Grow­ing au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try drives chas­sis and sus­pen­sion sec­tor

Over­all de­vel­op­ment of the auto in­dus­try, change in the con­sumer pref­er­ence led by in­no­va­tion are the main fac­tors of mar­ket growth.

Auto components India - - COVER STORY - Story by: Bhar­gav TS

Global au­to­mo­tive chas­sis sys­tems mar­ket would reach $97 bil­lion by 2022 from $71 bil­lion in 2015 grow­ing at a CAGR of 4.5% from 2016 to 2022. Chas­sis is the in­ter­nal frame that sup­ports all the body parts of the ve­hi­cle. It is ex­pected to be light and sturdy. The sys­tems in­te­grate the func­tions of all the ve­hi­cles and have en­hanced aero­dy­namic qual­ity to improve fuel ef­fi­ciency and de­sign. Au­to­matic fault de­tec­tion, which no­ti­fies the driver about mal­func­tion, is an ad­di­tional fea­ture avail­able in the chas­sis sys­tems. Rise in de­mand of the chas­sis sys­tems with in­crease in sales of au­to­mo­biles world­wide, rise in in­fra­struc­ture fa­cil­ity, over­all de­vel­op­ment of au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try, and change in the con­sumer pref­er­ence led by prod­uct in­no­va­tion are the main fac­tors that drive the mar­ket. Re­search­ing for new tech­nolo­gies for chas­sis man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­ity im­prove­ment and no de­mand for stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of the sys­tem, which makes way for new en­trants to en­ter the mar­ket with­out much R&D investment, are ex­pected to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for mar­ket growth. How­ever, extensive ex­pen­di­ture by the com­pa­nies on R&D of the new chas­sis sys­tem re­strains growth.

The global au­to­mo­tive chas­sis sys­tems mar­ket is seg­mented on the ba­sis of com­po­nents type, chas­sis sys­tems type, ve­hi­cle type, and ge­og­ra­phy. The au­to­mo­bile man­u­fac­ture pref­er­ence has changed rad­i­cally in the last cou­ple of years ow­ing to the in­crease in con­sumer con­cern re­lated to the pol­lu­tion and in­tro­duc­tion of norms con­cern­ing fuel ef­fi­ciency of the ve­hi­cles.

More­over, the in­creased em­pha­sis on en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion preven­tion by the or­gan­i­sa­tions of the gov­ern­ment also in­flu­ences the mar­ket dy­nam­ics. Hence, these fac­tors af­fect the chas­sis sys­tems that are mod­i­fied to meet high stan­dard and in­creased ef­fi­ciency re­quire­ments. De­vel­op­ment in tech­nol­ogy and de­mand for au­to­mo­biles drive the chas­sis in­dus­try. The tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments can be gained through extensive re­search and prod­uct dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion. Com­pa­nies have in­creased their re­search bud­get which is ex­pected to fuel

the mar­ket.

Ma­jor mar­ket play­ers

The ma­jor mar­ket play­ers in­clude Continental AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, Amer­i­can Axle & Man­u­fac­tur­ing, Magna In­ter­na­tional Inc., Ben­teler In­ter­na­tional AG, ZF Friedrichafen, Aisin Seiki Co., Scha­ef­fler AG, Hyundai Mo­bis, and Ges­tamp Au­to­mo­cion SA.

At present, growth strate­gies such as ex­pan­sion, prod­uct launch, part­ner­ship, and ac­qui­si­tion are adopted by key mar­ket play­ers to re­main com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket. Au­to­mo­tive chas­sis sys­tems mar­ket is largely driven by ex­pan­sion and prod­uct launch strate­gies. For in­stance, ZF Friedrichafen an­nounced its ex­pan­sion in Iraq in June 2016, fol­low­ing the ease of eco­nomic sanc­tions on Iraq at the be­gin­ning of this year. On May 2016, Amer­i­can Axle and Man­u­fac­tur­ing an­nounced open­ing of its new plant in Poland to ex­pand its foot­print in East­ern Europe.

Chas­sis & sus­pen­sion sys­tem

The term “chas­sis” is used to des­ig­nate the com­plete car mi­nus the body. The chas­sis con­sists of the en­gine, pow­er­trans­mis­sion sys­tem, and sus­pen­sion sys­tem all suit­ably at­tached to, or sus­pended from, a struc­turally in­de­pen­dent frame. Al­though this con­struc­tion is widely used, an al­most equal num­ber of au­to­mo­bile makers em­ploy a de­sign in which the frame and body are welded to­gether to form an in­te­gral unit.

