By Pramod Thomas:
The automotive industry consumes good amount of sintered components, mainly in transmission and engine. The consumption is set to grow with the introduction of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and the BS-VI norms. Sintering industry caters also to sectors like consumer goods, off-road equipment, medical equipment and similar others. The present organised sintered components market in India is pegged at Rs 1,200 crore. It is estimated to reach Rs 2,000 crore by 2020.
Sintering is the process of compacting and forming a solid mass of material by heat or pressure without melting it to the point of liquefaction. The Powder Metallurgy Association of India (PMAI) data show that a vehicle in India uses around four kg of sintered components. In Europe and Japan their use is over 12 kg. This indicates the huge potential and opportunity for the sintered products manufacturing industry in India.
“The transition towards BS-VI norms requires significant engine technology changes, including improvement in engine combustion and calibration, increased injection and cylinder pressure, NOx and particulate matter (PM) after-treatment solutions, and adopting electronic controls. This presents opportunities for increased use of sintered components in vehicles as the OEMs will look for more fuel-efficient engines by adding components such as variable valve timing (VVT) and Variable Camshaft Timing (VCT) and lightweight powertrains by reducing the weight of the components. Sintered products are lighter than casting/forging products hence preferred by the OEMs. This technology will not only increase the efficiency of the vehicle but also enhance the mechanical strength,” Jignesh Raval, Managing Director, Sintercom India Ltd, said.
Sintercom India was established in 2010 with a vision to improve the material yield using advanced sintering technology and to increase the sintered component use in a vehicle up to 10 kg. Since inception, the company has been focused on the conversion of the components manufactured through forging to sintered process.
“We can claim that out of the additional 1.5 kg sintered parts per vehicle added in the auto segment since 2010, we have contributed at least 800 gm. Sintercom has six percent share in the Indian sintered products market,” he said.
Sintercom’s products portfolio can be broadly classified into engine, transmissions and body/chassis and stainless steel parts. Its main revenue source is powertrain components. The company holds the highest market share within India for the supply of transmission hubs. The engine product portfolio includes engine drive gears, chain sprockets, belt pulleys, cam-to-cam gears and engine shaft bearing caps for engines ranging from 800 cc to 2,000 cc. Sintercom manufactures a broad range of components for transmissions hubs from 60 N/M to 400 N/M for both petrol and diesel vehicles. It also specialises in the manufacture of stainless steel sintered parts used in the exhaust application of the vehicle.
The company provides high-value proposition of high volume, high precision and low-cost components, tailored to specific requirements. The customers of Sintercom include automotive OEM’s like Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra, Bajaj Auto, Fiat India, and Hyundai Motors. They contribute close to 90 percent of the company’s revenue.
Sintercom has one of the best-in-class production facilities at its Talegaon, Pune, plant. It has installed various compaction machines ranging from 70 tonne to 500 tonne. Further, the company has installed sintering furnaces with a total capacity of 1,980 tonne as of March 2018. Currently, the company has added a 1,600-tonne new furnace to meet the customer demand. It has 150 employees. “Considering the benefits emerging from AI, we have installed devices on our key compaction machine and furnace which will capture the real-time data and algorithms on the machine that help us programme the machine for higher productivity. Further, we are also exploring camera inspection at our final inspection line to automate the inspection activity,” Raval said.
In 2011, Sintercom entered into a joint venture with Austria-based Miba Group, one of the global leaders in sintering technology. Its global revenue is close to EUR 400 million and is catering to various leading OEMs’ like VW, BMW and GM.
The company is focused on the domestic market owing to high demand for its products from the OEM customers. However, Sintercom has been exporting synchro hubs to Suzuki Motor Corporation Japan, through Maruti Suzuki, for the past one year. It has received business nominations from Fiat for development of zero backlash gears which has good potential for export to Fiat Italy and China.
“The company has always believed in its ability to transform and grow by developing differentiated products using technology in-house and at Miba R&D capabilities. We have successfully converted cast iron bearing cap to sintered bearing cap for one of the Indian OEMs. We have also developed a new generation synchro hub by introducing pockets in the rib without affecting the performance of the product. In both the above cases, there has been a weight reduction of around 10 percent of the product,” he said.
Ready For E-mobility
When asked about the company’s strategy for electric mobility, Raval said that Sintercom has the technology for the development of helical pulleys for electric power steering (EPS) applications and high precision components for actuators.
“The penetration of electric vehicles globally has its own challenges. However, assuming that we see 100 percent electrification in the auto sector, we are prepared for the same. The company is working closely with the Miba R&D facilities to adapt to the emerging technologies for manufacturing gears required in a planetary gearbox in an electric vehicle. There will be requirements of sintered components in an electric vehicle. Because of its lighter weight, net shape and precision parts, sintered component players will have an important role in the electric mobility segment. As part of our long-term strategy, we will diversify our product portfolio into consumer goods and medical industry in the near future,” Raval said.
Sintercom India foresees ample opportunities for indirect exports as many new players like PSA Avtec, Kia Motors, and MG Motors are setting up their plants in India and will also be focusing on exports from India. The company has concrete plans to look at potential new export customers in the next two to three years.
“In the short term the company eyes expansion of the existing capacity of the plant. Based on the order book, we plan to increase the capacity of the compaction press and the sintering process in a phased manner. We have increased the annual sintering furnace capacity from 1,980 tonne to 3,600 tonne. Parallelly, in 2018-19, we propose to increase the compaction press capacity to 12 million strokes a year from 9.45 million strokes. We propose to maintain the average plant capacity utilisation at around 75-80 percent. Strategy for the long-term horizon is to enhance our customer base and product base with a mandate for compliance with BS-VI norms by 2020 and to integrate new technology of metal injection moulding with efforts to improve functional efficiencies,” Raval said.