DSM rides shift from metals to plastics

With automakers keen to use lighter components with improved performance and reduced cost, DSM Engineering Plastics is gunning for growth.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 27 Jan 2009 Views icon3889 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
DSM rides shift from metals to plastics
Of the many challenges staring the automotive industry in the face is the growing need to develop lightweight components which also match, if not better, the strength and durability of their metal counterparts.

Plastics, including engineering thermoplastics, have an important role to play in helping the industry meet tomorrow’s challenges. Existing market dynamics have it that with only modest global growth expected this year, most of the demand is slated to come from developing markets, especially in Asian countries. Of the many challenges staring the automotive industry in the face is the growing need to develop lightweight components which also match, if not better, the strength and durability of their metal counterparts.

Plastics, including engineering thermoplastics, have an important role to play in helping the industry meet tomorrow’s challenges. Existing market dynamics have it that with only modest global growth expected this year, most of the demand is slated to come from developing markets, especially in Asian countries.

And with consolidation happening across the industry, major manufacturers are looking for ways to respond globally with standardised quality and shorter timeframes to meet local demand. Then there’s demand from consumers for better vehicle performance, safety and/or durability at reduced incremental costs, for instance in reduction of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels. That’s not all.

Other parameters driving new product development include fuel efficiency improvements, reduction in emissions, energy efficient and environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes, enabling EVL (end-of-vehicle-life) recycling and compliance with NVH standards.

While most auto majors abroad have been using engineering plastics in their cars in a host of components, a growing number of Indian manufacturers including Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, Ashok Leyland, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Co have begun recognising the cost benefits of this material in their vehicles. With steel and aluminium prices rising substantially in 2008, automakers are only too keen to begin employing a variety of engineering plastics which have a number of benefits like reduced tooling costs and vehicle weight along with being a sturdy, flexible and durable material.

The role of plastics

Current-generation vehicles employ a substantial amount of plastics, which represent close to 50 percent of the volumes used in the industry but account for only 10 percent of the weight. By being lightweight, flexible and corrosion- and chemical resistant, they also offer safety and durability at a lower environmental impact than the materials they replace. As electrical and thermal insulators they also have a key role in passenger comfort and protection as well as providing key functional performance.

Plastics today in their various avatars are used in vehicle interiors, engine components, cooling systems, exteriors, fuel systems, lighting, accessories and electrical systems.

In the current global scenario, automakers and consumers are looking to stretch every litre of fuel, something which is possible with lighter vehicles. In their quest for improved economy and reduced costs, manufacturers have turned to component suppliers to come up with innovative solutions to design challenges that require high performance engineering plastics.

That’s where companies like DSM Engineering Plastics India, a subsidiary of Royal DSM, Netherlands, comes in. DSM entered the Indian market in 1998 and currently supplies moulding resins like Akulon PA6, Arnite PBT and PET, Stanyl and Arnitel. The company believes that the economic downturn will compel more and more automotive players to take a closer look at plastics as a viable alternative to reduce manufacturing costs and weight.

Sensing a big opportunity, DSM has unveiled plans to strengthen its long term commitment to the Indian market. Its new plant at Ranjangaon, near Pune, for manufacture of engineering plastic compounds begins trial operations later this month. The plant will triple total production capacity of Akulon, Arnite PBT and PET and Stanyl PA46 from 6,000 tonnes to 20,000 tonnes per annum. These compounds are extensively used in manufacturing moulded components for the automotive, electrical and electronics, consumer and industrial segments.

Clearly, DSM is anticipating additional demand to come from the automotive industry and is poised to cater to it when the orders come in.

There are also plans to set up two new automotive design centres in India. Talks for this project are currently in the final approval stage. The centre will have two divisions along with CAE designers and hardware for testing of plants for validation and for customers. DSM will set up a similar centre in China as well.

With these plans in place, DSM Engineering Plastics expects to double its FY08 revenue of Rs 200 crore by 2011. It claims it is growing at a CAGR of 30 percent. While the volumes for the current year are low, the company estimates growth to dip by 20 percent; nevertheless the supplier is optimistic that business will grow substantially in 2010.

Growing use of plastic in cars

Globally, the use of plastic in cars has been steadily rising. However, compared to the world average of 26kg per capita consumption of plastics in a single car, Indian cars use only around 5kg; this is set to double to around 10kg by 2012.

