The new vanguards
Automotive engineering strives to bring safety, design and innovation to the fore
by Team MT
The world of design and engineering in automotive has been captured by augmented reality and virtual reality. For instance, the Volkswagen Virtual Engineering Lab in Wolfsburg that houses the future of the company’s car design process has a host of intricate views. Visitors to the plant are privy to plenty of screens with software code running on them and a 1:4 scale model of the Golf. A graduate engineer is allowed to inspect the model and using voice command, gestures to change its wheels, replace the rear lights and modify the wing mirrors, all in a matter of seconds. Augmented reality makes it possible. This kind of software and engineering could well change the way car engineers and designers work.
Automotive engineering does not simply imply launching new models. Besides that, auto engineering has mainly come to be spoken of as a digital future along with research institutions and technology partnerships. New solutions in the fields of big data, Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, connectivity, mobility services and virtual reality are being created in close cooperation.
One must not mistake an engineering centre and an R&D centre. An engineering centre helps you to tap into local talent and gives access to auto customers for projects that the company might have taken up. It is also the reason that most of the time auto OEMs set up the engineering centres abroad.
One of India’s largest IT companies, Wipro, has set up an automotive engineering centre in Detroit, joining its peers, TCS and HCL, are already present, for projects on connected cars in the US auto hub. “This centre has an advantage as it is located in the automotive hub of Detroit, and will enable us to deliver differentiated connected automotive engineering and innovation-led solutions for our customers,” said Anita Ganti, global head, product engineering services, Wipro.
The centre is in line with the company’s vision to build a global network of delivery centres. It will focus on design, product engineering, digital customer-vehicle experiences, and sensors-driven advanced vehicle data analytics.
The country’s largest software provider TCS has a presence at Detroit too. It operates through its automotive centre of excellence, which was set up in 2004, to provide technology support to the auto industry. This unit has scaled up since then and hired locals.
Of the several aspects of design and engineering, most of the engineering methodology is designing chips. In particular, designing chips for the safety requirements is quite a task. Here what matters I that automotive chips combine all of the reports on failure modes, effects, and diagnostic analysis (FMEDA). That adds significant effort to the design team’s workload. It also slows down time to profitability.
Alf Engineering director, P D’souza says that this is where a design for safety (DFS) methodology fits in. A lot of this exists in safety-critical markets, but it is relatively new in the automotive world. This is because until the emergence of driver-assisted and autonomous driving, advanced chips were generally confined to infotainment. That has changed significantly over the past couple of years.
Liberty House Group has opened a 50,000 sq-ft facility that is designed to boost the group’s technological development firepower and enhance its current manufacturing capability in the advanced auto-components market. Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of Liberty House Group, said, “What is important in evolution is innovation and we have to keep evolving and keep being more productive to make things better.”
Oerlikon Graziano India, the maker of drivetrain systems for off-highway and niche passenger cars, is keeping high hope on advantage India. After a not very successful innings in the country, that has seen Oerlikon Graziano concentrating mainly as a sourcing hub for the global market, it is now beefing up its India story over a five year period. It plans to double its top line to Rs 1,500 crore by CY 2019 of which Rs 1,000 crore would be contributed by third party sales. Sandeep Khullar, director & head of sales and marketing India, Graziano Trasmissioni India, said that the company has already begun its growth path through ensuring business from Ashok Leyland to supply synchroniser parts for their 9-speed gear box. Besides this, the company also has a tractor business in Turkey where it supplies products. Khullar says that the company has recently realised that the auto components business can be big and moreover that they have the wherewithal for automotive engineering.
Historically, a company focused on the agricultural market, Oerlikon Graziano India is changing with the times. It is now shifting its focus to the automotive market where it sees growth potential, including electric vehicles (EV) and commercial vehicles (CV) with plans to further boost this business. It is a supplier of synchronisers and shifting solutions for CVs and complete transmissions or their components for EVs, for those keen to assemble them in-house.
Reducing time and development costs Recently, ZF Friedrichshafen AG inaugurated its first technology centre in Hyderabad. The new technology centre ZF ITC will focus on bringing advanced technology to India as well as localising more strategic business activities including research, design and development for global market initiatives. It also aims to leverage one of the finest academic research communities and the increasingly recognised rich and diverse talent pool for global development projects. The new ITC will be dedicated to electronics, embedded software and mechanical engineering. It will support ZF’s global development teams while enabling the company to accelerate local product development supporting ZF automotive and non-automotive operations and customers in India. The company intends to harness the skill set present in the country today to develop world class technology solutions for ZF across the globe, in addition to accelerating local product development.
JBM Group, another large auto components player in the country, has come a long way when it was shortlisted by Maruti Suzuki to make components. As one of the early companies to look at vertical engineering design, it has even gone to acquire companies globally for end-to-end solutions. With an own testing & validating centre, it was one of the early companies to bag the TS 149 certification in India. JBM was the first company in the country to manufacture skin panels for auto OEMs. The game changer for them was when they used their know-how and technology for precision and aesthetical aspects and carved out a niche for themselves.
For the fourth consecutive year, Wabco India participated as the Official Braking Technology Partner for Tata Motors at the T1 PRIMA Truck Racing Championship Season 4, in March. Each Tata Motors PRIMA race truck competing in Super Class, Champion Class and PRO Class races carries Wabco’s ABS, high-performance air management system in addition to high-output, modular compressor technology, advanced air actuation systems, Integrated Pedal Unit (IPU) and other braking components. In addition, Wabco furnishes Tata Motors’ new 1000 BHP PRIMA race truck with powerful single-piston Air Disc Brakes (ADBs) offering a major safety advantage of reduced stopping distance combined with balanced braking. Wabco ADBs are superbly engineered enabling high performance and long product life. In addition, Wabco ADBs significantly diminish downtime due to reduced wear and tear compared to conventional drum brakes while ensuring optimum brake adjustment.
Auto engineering companies are seriously looking at general automotive vehicle test and hardware-in-the-loop technology for some time, where some portion of the world is emulated to in order to avoid expensive and time-consuming drive testing.