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Evolution of transmission:Gears & automotive components

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Automation is being implemented in almost all industries and sectors to increase output, boost efficiency, and reduce costs and now currently in the automotive sector as well.The automotive components and automotive power transmission systems have put behind manual transmission. Here are some insights on how automation is being implemented in the automotive sector

Transmission or a gearbox performs the basic function of channelling the power generated by the engine to drive the wheels. Currently, different types of gearboxes are available and while the mechanical process of gear shifting is the same, the procedure to change them varies in different types of transmission.

From manual to automatic and CVT gearbox: Evolution of transmissions
Manual gearbox is the most commonly used transmission type globally. However, introduction of automatic and CVT gearboxes have taken the game to next level in terms of performance, fuel efficiency, and ease of driving. Hence, the days of manual transmissions are numbered.

Manual gearbox
Most of the current driving population would have at least learnt driving on a manual gearbox before evolving to automatic gear shifts. The clutch plays a crucial role between the engine and the transmission to supply the required power to the wheels. A vehicle with a manual gearbox is said to be a more fun to drive and more interactive. It is also said that once you drive a car with a manual gearbox, it becomes easier to drive a car with any gearbox.

Automatic gearbox
Once considered as a luxury on cars, a transmission that shifts itself has now become a widespread commodity and going forward the buyers would prefer an automatic over a manual for ease of driving.

There are two types of automatic gearboxes on cars. The conventional automatic is connected to the engine via a hydraulic torque converter that helps to shift the gear lever without the driver’s intervention and the second is the dual-switch gearbox (DSG), which is a two-in one transmission where twin electronically controlled shafts manage gear selection. The process of gear change is done hydraulically or electronically by monitoring important parameters such as speed, throttle position and the engine’s rotation speed. In the case of an AMT gearbox (Automatic-manual transmission) there is an electronically monitored sensor that upshifts and downshifts the gears based on engine’s rpm. Most of the cars with AMT gears can also be changed manually using the shift levers on the gear stick.

However, there’s a myth surrounding the automatic transmission that it is less fuel efficient than the manual ones, which is not true.

Modern electronic technology has made it possible for an automatic car to give almost the same fuel efficiency as a manually driven car. Mostly, automatic cars tend to perform better on the mileage front as there is no human intervention on the gearbox.

CVT gearbox
Continuously variable transmission or CVT gearbox is another popular type of gearbox. It is said to be smoother than the traditional automatic gearbox, although some users find it slow on shifting. The CVT relies on a pulley and belt system that allows it to provide infinite numbers of ratios. CVT also helps in improving a car’s fuel efficiency making it a prime reason for hybrid vehicle manufacturers to put a CVT on a hybrid car. To improve the acceleration, CVT are often mated with paddle shifters that help in quick gear shift.

Software simulations easing product development
OEMs cannot build automobiles without the support of their component suppliers and ancillary industry. They have to work hand in hand for success, which includes a lot of collaboration on various aspects of component designs.

Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing, B&R Industrial Automation, says, “Few years ago, component suppliers usually provided samples for approval and then on approval moved on for batch production. Today, component suppliers are moving towards software and simulations before building prototypes, which is reducing cost and making productions more efficient. In addition, component suppliers are moving from mass productions to batch size one productions, which run at same economic costs.”

New technologies in automotive components
India has regions acting as automotive hubs such as Pune, Chennai, Sanand and Delhi to name a few. Technologies are evolving rapidly, leading to the rise of advanced automation concepts, which are available for deployment across industries in machines and factories. These innovative technologies and trends are driving the market forward, with various benefits.

Commenting on adoption of technology in the Indian market, Ninad says, “Being an automotive manufacturing hub, India has a lot of automotive component suppliers and can lead the market from the point of view of new technology adoptions. One such improvisation is on efficient product transport, where auto component industry is exploring next generation transport technologies for optimising product transport, enabling them to provide batch size one production runs cost-effectively.” Conveyor belts and chains are being replaced by industrial transport systems, where products are transported along the track on independently-controlled shuttles.

Speaking of his company’s offerings, he says, “B&R’s versatile industrial transport systems enable products movement through production line more efficiently while simultaneously improving quality. Based on long-stator linear motors, B&R’s next-generation industrial transport solutions make production lines more flexible, more reliable and faster. B&R’s ACOPOStrak is a generational leap in intelligent, flexible transport systems. Its absolutely unique design delivers decisive technological advantages for adaptive, connected manufacturing.”

Challenges in automotive industry
The automotive production sector is regarded as a pioneer in the implementation of highly automated processes and modern manufacturing strategies. A closer look, however, reveals that this only applies to individual sections of the plant.

Ninad describes that automobile bodies have been welded together by highly synchronised robots on fully automated production lines and humans monitor whether all machines are working correctly. “Between individual production steps, there is no uniform communication technology. Instead, data can only be exchanged via specially programmed interfaces. There is neither uniform production control nor shared data resources,” he added.

In many cases, each section of the plant has not only its own control system, but also a separate IT infrastructure. “Communication between these isolated islands is only possible via specially programmed gateways. A uniform network is a first step towards digitally connected manufacturing,” he said. “Achieving this requires communication technology that is understood by all devices and components, regardless of manufacturer. That includes not only entire machines and lines, but also individual sensors and actuators as well as higher-level systems such as MES, SCADA and ERP systems.”

Being an automotive manufacturing hub, India has a lot of automotive component suppliers and can lead the market from the point of view of new technology adoptions
Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing, B&R Industrial Automation

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