Nevertheless, despite the current usage of high performance engineering thermoplastics by Indian automakers being substantially below world standards, the shift from metals to plastic is now taking place and parts like air intake manifold front end modules are now being converted. DSM products can extend the scope for metal replacement through materials that deliver higher stiffness and are temperature resistant at a lower weight than traditional metal parts. The company's product range helps deliver solutions to these challenges and add value to a diversity of applications from chain tensioners and airbags to intake manifolds and sensors. It also supports automotive developments, making use of design tools (CAE) and predictive engineering tools to shorten development cycles.

According to Nitin Kothari, managing director, DSM Engineering Plastics India, “Despite the significantly more difficult global market conditions, we are convinced there will be even more growth here in the future. India will become a global hub for automotive plastics solutions. In a way the economic slowdown is an opportunity for plastic components to replace metals, which we see is likely to happen faster. Plastics can reduce the final cost of ownership for auto companies. We have high performance plastics which can even better some properties of metals and can be used in a single-step injection moulding operation to produce a part compared to the multi-step process for metals.”

The past few years have seen several advances in plastics technology and a number of conventional metal parts like fuel tanks have been replicated in plastic. In India too, automakers are asking their component suppliers to think plastic mainly to reduce weight, which in turn contributes to improved fuel efficiency.

DSM’s international competitors have also entered the fray. Faced with saturating markets Europe, producers of engineering plastics have recognised the potential of the Indian market. These include international majors like BASF, Bayer, Du Pont and Dow Corning which have set up operations in India.

DSM though believes it has an advantage in India. Adds Kothari, “When we started out, a handful of Indian automotive companies were interested in solutions to convert metal to plastics component. The last six months or so have seen an influx of every automotive player exploring this sort of change. As a result today we are working with almost every leading automotive player present in India.”

Kothari says that DSM has obtained approval for developing various parts – which are under the bonnet components or used in interior and exterior parts – for a number of upcoming two- and four-wheeler models. DSM’s major clientele in India include Hero Honda, Bajaj Auto, Mahindra & Mahindra (including Kinetic Motor Company), Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai. The company has already developed close to 20 components for the groundbreaking Tata Nano. Some of its recent projects involved converting aluminum cylinder head covers to plastic.

Likewise with air intake manifolds which a majority of cars have in metal; the company says it expects to capture 50 percent of the market share in this segment by 2011. Airbag containers will soon become a standard feature in plastic as will brake levers and boosters.

Meanwhile, Toyota has announced that by 2012, all the plastics being used in its cars have to be biomaterials and renewable. Taking this as a cue, DSM is now working on merging biotechnology with performance materials and is developing biomaterials which can be recycled. The company expects a number of companies to soon begin using only biomaterial components. Yet another instance of a company which believes in getting ready for tomorrow today.

And with consolidation happening across the industry, major manufacturers are looking for ways to respond globally with standardised quality and shorter timeframes to meet local demand. Then there’s demand from consumers for better vehicle performance, safety and/or durability at reduced incremental costs, for instance in reduction of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels. That’s not all. Other parameters driving new product development include fuel efficiency improvements, reduction in emissions, energy efficient and environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes, enabling EVL (end-of-vehicle-life) recycling and compliance with NVH standards.

While most auto majors abroad have been using engineering plastics in their cars in a host of components, a growing number of Indian manufacturers including Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, Ashok Leyland, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Co have begun recognising the cost benefits of this material in their vehicles. With steel and aluminium prices rising substantially in 2008, automakers are only too keen to begin employing a variety of engineering plastics which have a number of benefits like reduced tooling costs and vehicle weight along with being a sturdy, flexible and durable material.

The role of plastics

Current-generation vehicles employ a substantial amount of plastics, which represent close to 50 percent of the volumes used in the industry but account for only 10 percent of the weight. By being lightweight, flexible and corrosion- and chemical resistant, they also offer safety and durability at a lower environmental impact than the materials they replace. As electrical and thermal insulators they also have a key role in passenger comfort and protection as well as providing key functional performance. Plastics today in their various avatars are used in vehicle interiors, engine components, cooling systems, exteriors, fuel systems, lighting, accessories and electrical systems.

In the current global scenario, automakers and consumers are looking to stretch every litre of fuel, something which is possible with lighter vehicles. In their quest for improved economy and reduced costs, manufacturers have turned to component suppliers to come up with innovative solutions to design challenges that require high performance engineering plastics.

