JK Tyre’s new R&D centre in Mysore accelerates its India growth story Auto Components industry is asked to be prepared for the future challenges
When it comes to growth on a global scale, any company has to focus on emerging markets, of which India is one with huge potential. One of the fastest growing economies with one of the youngest populations and vehicle parc, of all commercial vehicle, fourand two-wheelers, India is a market on which companies are betting big for the future. India’s largest tyre maker JK Tyre & Industries Ltd, having presence in 100 countries across 6 continents, backed by production support from 12 plants - 9 in India and 3 in Mexico - is also optimistic on the India growth story. It is no surprise that it is looking at more than just selling its products.
The quest for advanced technology in the tyre industry made the company unique in the past. Sensing the future needs, now the company has invested on a state-of-the-art ‘global technology centre, Raghupati Singhania Centre of Excellence (RPSCOE), in Mysore, to consolidate its commitment to innovation and excellence. First of its kind in India, the R&D facility, recently opened by the Karnataka Chief Minister, HD Kumaraswamy, offers the latest technologies in the tyre manufacturing space, including a Semi-Anechoic Chamber for reduced noise, vibration and harshness data analysis.
For the future requirements, the tyre major is working with new materials, compound and process development. At the RPSCOE, there are elaborate facilities and laboratories at different levels for diverse requirements. The new facility has been approved by NABL. Other facilities available at the centre include, tyre testing, noise and vibration, magic triangle: rolling resistance, mileage and durability.
The RPSCOE Centre is apart of the
Harishankar Singhania Elastomer and Tyre Research Institute (HASETRI), and is a conglomeration of the best scientists, engineers and technicians in the industry who have come together to optimise product performance and product design cycle time through simulation and predictive techniques. JK Tyre has invested enormous resources in the development of the centre that takes root in the company’s ethos of placing best-in-class technology at the heart of its products.
Dr Raghupati Singhania, Chairman & Managing Director, JK Tyre & Industries Ltd, said the new R&D Centre reiterated his company’s trust in technology. “RPSCOE is a celebration of excellence, it is testimony to JK Tyre’s ethos of investing in technology,” he said. “Ever since we introduced India to radial tyre technology in 1977, we have continued our search to stoke the scientific temperament. A year ago, we rolled out our 10 millionth truck/bus radial tyre from our plant in Mysore, becoming the first company in India to do so. Today, it gives me immense joy to say that with this Centre we have added to the list of the many firsts for JK Tyre. We want RPSCOE to become an aspiration not only for the people of Mysore but for the whole country. It has been a good beginning, now the people of Karnataka and Mysore will have to support us in building this Centre, making it one of India’s treasured institutions for R&D.”
Advance facility at RPSCOE
Research at RPSCOE is focussed on multiple aspects of tyre technology, including developing advanced laboratory predictors for tyre performance and providing key inputs for life prediction of rubber products. Among the many areas researched at the centre include material and compound development, future technology development, computational mechanics and tyre characterisation. One of the special features of the centre is the Semi-Anechoic Chamber, a first in the Indian tyre industry, which uses specialised software for noise vibration and harshness data analysis.
RPSCOE collaborates with and supports suppliers and manufacturers globally, and is predicated on the company’s thrust on constant learning and re-skilling of technical manpower.
In order to address the challenges with respect to value-for-money expectation by a different customer needs, particularly in the SUV segment with urban drivability, highway use and offroad capability, JK Tyre is working on new technologies and new designs. According to a company spokesperson, the tyre is what introduces the factor of grip. It is designed in a way that it should be able to take the temperature increase on highway speeds while maintaining cut and chip resistance. It should also be able to tackle potholes etc. So, an all-terrain design which would be made for Indian roads would be designed differently from that for the European or other developed markets. How the tyre is cased also matters. At the end of the
day, tyre makers have to bring out a product which is value-for-money while being durable.
Reduction of rolling resistance
In order to increase fuel efficiency of the vehicles, all the tyre makers are working towards reducing the rolling resistance of the tyre, and JK Tyre is no exception. Rolling resistance is actually the resistance offered by a surface against rolling. According to a scientist at the RPSCOE, whatever energy is being used for rolling a tyre, some of it is lost due to rolling resistance. Higher the rolling resistance coefficient (RRC) of a tyre, higher is the energy lost in the form of heat and other factors. The ultimate trickle effect of rolling resistance comes to fuel efficiency. Rubber is a visco-elastic material. Some energy that is lost in a tyre, it comes from the viscous part of the tyre which is exactly opposite to the elastic material. So, a visco-elastic material falls somewhere in between.
“Our effort is to reduce the RRC as much as possible to increase fuel efficiency while not compromising on durability. A tyre has different components such as tread, sidewall, reinforcement of the sides, etc. We work on the visco-elasticity property of the tyre. This is one of the areas. The grip design also has some contribution to this property of the tyre. We focus on reducing the loss because of the viscosity of the tyre. A popular term for viscoelastic material is tan delta. The loss modulus divided by storage modulus is called tan delta. In case of a viscoelastic material, the tan delta is in between making it the best balance of low RRC and high durability,” he said.
