Lightweight Construction Calls for Fast Laser Machines

Laser is the only tool able to trim parts made of high strength steels once they have cooled

People yearn for mobility, but they must also be able to breathe. Contradictory requirements lead to the unavoidable conclusion that mobility must become more sustainable. JBM Group, an automotive supplier in India, demonstrates how this can be accomplished by utilizing high-tech materials and machines.

It all started in the 1990s, with the world experiencing a never-before-seen computer and technology boom. The Chairman, S K Arya, founder of the Jay Bharat Maruti (JBM) Group, had a vision at that time. Inspired by Intel's ‘Intel inside’ slogan, he envisioned ‘JBM inside’ – a JBM component in every car made in India.

His vision has come true: The JBM Group, which began as a cylinder manufacturer in 1983, is now a corporation that produces over 5,00,000 automotive parts every day. The company has a presence in ten countries and more than 25 locations worldwide. It now employs over 25,000 people and has annual sales of more than $2.2 billion. However, on its way to becoming a global conglomerate, the company has made a strong commitment to the pursuit of sustainability.

Sustainability is the common thread

The company’s emphasis on sustainability is not by chance: India suffers from severe air pollution. The impact on public health is dramatic, as is the impact on the country’s economy. More than half of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India. According to scientists, the country loses about 2 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) each year due to air pollution. The increased demand for private vehicles is regarded as one of the primary causes of rising air pollution and traffic congestion. The truth is that this demand is unabated. Manufacturers sold over 21.5 million vehicles in India during the fiscal year 2019-20.

BB Gupta (left), President Strategy & Business Planning, JBM Auto Components, and General Manager Ajit Choudhary inspect parts cut with the TruLaser Cell 7040

High strength steel parts are processed precisely, as Ajit Choudhary (right), General Manager, JBM Auto Components, demonstrates to President Strategy & Business Planning, BB Gupta

BB Gupta, President Strategy & Business Planning, JBM Auto Components at his plant

As a result, the company not only manufactures automotive components and systems, but also works on solutions for more sustainable mobility. It produces buses, electric vehicles, power units, and charging infrastructure. Furthermore, the Indian automotive supplier is involved in renewable energy systems, ‘waste to worth,’ and artificial intelligence. The concept of sustainability is a common thread that runs through all aspects of the Group. Consequently, the bus division, for example, provides both electric and low-emission diesel buses. The company’s renewable energies division is working on solar power plants, battery energy storage systems, and electricity infrastructure. Hence, the company is able to meet stringent sustainability requirements with this lineup.

Lightweight construction, a greener alternative

How can technology help to reduce vehicle-related air pollution? Lightweight construction is a tried-and-true approach that has yielded significant results for the automotive industry. Emissions are reduced when there is less weight. This is true regardless of the drive system: cars with combustion engines use less fuel and emit fewer pollutants. Electric vehicles use less electricity, have a longer range, and are thus more appealing to users. For this reason, automakers and suppliers all over the world are working on ways to make their vehicles lighter.

The company collaborates with several automobile manufacturers, such as Daimler, Ford, and Suzuki-Maruti. Furthermore, these automakers are putting pressure on their suppliers to provide lightweight solutions. B B Gupta, President, Strategy & Business Planning, JBM Auto Components, asserts, “We produce components for all international vehicle manufacturers that have a presence in India. The demand for lightweight automotive components is growing rapidly.”

One method for making vehicles lighter is to use tubes and profiles. For load-bearing parts of the body, they can be used instead of solid structures. Engineers must understand where and how forces act on the body to accomplish this. They do this by employing cutting-edge simulation software that can pinpoint the exact location of forces at work. Only in these areas is material required to absorb it. Tubes and profiles enable the material to be used where it is most needed. In other places, the material can be reduced, resulting in lighter components.

The most recent project implemented by the company in collaboration with TRUMPF, a high-tech company that provides manufacturing solutions in the fields of Machine Tools and Laser Technology/Electronics, also aimed at saving material: JBM manufactures lightweight profiles for buses using TruLaser 3030 laser machines and a TruLaser 1030, as well as TruBend 3100 and TruBend 1100 press brakes.

Originally bought for prototyping, JBM is using the TruLaser Cell 7040 now to process parts made of high strength steel

JBM has been using the TruLaser 1030 laser machines for sheet metal cutting for several years

Machining high strength steel

The use of high-strength steel is another approach to achieving lighter vehicles. They enable thinner sheets to be used for automobiles, reducing weight without jeopardizing passenger safety in the event of an accident. On the negative side, these materials are nearly impossible to machine using traditional methods. Gupta explains, “We use high-strength steels with a tensile strength of up to 1000 megapascals.” To illustrate, consider a tiny strip of high-strength steel measuring barely ten square millimeters: This is sufficient to suspend a one-ton car from it. The same properties of steel that protect car passengers so well are also those that cause major headaches for production engineers: If a steel component is difficult to deform in a car crash, it is also difficult to form in a press, as well as trim and pierce it. As a result, high-strength steels are formed red-hot using press hardening. Once they’ve cooled, there’s only one tool left to use: the laser. It’s used to trim or drill through tough workpieces.

The company has the TruLaser Cell 7040 available for processing such press-hardened parts. It has been in use since 2018, though it was originally designed for prototype construction. Today, it also processes a wide range of high-strength steels daily – no other machine in the automotive supplier’s production is as well suited for these tasks. Mohammed Hidayath, Sales Director, TRUMPF India, reports, “JBM chose this machine at the time primarily because of its precision. But reliability was also important.”

Laser machines have proven their value

The company’s reliance on TRUMPF for high-strength steel processing is no coincidence: the Indian automotive supplier can already look back on positive experiences with the laser pioneer. TruLaser 1030 and 3030 laser machines, for example, have been used for sheet metal cutting for many years. Gupta, President Strategy & Business Planning, JBM Auto Components, adds, “Our plants in India are equipped with TRUMPF laser machines, and, of course, we also use them for our factory in Germany.”

The business relationship dates to the late 1990s, when Gupta visited TRUMPF headquarters in Ditzingen. After that, the automotive supplier purchased its first machines nine years ago. Stating that TRUMPF provides more than just machines and is superior to other machine manufacturers in terms of excellent and responsive service, Gupta adds, “TRUMPF employees can quickly work out and implement solutions to difficult problems.”

This productive collaboration is far from over. JBM is still expanding at a rapid pace. Gupta announces, “We are considering buying more TRUMPF machines in the future.” That could very well be necessary. JBM, for example, recently won a series of tenders for its buses and is already planning to expand production.

Lightweight construction in general is also showing promise, with studies predicting continued strong growth, particularly in the automotive sector. This means that Intel can once again serve as a model for the Indian supplier: just as Americans grew big with ‘Intel inside’ during the computer boom, sustainability offers numerous opportunities for ‘JBM inside.’

Image Source: TRUMPF



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