2012 Lightweighting Special: Kosei Minda’s alloy wheel plant to go on stream soon

The joint venture Kosei Minda Aluminium Company, a 60:40 partnership between Kosei Aluminium Company Ltd of Japan and the Minda Group, will cater to the requirements of the Nissan Micra initially.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 31 May 2012 Views icon9804 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
With OEs shifting allegiance to alloy wheels in four-wheelers as part of their drive to reduce vehicle weight, the UNO-Minda-NK Minda Group has, for the first time, entered this domain. Its upcoming plant in Chennai will go on stream in October this year.

The joint venture Kosei Minda Aluminium Company, a 60:40 partnership between Kosei Aluminium Company Ltd of Japan and the Minda Group, will cater to the requirements of the Nissan Micra initially. Advanced talks are also underway for supplies to Renault, Toyota, Volkswagen, Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors from this facility.

The JV will replace the ferrous steel in wheel rims with aluminium to make them lighter. The plant will have a production capacity of 300,000 pieces per annum that will be ramped upto 600,000 pieces by 2014. The facility will also produce precision aluminium die casting parts for carmakers.

According to NK Minda, chairman of the Minda Group, the alloy wheels will be 10 percent lighter than ferrous steel and 20 percent more cost effective as they will help deliver fuel savings.

At present, fittings of machines are underway at the plant with the JV company having an authorised capital of Rs 500 million. It is investing Rs 8.4 billion in the plant to reach the 600,000 capacity.

Group initiatives

Besides, the Minda Group has taken some lightweight initiatives in terms of reducing the size of switches which brings down their weight. In lighting, lamps have transitioned from the conventional sheet metal reflectors and housing to BMC reflectors and housing that make for a lighter product.

Though the four-wheeler segment has witnessed a change in lamp lighting for some years now, the off-road segment is still lagging behind in this advanced technology and is only now experiencing a similar development.

Minda says that the company has introduced an innovative blow moulding design that reduces component weight through the use of thin sections of materials.

This technology was introduced at the company’s Bidadi plant in Karnataka set up in technical collaboration with Kyoraku of Japan in 2008. It results in weight reduction of up to 20 percent and also occupies less space, is cost effective by 20 percent and ensures a higher performance in terms of fuel efficiencies.

The plant is already servicing the requirements of Toyota and the carmaker’s product range has now been expanded. This spans roof ducts and instrument panel ducts for the Innova as well as a spoiler order for OE and aftermarket fitments for the Nissan Micra. The plant is also developing a washer system with bottle and pump for the Ford Figo with thin section parts which are lower in weight but lead to high efficiencies.

The Group is also ready with its blow moulding energy absorbing pad technology that replaces steel reinforcements in door panels and bumpers and the designs in line with safety norms are available with its collaborator Kyoraku. These will be made available in India depending on OE demand. Interestingly, OEMs have witnessed a shift in vehicle technology over the last five years. With more electronics being introduced in automobiles, the basic communication system is shifting to LIN and CAN, which means master and slave controllers in the vehicle have a single wire communication.

This also means components are shifting from high current performance to a low current performance base. Therefore, introduction of electronics and removal of sheet metal components are resulting in reduced size and weight of parts.

Increasingly, Indian OEMs and part makers are becoming self-reliant in designing and innovating new materials and designs keeping the basic raw materials same. All of which is good news on the lightweighting front.

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