2013 Lightweighting Special : UNO Minda Group takes enthusiastically to high-tech plastics

Component major ups the ante in using plastics, reduces weight in blow moulding range and also develops new tech for an HVAC duct. Shobha Mathur reports.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 13 May 2013 Views icon2765 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
2013 Lightweighting Special : UNO Minda Group takes enthusiastically to high-tech plastics
To keep abreast of the latest developments in lightweighting of components, the UNO Minda-NK Minda Group has upped the ante in the use of plastics spanning almost all key products – headlamps, blow moulding components, switches, air cleaners, headlamp leveling motors and sensors. These parts draw fairly high and sometimes even 100 percent use of plastics as a core component. Also, this product range contributes around 50 percent of the Group’s sales. A new development relates to the company’s blow moulding product range including blow moulded energy absorbers that can be applied to footrests, bumpers, knee bolsters, headliners and door trims, thereby helping to reduce weight in all these areas. The key customers for the company’s blow moulded components are Honda Cars India and Maruti Suzuki India. The UNO Minda Group is also in advanced discussions with other OEMs. “The successful manufacturing of plastic components lies in imparting a precise treatment to the raw material and high level of tooling skills. We have made huge investments in our product lines towards designing and tool manufacturing and have five decades of experience in manufacturing quality tools. This gives us an edge over competition,” says Sanjay Walia, vice-president, Corporate Communications.

Downsizing HVAC
The company has also recently deployed a new manufacturing technology for development of the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) duct. The manufacturing tool, known as Family Mold, is capable of manufacturing three ducts in one mould that consequently helps in reducing the overall process cost by 12-15 percent and enhances product quality. The HVAC duct has for the first time been developed for the Toyota Etios that rolls out of the Japanese carmaker’s Bangalore plant. The design and tooling for the HVAC Duct has been undertaken by the JV companyMindaKyoraku Ltd at Indonesia. The company visualises opportunities in adopting new technologies in lightweighting since these would improve overall vehicle efficiency and step up fuel economies in line with stringent environmental and emission norms. In terms of trends, it says plastic components are flowing towards styling, ergonomics, paint quality and engineered products. Energy absorbent plastic pads are designed and patented by Kyoraku and are an alternative solution to steel reinforcements in doors and bumper bars of passenger cars. These are currently in use in developed countries and are likely to find increased usage in India in the future due to their lower weight and cost. Moreover, use of plastics in vehicles has been increasing over time in India because of the accruing benefits. Nowadays, most headlamps are almost all-plastic and many other injection moulded and blow moulded parts are also replacing sheet metal with plastic as a core component. High performance engineering plastics, says Walia, are not only cost-effective but also, light, strong and hard, making plastic components a viable alternative to steel. Combined with other properties such as friction and heat resistance; thermal conductivity and design flexibility, they are more advantageous over steel components. The UNO Minda Group has been developing plastic components for many new car models of OEMs since 2005, adds Walia. With a shift in engineering demand towards lightweighting and therefore plastics, the company customises its processes accordingly, he concludes.
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