Sona BLW en­ters e-mo­bil­ity, works on advanced pow­er­train prod­ucts

Auto components India - - CONTENTS - Story by: Sricha­ran R

Sona BLW Pre­ci­sion Forg­ings, a joint ven­ture be­tween Sona Hold­ing and Mit­subishi Ma­te­ri­als Cor­po­ra­tion, Ja­pan, is ex­pands its Pune fa­cil­ity and is work­ing on advanced pow­er­train prod­ucts. The com­pany formed in 1995 and be­gan com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion in 1996, has 2 fa­cil­i­ties in Gur­gaon.

“One of our fa­cil­i­ties in Gur­gaon is fo­cused on ma­chin­ing, which gives us more space to add more forg­ing ca­pac­ity. We are in­creas­ing the ca­pac­ity to cater to the grow­ing de­mand in In­dia and for ex­ports to the US. In the other fa­cil­ity, we man­u­fac­ture dif­fer­en­tials and electric axles. We are also ex­pand­ing in Pune as we wit­ness lot of ex­pan­sion in the In­dian mar­ket. In terms of man­u­fac­tur­ing per­spec­tive, we ex­panded in Hun­gary in the be­gin­ning of June last year. We see good growth in Europe and in the In­dian mar­ket. There is a steady growth in the US as well.” Sun­jay J Ka­pur, Group CEO, Sona BLW Pre­ci­sion Forg­ings Lim­ited, told Auto Com­po­nents In­dia.

The fa­cil­i­ties are be­ing ex­panded for ma­chin­ing and heat­treat­ment and plans to pro­duce many of the prod­ucts be­ing out­sourced. About the In­dian mar­ket Ka­pur said that the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles are do­ing well. De­mand from pas­sen­ger cars also has a steady growth. “In terms of dif­fer­en­tial gears, we are see­ing about 11% global mar­ket share. This is just be­tween Europe and In­dia. We hope to in­crease this by pen­e­trat­ing more into the US mar­ket. At present, we are sup­ply­ing to the US mar­kets from In­dia,” he said.

With the com­pany’s foray into electric axles, it has taken a step to the fu­ture of mo­bil­ity. The com­po­nent maker is gear­ing up for e-mo­bil­ity and is al­ready sup­ply­ing to the car man­u­fac­tur­ers out­side In­dia. On the electric drive in the In­dian mar­ket, Ka­pur said that this is all de­mand-driven.

“There are 2 things. One, we are sup­ply­ing to the electric car man­u­fac­tur­ers with our dif­fer­en­tial. The dif­fer­en­tial still ex­ists even when a car goes pure electric. So, there are dif­fer­ent forms like electric hy­brid, mild hy­brid, etc. But when

you look into the pure BEV (Bat­tery Electric Ve­hi­cle), a bat­tery electric man­u­fac­turer is us­ing our dif­fer­en­tial. In fact a high-end model which re­quires lot of speed and torque, uses 2 dif­fer­en­tials. We have also de­vel­oped an electric axle which sits to­day on the three-wheel­ers in In­dia, in which the size of the mo­tors that de­ter­mines how much the torque is re­quired for the electric axle. We are also test­ing it on the larger ve­hi­cles like LCV. We don’t make mo­tor con­trollers in In­dia. We im­port it. We have made to in­te­grate the axle by putting the mo­tor con­trollers in it.”

On the raw ma­te­rial side, be­cause of the strength re­quired and the grain flow, the com­pany is us­ing steel and not any com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als. “We are us­ing steel. We are not con­vert­ing into any sort of com­pos­ite be­cause of the fact that when you look into 3D print­ing, the grain flow is in 1 di­rec­tions. Our grain flow in terms of forg­ing is in all di­rec­tion and then they have the strength, which is re­tained in the prod­uct. So to­day, we don’t see a ma­jor shift in raw ma­te­rial from the kind of prod­uct we are sup­ply­ing. There may be small changes in the ra­tio re­quire­ment and some ma­te­rial changes is needed,” Ka­pur said.

As Sona BLW moves to light weight­ing, it is plan­ning to in­crease the strength of the gears. On light weight com­po­nents, Ka­pur said that, it is hap­pen­ing and there is no doubt. Strength is com­ing from the gear, and the cas­ing around it can be of light weight. He said, “In au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, we will see car­bon fi­bre. We will see a lot of com­pos­ites. Car­bon fi­bre has the strength of alu­minum. Cur­rently, I know a lot of com­pa­nies that are do­ing lot of joints, clamp­ing out of car­bon fi­bre. In that case, light weight­ing is not a new trend. We started look­ing into lot of changes in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try that was based on safety, fuel and con­nec­tiv­ity. When you look at fuel, it’s all about light weight­ing be­cause that’s where the play comes in. To­day there’s lot of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and au­ton­o­mous.”