Usu­ally of all-welded steel con­struc­tion, the frame may con­sist of, box-girder side rails with re­in­forced cen­ter X; ful­l­length box-girder side rails with

box­girder cross mem­bers (lad­der type); or cen­ter X con­struc­tion with no side rails, braced front and rear with box-girder cross mem­bers.

The chief de­sign re­quire­ments of the au­to­mo­bile frame, whether it be struc­turally in­de­pen­dent or an in­te­gral part of the body, are that it pro­vides great strength with min­i­mum weight. It must be rigid enough to ab­sorb the road im­pacts and shocks trans­mit­ted by wheels and axles, and it must be able to with­stand the tor­sional stresses en­coun­tered un­der op­er­at­ing con­di­tions.

To save weight, side mem­bers are made deep­est at the lo­ca­tion of great bend­ing mo­ment, ta­per­ing off as the bend­ing mo­ment de­creases. The frame is made nar­rower at the front to al­low the front wheels to turn when steer­ing; it also fea­tures a “kickup” at the rear to lower the cen­ter of grav­ity of the car and still al­low suf­fi­cient room for ef­fec­tive rear-spring action. Chas­sis sys­tem made of com­pos­ite com­po­nents which would make the chas­sis lighter and stronger and aero­dy­namic are some of the key fac­tors in driv­ing the au­to­mo­tive chas­sis sys­tems mar­ket. Light weight and aero­dy­namic chas­sis sys­tem also en­hance the fuel ef­fi­ciency of the ve­hi­cle.

Since safety is given ut­most pri­or­ity, the us­age of bet­ter com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als in­creas­ingly makes ve­hi­cles safer and lighter than be­fore. Com­pa­nies are con­stantly fo­cus­ing on re­search and de­vel­op­ment to improve the de­sign of the ve­hi­cle chas­sis so that it is bet­ter equipped to han­dle the im­pact at the time of the crash. Added pro­tec­tion is pro­vided with the help of beams to the ar­eas in chas­sis which are more prone to im­pact at the time of crash. Fur­ther­more, man­u­fac­tur­ers are fo­cus­ing on in­no­vat­ing com­po­nents with higher re­sis­tance to de­for­ma­tion. Con­stant im­prove­ment in safety of the pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing in the ve­hi­cle is ex­pected to be a key op­por­tu­nity in driv­ing the au­to­mo­tive chas­sis sys­tem mar­ket.

LCVs was the third largest seg­ment of the au­to­mo­tive chas­sis sys­tem mar­ket, as these are the most pre­ferred type of ve­hi­cles used for com­mer­cial pur­poses. Heavy com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, also known as multi-axle ve­hi­cles, have over­all pay­load ca­pac­ity of above 16.2 tonne. These ve­hi­cles are the life­line of com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and form an in­te­gral part of the econ­omy. Emerg­ing economies such as In­dia and China have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing rapid in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment over the past few years. This has in­creased the de­mand for HCVs to trans­port heavy con­struc­tion equip­ment and ma­te­ri­als. De­mand for HCVs is high for the trans­porta­tion of heavy goods across long dis­tances in the man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion sec­tors. These are the ma­jor fac­tors driv­ing the HCV seg­ment.

Front sus­pen­sion

The front wheels of most pas­sen­ger cars are in­de­pen­dently sus­pended from the frame. In­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion re­duces the front-end vi­bra­tion as­so­ci­ated with the rigid front axle that for­merly was used, and it also im­proves ve­hi­cle rid­ing and han­dling qual­i­ties. The move­ment of each front wheel is, within the lim­i­ta­tions dis­cussed be­low, com­pletely un­af­fected by the move­ments of the other.

The most common in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion sys­tem mounts a steer­ing-knuckle-and-wheel­spin­dle as­sem­bly be­tween up­per and lower pairs of nearly par­al­lel con­trol arms. The in­ner ends of the con­trol arms pivot in

rub­ber-mounted steel bush­ings se­cured to the frame; the outer ends ter­mi­nate in ball joints that sup­port the steer­ing knuckle and wheel spin­dle. Be­cause the lower arms are longer than the up­per, the re­la­tion of their up-and-down move­ments is such that, in turn­ing ma­neu­vers, the out­side and more heav­ily loaded wheel re­mains more nearly vertical with re­spect to the road sur­face.

