2013 Lightweighting Special: Claude d’Gama Rose
The managing director of Continental Automotive Components (India) on the many areas where the supplier has successfully reduced weight, in India and overseas.
How much success has Continental achieved in cutting weight and in which automotiv e components?
At Continental, there has always been a focus on lightweighting of components. All our divisions are in the process of constantly innovating and developing lightweight components. The Chassis & Safety division has taken several initiatives to reduce the weight of existing products. For example, the new- generation MK100 ABS/ESC is 30 percent lighter than the earlier generation. To do this, it reduced the size of the valve, valve block, quantity of aluminum and the size of the motor. Other examples from Chassis & Safety include:Generation III Booster: Early this year, a new generation of brake boosters was launched. At around half the weight of its predecessor, the new full-aluminium brake booster generation satisfies the requests from vehicle manufacturers for lightweight components. Compared with the classical steel brake booster, the weight of the new-generation booster (Booster Gen III) is down by about 50 percent or 1,700 grams. It is also 12 percent shorter. Fixed-type caliper: Compared with the fist-caliper brakes widely used at present, this new design can save up to 1.5kg per wheel. Weight reduction is a key focus area for our design and development team across divisions and business units. With an equally strong urge from OEMs for lighter components, our engineers at the Powertrain division are working towards achieving the weight reduction targets right from the development stage of the engine system components.Weight reduction also plays a big role in the interior domain. Generally, there is a trend towards more electronic functions – from sensor-based windscreen wipers to navigation and multimedia like rearview or surround-view cameras. All these functions need calculating power and cabling and this generally increases vehicle weight. The solution is integration and system optimisation. Also, Continental’s Intelligent Antenna Module, which combines Wifi, mobile, radio and GPS signals in a single antenna module and receiver, helps reduce weight and offers a big function set at the same time. The traditional automotive Bus-systems like LVDS built for high data rates have one problem: they need thick and heavy cables. Continental has a strong commitment towards using Ethernet as automotive bus. This technology offers high data rates by using a single pair unshielded cable. Ethernet can help to significantly reduce the weight of cabling, especially for high-end vehicles with lots of multimedia functions. For the Indian market, Continental has developed a solution around this called the Entertainment Hub, which could amount for a weight reduction of more than 20 percent compared to traditional cockpit design. Besides the optimisation of the architecture, single products are also being designed to reduce weight: The second-generation Head-up-Display, for example, has lost about 50 percent of its weight compared to the previous generation – from about 3 to only 1.5kg. Our ContiTech division, backed by decades of experience in rubber and plastics technology, opens up new application areas and is a frontline player in the field. Engine mounts, hose line systems for flowing media, and surface materials for vehicle interiors or even drive belts – each individual component from ContiTech contributes to lightweight design. For example, heavy-duty power unit mounts made from plastic – engine and transmission mounts, torque rod supports and torque reaction mounts – are up to 50 percent lighter and require less energy to produce. The recyclable, halogen-free TEPEO und TEPEO 2 TPO interior foils weigh up to 50 percent less than conventional PVC sheeting.In 2012, our Tyres Division in India (Continental India Ltd) reviewed its portfolio of TBX tyres and a few articles were identified that run into normal load applications. The construction of these particular tyres was oversized for their application based on today’s knowhow. Since their design, many technical innovations have been introduced to increase performance at lower weight. The engineers redesigned the tyre construction to the application by maintaining the required tyre performance. By this, they successfully reduced the tyre weight by 5-8 percent.
What are the areas that Continental is working on to reduce component weight?
Continental has designed specific product strategies for each division and BU. Each product engineering Value Addition/Value Engineering (VA/VE) team, along with the design team, works in the direction of cost savings with innovation or optimisation which may lead to weight reduction. Technological innovation is another reason for weight reduction (for example: availability of high-strength steel). For instance, one can use thermo-set plastic in places where it is possible to replace metal with plastic. In our Chassis & Safety Division, significant weight reduction and improved packaging have been achieved with the Generation III Booster by using thinner metal and by optimising the component’s internal dimensions. For example, compared with traditional aluminium technologies, the metal thickness has been reduced by 50 percent – from 2.4 millimetres to 1.2 millimetres – without compromising brake booster service life.To achieve a weight reduction in the fixed-type caliper while maintaining the highest level of acoustic comfort, Continental has applied the knowledge it has gained over many years of experience with the FN fist-calipers to the development of its new fixed-type caliper brake. The new aluminium monobloc brake caliper features drawn brake pads and is fundamentally much more robust in terms of brake squeal – previously a known problem with fixed calipers. The fixed-type caliper helps the vehicle manufacturers to further reduce the CO2 emissions on new models. In the powertrain arena, high-pressure pumps are the major chunk of mass in the complete EMS system that we offer to a customer, therefore the development team strives to reduce the weight of the pump. With several development stages and a need for modular pumps, Continental targets to achieve more than 50 percent reduction in weight when compared to conventional 2- or 3-piston pumps. The development is mainly focused towards replacing the conventional 2-piston and 3-piston pumps with single-piston pumps which will drastically reduce the weight of the pump. Continental also works closely with OEMs during the engine design stages to incorporate the pump into the cylinder head, thus contributing to weight reduction. Looking into the cockpit, our Interior Division sees potential of weight saving by combining the instrument cluster, the radio, the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning into one integrated faceplate. ContiTech is the first automotive supplier to introduce heavy-duty power unit mounts made from plastic, thus enabling the use of much lighter load-bearing components. Also, car makers prefer to use plastic hoses for the transmission oil cooler lines in their efforts to reduce vehicle weight. ContiTech offers both single-layer and multi-layer solutions.
Have any lightweight products been developed in India?
The lightweighting concept is extremely relevant in India. There is a demand for fuel efficiency and sustainability everywhere. There are many products that we have deployed with Indian OEMs. Products like ABS, cluster, sensors and pumps are just a few. The conventional pump parts like shafts, huge housing and cylinder heads are eliminated and a compact modular design is developed. The new MK100 ABS / ESC went into series production in Europe and Asia in 2011 and Continental expects that there will be a keen interest in MK100 ABS / ESC from Indian manufacturers.
What are the challenges in adopting new lightweighting technologies?
One challenge clearly lies within the increasing function set that is coming into today’s and future vehicles. In order to offer new functions and reduce weight at the same, we constantly optimise the product design and the EE architecture of vehicles.
Do you feel high-performance engineering plastics are the sole cost-effective answer to conventional metal?
This depends strongly on which part of the vehicle you are looking at. In total, weight reduction concerns almost all areas of the vehicle and efforts are made to reduce weight in each component. Solutions can vary from using different materials like aluminium (eg, Gen III Booster), to innovative product design, integration and system optimisation. That said, the substitution of metals with plastics is one of the most important approaches to lightweight design.
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