2013 Lightweighting Special: Dr SurinderKapur
The chairman of the Sona Group on its latest component weight-reducing measures and a lightweighting roadmap for the future.
What are the Sona Group’s initiatives to reduce component weight?
Our R&D division has been working on reducing weight of components and systems through re-designing shape and form of mechanical parts, exploring new materials, and applying electronics to achieve the same function that a mechanical system offers today.
Which area offers maximum scope for reducing components?
The scope in lightweighting is unlimited and offers opportunities in reducing weight in every part of a vehicle. A lot of work has already been done in lightweighting structural parts of a vehicle. In my opinion, the biggest potential, however, lies in electrifying conventional mechanical functions in a vehicle. Electromechanical systems are not only lighter, but they also offer convenience and comfort to the user.
Which are the lightweight products that the Group has developed in the last year?
Currently most of the work in lightweight manufacturing is at the development stage. Nothing innovative is yet implemented in series production, but several innovations are on the drawing boards or on testing rigs. It is premature to give examples of those innovations. We have, of course, converted several parts of our steering columns and steering gears from solid rods to hollow tubes, thereby reducing weight and improving performance. Our electronic power steering system for off-highway vehicles is much lighter than the equivalent hydraulic power steering.
What are the challenges in adopting new technologies in light weighting?
In view of the pressures of better fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions, lightweighting is here to stay. It will, in fact, become a strong competitive edge for companies who innovate with products which are light in weight, yet better in performance. The biggest challenge is to keep the costs of lightweighting down. While lightweighting almost always reduces the overall lifecycle costs, the cost of the products may be higher than the products of the current design. Fortunately, OEMs are sensitive to these realities, and this fact is propelling research in lightweighting today.
In which vehicle models has the Sona Group been able to cut weight?
We have a roadmap that envisages reduction of weights of our products. Among those weight saving ideas which are implemented in series production, the biggest gains were seen in the Nano.
Can you throw some light on how the Sona Group works in sync with OEMs and other vendors to introduce new light weighting ideas and with whom are you working currently?
Most of the work we do is in collaboration with OEMs. There is also some work that we do with educational institutes. Much before implementation, OEMs are always involved.
Are high performance engineering plastics the only cost effective answer to steel?
We are studying and evaluating hi-performance engineering plastics, but they are at the R&D stage. Nothing is realized, yet.
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