2012 Lightweighting Special: Textile body eyes auto sector bonanza

If Indian OEMs evince enough interest, it is ready to enter into mass production of composite materials-based body parts for cars and trucks.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 31 May 2012 Views icon2318 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
2012 Lightweighting Special: Textile body eyes auto sector bonanza
The Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA) is reinventing itself with an eye on the future. The 63-year-old organisation, that comes under the Union Ministry of Textiles, is investing heavily into machines that will enable it to produce and test carbon and glass fibre-based products for the automobile industry.

If Indian OEMs evince enough interest, it is ready to enter into mass production of composite materials-based body parts for cars and trucks.

K KMisra, chief executive officer of ATIRA, says that the organisation has entered into a tie-up with European technology giant like KraussMaffei for technical expertise and feedback. “This is a paradigm-shift for ATIRA. It was done with a view to promote and widen the use of composites in Indian industries,” explains Misra. The tie-up is now two years old, but the full impact will be felt only after new machines arrive in around six months’ time, he adds. “Companies can approach us to make prototypes for them or use our facilities to test their prototypes. When the machines are here, they can also approach us to help them produce in large quantities,” he says. If this happens, then making these products will be more viable. Once the machines from Europe are delivered, ATIRA’s manufacturing capacity would equal that of a medium-scale industry.



ATIRA can also train workforce on how to handle these sensitive materials, says Misra. “At present, a batch of 90 students is being trained at our institute. Students from both foreign and Indian universities, including IIT, have shown interest in our training programmes,” reveals Misra.

Initially, the focus will lie on automobile parts, but aerospace, marine boats and metro rail compartments are also on ATIRA’s radar. “Since the machines are the same and only the moulds require to be changed according to the application, we can pretty much make any product. In fact, someone consulted us on a project for houses made of carbon fibre!” he quips.

Car parts such as bonnets, gearbox tunnel covers and truck bumpers are its initial focus. “Parts like these take a 40-50 percent weight reduction if made in carbon fibre as opposed to standard metal,” remarks Misra. However, there is the cost factor that has to be taken into account. “Small or medium scale companies can’t really afford to spend as much as Rs 25 crore on a single machine which uses high-priced raw materials. So that is where the role of ATIRA comes in. SMEs can approach us and give us job orders. We already know where the raw materials can be sourced from, within both India and Europe,” says Misra.

ATIRA is a government-recognised centre of excellence for composites research in India and has been pioneering research on various themes, including nano-fibres. The recent focus on carbon and glass fibres for the automobile sector was given a fillip largely by international technology houses that approached ATIRA for collaborations and a timely nudge by the government of India.

ATIRA has eight ‘science technology divisions’ that are involved in testing, calibration, consultancy and training. The centre is located in the heart of Ahmedabad and with the recent state of choice for the automobile industry being Gujarat where Peugeot and Ford Motor have announced major investments, ATIRA already seems to have an upper hand in composite materials in India.

KARTHIK H
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