In order to design a tyre many parameters need to be considered, especially factors like road condition and the vehicle that combine the rolling resistance. Therefore the JK Tyre works closely with the OEMs from the concept stage of the vehicle. Now, OEMs also have tyre experts where they design a tyre with their target properties in mind. The tyre expert of an OEM is realistic to what the priority of the tyre should be. They suggest the possibilities of a tyre design to the tyre manufacturer and the work starts parallelly at both the ends for a better design.
“We have to consider the tyre and its design as an overall package with all the parameters in it. We have our design teams and other teams that suggest changes to make the design better from there. Then comes out an experimental design. But, before conducting actual experiments with the material, compound and other factors we do virtual simulations. From there, we prioritise based on the target properties expected by a vehicle manufacturer, which then goes into on-ground experimentation of the tyre. We have a good correlation between the outcome of the simulations and the results of the actual experiments,” the spokesperson said.
In reducing rolling resistance, the road quality also plays a major role. Now the road infrastructure is shaping well and the OEMs are giving the unit of rolling resistance to the tyre makers from the point of highway speeds. But, when a vehicle is tested, it is done on all terrains and based on the results the final tyre is manufactured.
Asked about the main parameters for developing tyres for trucks and buses, as the commercial vehicles are demanding more comfort, safety and emission norm compatibility, the expert at RPSCOE said, “The big trends that we consider are safety and eco-friendliness of tyres. Those will be the challenges. Even the process of making a tyre consumes green energy. We are working towards making our facilities and the tyres eco-friendly and safe. For the same set of target properties of a tyre, it has to be reduced. A tyre is one of the most complicated and composite materials in a vehicle. It is also used under most abused conditions. So, the buzz word is stronger and lighter. While carrying the right amount of load, a tyre is targeted to be lighter. So, big companies are working towards nanotechnology and other important factors on its practical uses. Nanotechnology is one area where people have been working
to develop better tyres. JK Tyre is also working in that space and that is one of the core areas. We are also working on reducing our tyre’s weight.”
Focus on safety & NVH
JK Tyre is looking at safety as an upcoming trend and as an OE requirement though it was a decadeold continuous process. RPSCOE is also working on 7 to 8 different mechanisms that play vital roles in terms of noise, vibration and other factors. To reduce NVH, the design also plays a vital role and most of the tyre makers are working on new designs. Now with advanced research done by JK Tyre team along with the help of semi-anechoic chamber’S data analysis , the NVH levels are considerably reduced. The customers today prefer comfort and drive at high speeds on the highway. And the market has evolved with improved road conditions and sophisticated vehicles. Therefore the tyre makers are also following the new trends. A tyre is the contact point for any vehicle. The kind of specifications for tyres a couple of years ago have changed. As for NVH, parameters like this are evolving specifications. And these are all different challenges.
On new technologies that are coming to the Indian market in the next couple of years, the spokesperson at RPSCOE said, “The developed markets have products like TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) which is entering and in India only gradually. It will eventually become mainstream equipment. It is a challenge to incorporate such features initially, but, later on, become practically automated. Roads are improving, speeds are increasing and safety is becoming a mainstream aspect. Comforts are increasing and at the same time, today’s customers are sensitive towards safety. And it will worsen if we do not take care. So on the positive possibilities, there are lot of things and vehicle manufacturers are now moving towards advanced safety products. As a continuous process we are reducing NVH levels and reducing the weight of the tyres by using different materials. Apart from this, electric vehicle would be the next thing to come and we, as a leading tyre maker, have started working for it.”
Tyres for EVs
It is learnt that, electric vehicles need different tyres. In an electric vehicle, there is no engine noise. When electric vehicles dominate the roads, the main noise in an electric vehicle will be from the tyre. Therefore vehicle manufacturers expect the tyre manufactures to reduce the noise from the tyre which they want to be different. At low speed, however, manufacturers want more noise for pedestrian safety. If there is less or no noise from the tyres in an electric vehicle, a pedestrian would not be alerted of on approaching or passing by vehicle. For high speed, the noise will be lower. So, that is going to pose a big challenge for the tyre makers. JK Tyre is developing technologies and research has started on the new possibilities. Apart from noise control, there are other requirements such as the instantaneous torque in an electric vehicle. The tyres should also be able to withstand the immediate torque delivery.
Elaborating on the two-wheeler radial tyres as well as commercial vehicles, the spokesperson said, “The curve on a two-wheeler tyre is more while on a commercial vehicle it is less. Radial tyres on two-wheelers are already here and will become mainstream. Keeping a maximum possible contact reduces the possibilities of slipping in a two-wheeler radial tyre. Safety will be the same for a radial tyre as that of a non-radial tyre. That is a challenge for the mass market products and according to the experts, JK Tyre is working continiously to address various challenges.
PDA Detector Machine
Tyre Rolling Resistance
(Top left): Semi Anechoic Chamber; (right) Tear and Fatigue Analyzer Machine