That’s where companies like DSM Engineering Plastics India, a subsidiary of Royal DSM, Netherlands, comes in. DSM entered the Indian market in 1998 and currently supplies moulding resins like Akulon PA6, Arnite PBT and PET, Stanyl and Arnitel. The company believes that the economic downturn will compel more and more automotive players to take a closer look at plastics as a viable alternative to reduce manufacturing costs and weight.

Sensing a big opportunity, DSM has unveiled plans to strengthen its long term commitment to the Indian market. Its new plant at Ranjangaon, near Pune, for manufacture of engineering plastic compounds begins trial operations later this month.

The plant will triple total production capacity of Akulon, Arnite PBT and PET and Stanyl PA46 from 6,000 tonnes to 20,000 tonnes per annum. These compounds are extensively used in manufacturing moulded components for the automotive, electrical and electronics, consumer and industrial segments.

Clearly, DSM is anticipating additional demand to come from the automotive industry and is poised to cater to it when the orders come in.

There are also plans to set up two new automotive design centres in India. Talks for this project are currently in the final approval stage. The centre will have two divisions along with CAE designers and hardware for testing of plants for validation and for customers. DSM will set up a similar centre in China as well.

With these plans in place, DSM Engineering Plastics expects to double its FY08 revenue of Rs 200 crore by 2011. It claims it is growing at a CAGR of 30 percent. While the volumes for the current year are low, the company estimates growth to dip by 20 percent; nevertheless the supplier is optimistic that business will grow substantially in 2010.

Growing use of plastic in cars

Globally, the use of plastic in cars has been steadily rising. However, compared to the world average of 26kg per capita consumption of plastics in a single car, Indian cars use only around 5kg; this is set to double to around 10kg by 2012.

Nevertheless, despite the current usage of high performance engineering thermoplastics by Indian automakers being substantially below world standards, the shift from metals to plastic is now taking place and parts like air intake manifold front end modules are now being converted.

DSM products can extend the scope for metal replacement through materials that deliver higher stiffness and are temperature resistant at a lower weight than traditional metal parts. The company's product range helps deliver solutions to these challenges and add value to a diversity of applications from chain tensioners and airbags to intake manifolds and sensors. It also supports automotive developments, making use of design tools (CAE) and predictive engineering tools to shorten development cycles.

According to Nitin Kothari, managing director, DSM Engineering Plastics India, “Despite the significantly more difficult global market conditions, we are convinced there will be even more growth here in the future. India will become a global hub for automotive plastics solutions. In a way the economic slowdown is an opportunity for plastic components to replace metals, which we see is likely to happen faster.

Plastics can reduce the final cost of ownership for auto companies. We have high performance plastics which can even better some properties of metals and can be used in a single-step injection moulding operation to produce a part compared to the multi-step process for metals.”

The past few years have seen several advances in plastics technology and a number of conventional metal parts like fuel tanks have been replicated in plastic. In India too, automakers are asking their component suppliers to think plastic mainly to reduce weight, which in turn contributes to improved fuel efficiency.

DSM’s international competitors have also entered the fray. Faced with saturating markets Europe, producers of engineering plastics have recognised the potential of the Indian market. These include international majors like BASF, Bayer, Du Pont and Dow Corning which have set up operations in India.

DSM though believes it has an advantage in India. Adds Kothari, “When we started out, a handful of Indian automotive companies were interested in solutions to convert metal to plastics component. The last six months or so have seen an influx of every automotive player exploring this sort of change. As a result today we are working with almost every leading automotive player present in India.”

Kothari says that DSM has obtained approval for developing various parts – which are under the bonnet components or used in interior and exterior parts – for a number of upcoming two- and four-wheeler models. DSM’s major clientele in India include Hero Honda, Bajaj Auto, Mahindra & Mahindra (including Kinetic Motor Company), Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai.

The company has already developed close to 20 components for the groundbreaking Tata Nano. Some of its recent projects involved converting aluminum cylinder head covers to plastic. Likewise with air intake manifolds which a majority of cars have in metal; the company says it expects to capture 50 percent of the market share in this segment by 2011.

Airbag containers will soon become a standard feature in plastic as will brake levers and boosters. Meanwhile, Toyota has announced that by 2012, all the plastics being used in its cars have to be biomaterials and renewable. Taking this as a cue, DSM is now working on merging biotechnology with performance materials and is developing biomaterials which can be recycled.

The company expects a number of companies to soon begin using only biomaterial components. Yet another instance of a company which believes in getting ready for tomorrow today.
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