Front sus­pen­sions may in­cor­po­rate ei­ther tor­sion bars or coil springs. Tor­sion bars, one on each side, run par­al­lel to the front-to-back cen­ter­line of the ve­hi­cle. A tor­sion bar is a steel mem­ber, usu­ally cylin­dri­cal, that ab­sorbs fron­twheel de­flec­tions by twist­ing about its own horizontal axis. One end of the tor­sion bar is fas­tened rigidly to the frame at some point to­ward the rear of the car; the other end is linked to the sus­pen­sion sys­tem so that the shaft al­ter­nately twists and un­twists in re­sponse to the vertical move­ments of the front wheel.

When coil springs are used, they are mounted un­der com­pres­sion be­tween the frame and the up­per or lower con­trol arms. In addition, a sta­biliser bar is linked of­ten to the lower con­trol arms to bal­ance tyre load­ing and to pre­vent ex­ces­sive sway when the car is cor­ner­ing. When­ever 1 spring de­flects more than the other, the sta­biliser equalises the de­flec­tion by trans­fer­ring part of the load to the other tyre.

Rear Sus­pen­sion

Al­though a few Amer­i­can cars fea­ture in­de­pen­dent, or swingaxle, rear-wheel sus­pen­sion, the ma­jor­ity use a fixed rear axle sus­pended from ei­ther lam­i­nated (lay­ered) leaf springs or a coil-springs-trail­ing con­tro­larm ar­range­ment. Which­ever sus­pen­sion sys­tem is used, it must be de­signed not only to ab­sorb road shocks but also to pro­vide a means for ab­sorb­ing the torque re­ac­tions re­sult­ing from driv­ing and brak­ing.

When lam­i­nated leaf springs are used, one end of each spring is fas­tened to the frame of the car by a pivot joint. The other end is con­nected to the frame by a shackle, or swing­ing joint, that com­pen­sates for the changes in over-all length that oc­cur when the spring flexes. Con­nec­tion bush­ings are steel sleeves mounted in oil-re­sis­tant rub­ber. Leaf springs usu­ally are clamped to the rear­axle hous­ing with U-bolts at a point ap­prox­i­mately mid­way be­tween the ends of the spring.

In a coil-spring rear-sus­pen­sion sys­tem the springs are mounted un­der com­pres­sion be­tween the frame and the axle hous­ing. Be­cause of the na­ture of coil springs, trans­verse (cross­wise) ra­dius rods are used to re­strict side­wise move­ment of the axle hous­ing rel­a­tive to the frame. To ab­sorb torque re­ac­tions, spe­cial torque bars are in­stalled be­tween the axle hous­ing and some re­in­forced point on the frame just ahead of the axle hous­ing.

Shock Ab­sorbers

The shock ab­sorber is a hy­draulic damp­ing de­vice that con­trols the os­cil­la­tions of the springs and pre­vents their be­ing ex­ces­sively com­pressed or ex­panded. Most com­monly used is the direct-act­ing type, in­volv­ing a dou­ble-act­ing pis­ton-and­cylin­der ar­range­ment. Rear shock ab­sorbers are in­stalled be­tween the axle hous­ing and the frame; front shock ab­sorbers usu­ally are mounted in­side the coil springs be­tween the lower con­trol arm and the frame. Op­tional-equip­ment rear shock ab­sorbers are avail­able that pro­vide ad­justable load-car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, an es­pe­cially use­ful fea­ture for sta­tion-wagon own­ers. In 1 de­sign, the up­per por­tion of a hy­draulic shock ab­sorber is sur­rounded by a metal-en­cased rub­ber boot that can be in­flated with air from a con­nec­tion in­side the ve­hi­cle. By vary­ing the air pres­sure within the boot from ap­prox­i­mately 30 to 90 pounds per square inch, the driver can have a soft, com­fort­able ride when the ve­hi­cle is empty or a ride that is firm and controlled when the ve­hi­cle is heav­ily loaded.

The in­crease in in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment has fu­eled the de­mand for heavy ve­hi­cles in In­dia. More­over, the rise of the busi­ness class in the re­gion is driv­ing the de­mand for luxury and pre­mium seg­ment cars. In­dia en­joys a dis­tinct com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in terms of qual­ity and cost and this has prompted all the ma­jor play­ers in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try mar­ket to setup their man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in the re­gion. This is ex­pected to drive the au­to­mo­tive chas­sis and sus­pen­sion sys­tem mar­ket fur­ther in Asia-Pa­cific es­pe­cially in In­dia.

Sub-as­sem­blies be­ing fit­ted to the main frame of a truck chas­sis

Rear sus­pen­sion is be­ing as­sem­bled in a pas­sen­ger car

KLT Au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tures wide range of chas­sis

Two-wheeler frame

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