Gujarat Special: ATIRA looks to bond with upcoming OEMs
Can composites change the Indian automotive sector? At present, their use is negligible thanks to the fact that awareness level are low and arguably, the shift from metal to plastic or polymers has only just begun.
Can composites change the Indian automotive sector? At present, their use is negligible thanks to the fact that awareness level are low and arguably, the shift from metal to plastic or polymers has only just begun. But as a key part of the lightweighting efforts, this is a sector that can only get bigger. That is why the Ahmedabad-based Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA), located in the vicinity of the IIM Ahmedabad, is keen to make a mark for itself.
ATIRA, part of the central government’s textiles ministry, has a history that goes back to India’s post-independence years. One of the guiding forces was the father of the Indian space programme, Vikram Sarabhai. The 65-year-old institution is now looking at the automotive sector as a growth area. The use of technical textiles is on the rise, and their potential in auto is immense, Suresh Saini, principal scientific officer tells me as we take a tour of the facilities. On the ground floor is the incubation laboratory equipped with machinery that can enable dynamic metal testing as well as static testing as well as drop-weight impact testing. This laboratory is part of the Centre of Excellence (CoE) that ATIRA claims is the most modern in western India. Already the centre has reached a tie-up with Fraunhofer Institute of Germany, a pioneer in the composites space.
ATIRA’s assistant director, Dr Mohammed S Rahman explains the centre’s vision saying that “We want to enable Tier 1 players to make products for the OEMs.” CEO
K KMisra adds that the aim of the Centre is to create the circumstances for a paradigm shift.
ATIRA’s CoE, says Rahman, is because there is a need for developing parts for OEMS. He adds that the Gujarat state government has supported the incubation laboratory of the centre. The CoE will not limit itself to just the automotive sector. Senior officials at ATIRA say clearly that aerospace and marine sectors are in the Centre’s plans. Needless to say, the potential interface between these sectors and the auto sector will be an area that will be closely examined. This correspondent was taken around the laboratory that has been established with equipment supplied by Instron of the US. The laboratory is the first of many that will be housed at ATIRA’s sprawling campus at Vastrapur. Given the organisation’s status as a non-profit organisation, the lofty aims of the institute, as explained by its CEO, is to be a facilitator. And aligned to this is the fact that the Centre will leverage the use of eco-friendly material in the composites that will be made. Clearly, the target is small and medium enterprises that may not be able to afford costly machines that are needed for testing and other puposes.
The CoE is also keen to enter into alliances with private players. An estimated 40 percent of the close to Rs 190 crore required has been received. While the Centre has yet to get a full-blown OE order, so to speak, it has begun testing of relevant parts. In an earlier interaction with Autocar Professional, ATIRA’s top sources had indicated that car parts that include bonnets, gearbox tunnels covers and truck bumpers are the Centre’s initial focus. ATIRA has eight science technology divisions that are involved in testing, calibration, consultancy and training. With Gujarat emerging as a hub for the automotive sector and the big OEMs setting up base with their suppliers in tow, big-ticket business cannot be far away.
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