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Auto components India - - CONTENTS - Story by: Bhar­gav TS

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.

New tech­nolo­gies

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

Mon­i­tor­ing Setup

Tyre Test­ing

Tyre Rolling Re­sis­tance

(Top left): Semi Ane­choic Cham­ber; (right) Tear and Fa­tigue An­a­lyzer Ma­chine

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