Climate change is here. . . inside a test chamber

by Jaishankar Jayaramiah , 25 Mar 2016


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Prajwal Crasta: “Our environmental test chambers help OEMs and component-makers assess performance and identify failure rates.”

Sun, rain, wind and cold weather all have an impact on human beings – and vehicles too. An extremely sunny day could fade the paint on your vehicle while freezing cold may not let the vehicle start and the monsoon could cause exposed metal to rust. Also, components fitted in a vehicle in tropical regions like India may not work properly in colder parts of the world.

With carmakers spreading their wings in a flat world, addressing environment-related impacts has emerged as a major need in recent years.

Bangalore-based CM Envirosystems (CME) says it has the solutions to determine such failure rates at the product development stage itself by testing products in its environmental test chambers. Set up in 1981, the ISO 9001:2008-certified company claims to be India’s top manufacturer of environmental test chambers.

Talking to Autocar Professional, PrajwalCrasta, CEO of CME, says: “The failure rate is an important factor to be determined and arrested at the product development stage itself. If not, it leads to loss both financially and in brand reputation. Such failures occur due to environmental factors like temperature, humidity, vibration, shock and pressure.”

For instance, high temperature causes heat aging, destroys moving parts through softening and swelling of thermal insulations while low temperature causes changes in electric constants, freeze moisture, and structural stress due to physical expansion.

climatic-chamber

“Our environmental test chambers enable vehicle and component manufacturers to simulate a wide range of environmental conditions to test their products. It helps them assess performance and identify failure rates.Many of our customers say that our product is instrumental in reducing costs while the failure risks have also gone down significantly. Customer feedback reveals they save 30-40 percent on project cost when they use our climatic chambers as compared to those from foreign players.”

Suppliers warm to test chambers

Dr Jacob Crasta, founder chairman of the CME Group, says global vehicle manufacturers are making it mandatory for their component suppliers to have a climatic testing chamber in their facilities to test components. The same job conducted in third party certification laboratories is said to be very expensive. As a result, the company has seen a number of component suppliers buying its test chambers as part of their capital expenditure in manufacturing plants.

Dr Crasta says CME is the market leader in the segment in India and has around 600 customers. Of this, 70 percent hail from the automotive industry and comprise both OEMs and Tier 1s.

CME’s popular OEM and Tier 1 customers include Tata Motors, Toyota, General Motors, TVS, Visteon, Mann+Hummel, Wabco, Autoliv, Festo, Meritor, John Deere, Bosch, Mando, Takata, Continental, Parker, Sanoh, Naza, TRW, Akzonobel and Festo. Third party test laboratories like SGS, TUV Rheinland, Intertek, Wipro, Anecto and Nablabs are key clientele.

Dr Crasta says, “Our products comply with all major international standards such as MIL, JIS, ASTM, IEC, DIN, ISO and with regional/automakers’ standards as well. The largest demand for our products is from the automobile industry followed by electronics, electrical, defence/government and aerospace/aeronautics.”

corrosion-testing-chamber

Looking to expand its footprint

The company has a presence in 24 countries and plans to expand its global footprint. In the UK alone, CME has completed 147 installations in collaboration with its local channel partner Alphatech Ltd. “We plan to increase our footprint in Europe and the US while also emerging as one of the top fiveenvironmental test chamber manufacturers by 2025.To achieve this, we are in the process of setting up manufacturing plants in both these regions,” says Dr Crasta.

Environmental testing

Praveen Crasta, director of Global Business Operations, CME, says environmental testing consists of ‘Natural Environmental Testing’, ‘Mechanical Environmental Testing’ and a combination of the two. The natural or climatic environmental testing involves the simulation of natural phenomena in the test space of the chamber such as temperature, humidity, rain, dust, pressure and solar radiation while mechanical environmental testing involves simulation of vibration, shock, collision, acceleration and noise.

CME plans to collaborate with leading international players in mechanical environmental testing to offer products in this segment for the Indian market. At present, its product portfolio includes climatic test chambers, corrosion test chambers, thermal shock chambers, dust chambers, altitude chambers, rain chambers, bench top chambers, custom-built chambers and walk-in chambers.

CME’s climatic test chambers can test products in the temperature range of -70deg C to 180deg C. These units have a remote monitoring facility and thanks to a web-enabled controller,  an internet connection enables the user to access and monitor the chamber from any location in the world.

The benchtop chamber is the smaller version of the climatic chamber which could be kept over a roll-out cart and is ideal for smaller specimen testing.

benchtop-test-chamber

The corrosion test chamber, which is built from non-metallic materials such as FRP, acrylic, PU and nylon, is used for accelerated corrosion tests and simulates highly corrosive environments.

In the thermal shock chambers, the test basket is transferred between hot and cold zones using an electro-pneumatic system and has rapid recovery rates of temperature.  

The rain test chambers are designed for simulating rain / water spray as per IEC-60529, IS-9000 Part XVI-1983 and JIS-D 0203-1976 with features like fully non-corrosive interior and exterior. The Macro series of walk-in chambers are a bigger version of CME’s standard products. Some of them are also called drive-in chambers – in modular or rigid construction – where an entire vehicle can be tested as per the standard.

CME is optimistic that as OEMs and suppliers hasten to develop new products adhering to stringent emission and other norms, the need to test their products becomes even more urgent. This means more business is in the CME pipeline. 

Interview with Dr Jacob Crasta, founder chairman, CME Group

What, in your opinion, are the parameters that will drive CME’s business?

The Indian auto industry is one of the largest in the world with an annual production of more than 22 million vehicles in FY 2014-15 with year-on-year growth of over 8 percent. ‘A’-class cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad are chockablock with cars and two-wheelers. This is what a modern society is and it shows the automotive industry has the potential to generate more than US$ 250 billion in annual revenue by 2025. This will create demand for automotive testing equipment that in turn will give new opportunities for our products in the domestic market.

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Are there any upcoming thrust areas in the auto industry that will create demands for CME’s products?

The diesel/petrol car industry is slowly moving towards eco-friendly battery/electric-powered cars. As a result, our customers have huge requirements for battery and related items, which has created huge demand for test chambers. The Delhi government has banned certain categories of diesel vehicles and this may also reflect in the other highly polluted cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur and Pune. The government is implementing strict norms to control vehicular pollution and this move will drive electric-powered, eco-friendly cars which inturn will drive our environmental test chamber business.

What are the key highlights of your products?

We can even simulate the sun inside the chamber to check what happens to a car with the effect of sun rays. For instance, the logo fitted on a popular luxury car brand faded within a year. Tests revealed that was due to harsh sunlight. So, now many luxury car brands that pay attention to exterior parts are opting for solar tests. We also do full vehicle testing with our walk-in-chamber wherein a vehicle can pass into the chamber and undergo various tests. A top auto maker in India has our walk-in-chamber to test its vehicles.

Can you throw some light on the global environmental simulation technology market and CME’s role in the market?

The global environmental simulation technology market size stands at $100 billion for all industry, in which the automotive segment accounts for 60-70 percent. Globally, there are around 200 environmental test chamber manufacturers and the global environment simulation technology industry is dominated by top 15 players from Europe, Japan and the United States. We are the first company from an emerging country like India and the sole Indian manufacturer of environmental test chambers on par with global standards but at an affordable price. Looking at our current growth, our target is to enter the global top five by 2025.


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