2012 Lightweighting Special: Mutual Industries breaks new ground with Tata Storme

This project with Tata Motors gave Mutual Industries the opportunity to build 80 parts which had varied requirements ranging from high aesthetics in the interior such as pillar trims, door trims, tailgate lower trim and under-bonnet performance parts such as engine covers.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 31 May 2012 Views icon9418 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Mumbai-based Mutual Industries which makes plastic injection moulding parts employed indigenous application of technologies to make lower rear bumper for the Tata Safari Storme that was displayed at the Auto Expo 2012 in January.

Walter Dlomen, director, business development at Mutual, says: “We used long glass fibre polypropylene to make this part and its importance lies in the fact that this lower rear bumper is designed to take on rough-road conditions, due to its closeness to the ground while maintaining a stable fit and finish in all weather conditions ranging from the desert to snow.”

This project with Tata Motors gave Mutual Industries the opportunity to build 80 parts which had varied requirements ranging from high aesthetics in the interior such as pillar trims, door trims, tailgate lower trim and under-bonnet performance parts such as engine covers. Yet the lower rear bumper is a part that called for a combination of high-fitment strength and aesthetics with a light weight that would not only perform in high temperatures but also in minus 40deg C for its export requirements.

“The extremities of high and low temperatures are a challenge due to the thermal expansion of the part, which affects its fitment capability and the fit and finish during the vehicle’s life,” adds Dlomen.

Mutual Industries counts Tata Motors and Volkswagen India as its key clients. The company supplies rear and front bumpers for the VW Vento saloon and Polo hatchback.

With a focus on lightweighting, Mutual has made several dedicated investments towards that objective and coupled that with its in-house tooling and part engineering expertise. The technologies include structural foam moulding, gas-injection moulding, standard glass fibre moulding, long-glass fibre moulding, sheet forming, twin-sheet forming and finally, a combination of these technologies.

In making the lower rear bumper for the Storme, Mutual drew upon its decades-old expertise in making bumpers. While the styling was done in conjunction with Tata, Mutual Industries introduced fastening methods and processing long glass fibre.

In the automotive sector, cost-effective weight reduction is important in nearly all segments of every industry. “Just as it would not be a disadvantage to have a lighter refrigerator or washing machine, even in automotive, as a product, it has a direct relevance to its weight and its performance by way of fuel consumption,” says Dlomen. Therefore, there are several areas in a vehicle which, through the engineered use of plastics, would not only offer weight reduction but would also in the long-term reduction in manufacturing time and cost.

As a parts and system manufacturing company, Mutual has leveraged its in-house tool design facility which has worked on a variety of applications on the one hand, and for new parts as well on the other. The company, however, depends on vendors to the extent of basic materials, specified compounds and machining capability.

Heavy focus on lightweighting R&D

The importance that Mutual gives to lightweighting-related R&D expenditure can be gauged by the fact that this expenditure has exceeded its tool-room R&D expenditure. Between 2012-2014, Mutual’s R&D spend is expected to be in the range of Rs 24 crore.

Mutual has, more recently, been working on leveraging its technologies for engine parts using the long glass fibre technology. It has been working on applications that are in areas of high-heat environment under the bonnet. These include cylinder head covers, engine head covers, and oil sumps. Mutual Industries hopes to be able to supply these parts to its clients in 2013. “We have a strong in-house design-development and pre-production evaluation capability,” says Dlomen.

Looking back at what Mutual did for the Tata Storme, he describes it as a good example of the Indian OEM taking advantage of indigenised technology and enhancing the enthusiasm of the vendor towards development. “We were able to provide a cost-effective solution.”

While Mutual has largely focussed on the passenger car segment, it is well aware that the commercial vehicle sector has much to gain from lightweighting. This is particularly so with twin-sheet technology, wherein part prototyping as well as mass production investments are comparatively more convenient than metals or injection plastics. Face-lifting or re-styling programmes become feasible with such development cost advantages. The overall advantage of reducing part weights in substituting traditional materials such as iron and steel with long glass fibre is already well established. The front grille is an example, where a metal structure has been substituted with long-glass fibre moulded frame,

while the grille itself has a gas-injected structure which enables a high-quality finished, lightweighted part.

Education firms bet big on EV, IoT as futuristic courses

auther Autocar Pro News Desk calendar26 May 2023

How are education technology firms preparing for the new auto era? Autocar Professional takes a look at how companies ar...

Understanding the market dynamics of lithium prices

auther Autocar Pro News Desk calendar23 May 2023

The market is closely monitoring lithium price movements and Autocar Professional attempts to gauge what the near future...

Will the Lithium find be a hit or miss for India?

auther Autocar Pro News Desk calendar23 May 2023

Autocar Professional connects with an industry expert to find out more about the viability of the greatest recent minera...