargo safety and increase tyrewear. The current challenge in the field of suspension design for heavy vehicles is to optimise the suspension dynamic parameters to meet such requirements. In India trucks are fitted with Bellcrank suspension in spite of its disadvantages. Now an alternative system has come in the form of Slipper type suspension, which offers advantages like light weight design and lower cost of ownership.
After doing a market study on Slipper type suspension for the Indian market, Meritor CVS India Private Ltd, the manufacturer of axles and brakes, is now entering the suspension market with its new Slipper type system. According to Meritor, the product is currently prevalent in Brazil, a market similar to India in terms of loading and the road infrastructure. The company had a joint venture with Suspensys in Brazil but it was dissolved in late 2013.
Now the company is ready with the Slipper suspension and the commercial launch in India is likely to happen in the next 3-4 months. Manufacturing the suspension in India is not a problem as the manufacturer is equipped with all the capabilities. The new suspension is meant for trucks, to be precise medium duty trucks of 36-tonne capacity. Slipper type comes in the category of leaf spring suspension with its own unique characteristics.
Speaking to AutoComponents India, Thimmaiah N P, Vice President, India, Meritor CVS, said, “India is the only market which is using Bellcrank suspension now. When we go with our product to top OEMs, initially they were not showing much interest. Then we started approaching them independently to make them understand the pain points with the existing Bellcrank suspension. With Bellcrank, the operation and the maintenance are challenging. In Bellcrank suspension there are more than 20 joints and bushes and screws are bolted which require lubrication. These link points have to be lubricated for the efficient functioning. But with the Slipper type we have only 2 link points which can easily be operated and maintained.”
According to the study conducted by Meritor and testing of the Slipper type suspension in various customers’ vehicles, it is found that the maintenance cost has come down from 15-20 paise per km to 3-5 paise. With the Slipper type suspension even after 60,000 km the tyre wear was only 30% and no parts were
With the existing Bellcrank suspension, tyre has to be replaced after 40,000 km. In addition to that, Slipper suspensions weighs 80-100 kg less which enables the operators carry extra load. In a nut shell the Slipper type suspension reduces the downtime, maintenance cost, part replacement needs and suspension overhaul.
Ashok Leyland has shown interest in Slipper suspension and is the first company to come on board for Meritor. The company, with proven data, approached the OEM and even its customer VRL Logistics has shown interest in the Slipper type suspension due to its wide range of advantages. Tyre life is promised up to 180,000 km. This is because in Bellcrank all the loads go through the tyre to axle and axle to spring unevenly. But with the Slipper type there will be constant change in the stiffness of the spring, which aids driving comfort. Also in Slipper type the vertical load goes to spring and the braking and acceleration is taken care by the torque rod. The grease points are reduced from 20 to 2 which is the biggest advantage.
The new suspension is 100% localised and it will be only 10% costlier than the Bellcrank suspension. Chassis and internal packaging is different across fleet and across OEMs. Hence the suspension has to be delivered matching this. Meritor in discussion with OEMs applies re-engineering where ever necessary.
Senior Engineering Manager of Meritor CVS, Kishan Kumar Udupi, said, “Our Slipper suspension provides optimum performance matched with overall cost benefits. It offers improved maneuvering by having the leaf springs asymmetrically therefore the axles can have optimum spacing between them. Also due to this design it enhances the ride comfort during unladen and laden conditions. We have designed the drive axle spring with 10% higher stiffness to ensure better traction and start ability. The design also provides an opportunity to lift the tag axle with the unique central lift device. This axle lift reduces the wear and tear of parts and improves fuel economy. Our entire suspension is packaged within the chassis frame, which provides an opportunity to bring down the overall vehicles centre of gravity. This will improve the vehicle dynamics to a large extent.”
Commenting on upgrading thier existing products, Thimmaiah said, “We are upgrading all our product portfolio. We are also working on new platforms. Our R&D centre in India takes care of the entire activity from the initial prototype to concept development, manufacturing product, testing and delivering to the domestic and the global customers. Our product
portfolio comprises manufacturing axles for LCVs, MCVs, HCVs and ICVs. In India ICV market is nascent for us. But our Centre of Excellence (CoE) takes care of the process from the design stage until the product is out for delivery. In a nutshell, ICV’s CoE will help the global market in case of any concerns. We are working with OEMs and contemplating on the efficiency increase within the axle range to support them to abide by the BS VI norms. We ensure with our upgradation that the product would be light in weight with increased performance.”
Quite ride gearing
Meritor is coming up with quiet ride gearing, a new concept in gearing in the manufacturing process. It is popular in the global markets. The product gets into buses, especially the luxury coach segment. In India discussion is going on with the OEMs. About the quite gearing Thimmaiah said, “This product is developed in India and supplied to the global market. The product
incurs just 1% increase in cost. But the customers in India are not valuing the product owing to other noises in the vehicle. We export axles from India to Brazil, China, Europe and the US, and the quiet gearing to Europe, China and the US. At the axle level we encounter changes in the leapfrogging from BS IV to BS VI. When BS VI happens the gear ratio is going to change completely. Engine speed will be reduced and the speed has to be triggered from the axle level. We redesign our axle to cater to the OEMs. We also have laser-welded gear ring to avoid churning losses. In all our products we reduce the number of bushes aiding light weight. The fuel efficiency is also endorsed,” he added.
The company also focuses on off-highway and military applications. It is almost ready with the backhoe loader axle and the prototype is expected to be done in a month. It also wants to tune its focus on wheel loader and motor grader. China is strong in off-highway segment. The company plans to bring wheel loader from China and localise in India.
“We are progressing to industry 4.0, and our next strategy is connected machines. We are upgrading our systems and processors to the world level. In line with that we are making investments of about Rs 70 crore every year and we keep moving forward,” Thimmaiah said.
Meritor is also in the aftermarket and 10% of its revenue comes from this segment. Its axles and brakes have penetrated well in the aftermarket and the company has started to supply clutch and transmission recently. As of now it has more than 120 retailers across the country and at least 20 more will be added by the end of 2017. In the next 5 years the company has plans to expand its suspension portfolio in the bus segment also. The revenue has been doubling since 2012 and the trend will continue for the next 5 years, Thimmaiah concluded.
Thimmaiah N P, Vice President, India, Meritor CVS