2012 Lightweighting Special: KCI Bearings makes bearing cages lighter
Recently, KCI has developed bearing cages using advanced engineering plastics like PA 46 (tradenameStanyl) for Tata Motors.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar Professional, the company’s vice-president for sales and marketing, Rajeev Hiwale says, “This has been our small endeavour to the cause of lightweighing. The lightweighting of bearings is a byproduct achieved through our continuous process of value engineering and performance enhancement to provide more sustainable products exceeding expected life. This is the reason we call our bearings. . . 'Designed For Life'.” KCI's expertise in this field lies in its complete in-house facility of design, development, tool and mould designs, coupled with dedicated set-up of CNC moulding machines like Ferromatic Milacron, he adds.
As an example, the bearing cage material has progressed from brass to steel and from steel to plastics in many cases. Hiwale says KCI has been a pioneer in changing brass cages to steel and steel to polymide grades like PA6 and PA 66 with or without glass filled for the main shaft and driveshaft needle bearings. In fact, in 2010 KCI received an award from HVTL (now TML Drivelines, Jamshedpur) which manufactures gearboxes for Tata Motors in the value engineering category for the savings achieved on account of change in cage material.
Recently, KCI has developed bearing cages using advanced engineering plastics like PA 46 (tradenameStanyl) for Tata Motors. These cages withstand a higher service temperature, offer higher pressure velocity and wear resistance, have better shrinkage flow control, do not require any post-treatment and possess good mechanical properties. This cage material also provides greater design flexibility and higher productivity.
As these cages are about 15 to 20 percent lighter than the conventional steel cages, they provide about 15 percent cost benefit by virtue of change in cage material and process savings.
After years of rigorous testing, these bearings have been implemented on the Tata 207 platform successfully. There are a number of international references of use of PA 46 in bearings but in India, Hiwale says confidently that this is the first successful introduction by KCI in needle roller bearings for transmissions.
At present, KCI supplies polymide cage bearings to Tata Motors, TML Drivelines JSR, Force Motors, Navistar Trucks, Munjal Showa (for Maruti Suzuki), Rane TRW, and Avtec Ltd (General Motors, Isuzu and Leyland Dost models). They are widely used in vehicle transmission, shock absorbers and steering gear box applications. KCI has also replaced steel covers of engine components like timing belt tensioners to plastic in order to achieve weight and cost reduction.
When asked about the potential of plastic components, Hiwale says that in India, the overall use of plastic components has tremendous potential compared to other developed markets. There are many areas and applications where alternate material and lightweighing without compromising performance can be tried. After the Nano project, a lot of awareness has been generated in this area.
According to Hiwale, the opportunity for engineering plastics is huge and the Indian market could well grow by at least five to six times over the present level by the year 2020. It is difficult to exactly predict the value of the market size as it is a complex matter that includes availability of right technology, trained manpower, toolings and extent of implementation by carmakers. It will be different for each application considering performance, fuel efficiency and safety.
At present, engineering plastics are being used in engine covers, air intake manifolds, oil pans, cylinder head covers and also in structural parts for the engines, as it brings in more strength.
As developments in technology proceed, more parts or applications will be converted to plastics. This is just a matter of time and need of the future, says Hiwale. On an average, parts of engines made of engineering plastics may constitute about seven to eight kilograms per vehicle in India and may go upto to 14kg by 2020 on a very optimistic estimation. However, this is still lower than Europe where it is, at present, about 18 to 20kg.
So India has a long way forward. While KCI’s contribution in use of engineering plastics and lightweighting is very small, it is keen to do its bit.
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