In In­dia, the com­pany con­trols a large mar­ket share of al­most 100% in trucks and trac­tors. And, in pas­sen­ger cars, it is about 60%. With the near net shape forg­ing tech­nol­ogy, it is lighter, stronger and cheaper. It is not easy to de­velop a gear tooth or gear face. Sona BLW has ex­per­tise in that. It has test­ing fa­cil­i­ties in Ger­many and in In­dia. The com­pany also man­u­fac­tures curved gears. In the tech­nol­ogy busi­ness it is ahead of its com­peti­tors. “We are au­tomat­ing a lot with the help of ro­bots. This in­creases the pro­duc­tion ef­fi­ciency. We have learnt a lot from the Ger­man plant. Es­pe­cially in auto com­po­nents, there is a lot of move to­wards In­dus­try 4.0, which is re­ally au­to­ma­tion and flex­i­bil­ity. The cur­rent level of au­to­ma­tion in our com­pany is around 60-70%,” he said.

For the electric dif­fer­en­tial, Sona BLW has 2 dif­fer­ent seg­ments. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, e-rick­shaws and e-au­tos re­quire higher torque of about 3 tonne. The com­pany has 2 re­duc­tion gear trains, there­fore there will not be much trans­mis­sion losses.

On the fu­ture plans, Ka­pur said that they are ex­plor­ing op­tions to pen­e­trate the US mar­ket. Af­ter dom­i­nat­ing the In­dian and Euro­pean mar­kets the next tar­get is the US. E-drive will be a part of it. “In elec­tri­fi­ca­tion the mo­tor in a con­troller is im­por­tant. To­day, we do not make con­trollers, they are im­ported from from Nidec, a Ja­panese com­pany.” He feels it would be a great ini­tia­tive to en­cour­age lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers be­cause there is a lot of for­eign ex­change fluc­tu­a­tion and there are a lot of other risks as well.

He also thanked Maruthi Suzuki for its push for lo­cal­i­sa­tion. “I feel lo­cal­i­sa­tion and in­di­geni­sa­tion is a great drive. Free­dom from for­eign ex­change fluc­tu­a­tion is a big gain. In our busi­ness, mak­ing of tools and dyes is our great­est ad­van­tage while many oth­ers have to im­port them.” On the chal­lenges for the In­dian au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try Ka­pur said that it has be­come more dis­rupted and Sona BLW was try­ing to un­der­stand the road map be­tween the com­po­nent maker and OEMs. “This is what has be­come a chal­lenge for the com­po­nent in­dus­try like us. There is no clarity on where they are headed to. In Europe there is more clarity be­cause the change is much quicker. Lots of them are driven by cus­tomer’s de­mand. There­fore, to un­der­stand where OEMs are go­ing is a chal­leng­ing task. Tech­no­log­i­cal dis­rup­tions will al­ways be there. That is what we do by see­ing how we can con­tin­u­ously im­prove our prod­uct. If we are not do­ing, some­body else will do it. There­fore, we work con­tin­u­ously on in-wheel mo­tor. In-wheel mo­tor may rest on the back wheels and not on the front wheels. That would take the dif­fer­en­tial out, but it gives us the op­por­tu­nity with other gears.”

On NVH lev­els, Ka­pur said, “NVH is ac­tu­ally com­ing in from the de­sign. For the nor­mal gears when we de­sign, we keep up the over­lap ra­tio pretty much. Be­cause of this, there is no trans­mis­sion er­ror with the sur­face ter­mi­nolo­gies. For mod­el­ling, we use spher­i­cal in­vo­lutes, which gives bet­ter over­lap and bet­ter trans­mis­sion er­ror than nor­mal one. It is not a con­ven­tional de­sign method­ol­ogy, but the fea­tures that we use like spher­i­cal in­vo­lutes is com­ing and drop­ping down NVH. So, we have good DB level there. Also, the sur­face fin­ish is good through forg­ing. For R&D we have 12 to 15 peo­ple work­ing across the coun­try. We have reg­is­tered with DSIR. And, we test in-house any new de­sign, be­fore it reached the cus­tomer.”

Sun­jay J Ka­pur, Group CEO, Sona BLW Pre­ci­sion Forg­ings Lim­ited

Dif­fer­en­tial axle gears.

Sona BLWs coax­ial e-axle with an in­te­grated mo­tor.

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