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ABS LEADING the way

Published October, 2015

The government mandate of fitting anti-lock braking system on all heavy commercial vehicles and buses from October 2015 will drive the trend towards better practices in using brake systems in Indian automotive sector. APF takes a sneak peek into the new developments in automotive brake systems.

Automotive brake systems have come a long way from a simple design to reduce the speed of a vehicle and stop it to some redefined safety features such as anti-lock braking system (ABS), integrated brake control (IBC), sealed integrated brake systems (SIBS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) etc. The modern brake system has been refined for over 100 years and has become dependable and efficient.

Market trends

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Industry analysts have pegged the domestic market for disc brakes to be worth Rs 5,500 million and Rs 2,000 million for drum brakes. During braking, the dynamic weight of a vehicle is transferred to the front-end.This phenomenon is universal and dictates that the front brakes should be approximately twice as powerful compared to the rear brakes. Disc brakes, per se, exert much higher braking force when compared to shoe brakes of similar size. This capability has guided most automobile manufacturers to provide disc brakes in the front and shoe brakes in the rear in most of the vehicles. Off late, disc brakes are also being used in the rear wheels to facilitate increased safety through electronic sensor controlled systems like EBD, IBC, and others.

Indian brakes industry is extremely price sensitive and has all the world leaders like Bosch Chassis Systems, Continental Automotive, Mando Brakes India (with Anand Automotive), Wabco, Knorr Bremse and are supported by domestic players like Brakes India, Rane Brake Linings (RBL), Makino Auto Industries, etc.

It has been observed that while the price of braking components such as brake calipers and drum brakes are material-driven and are expected to rise by 5 per cent in the next few years, pricing of braking components like brake pads and brake linings are likely to fall in the next few years because of excessive competition. The pre-requisites for key success in the market is product quality, product development capability and competitive pricing. While high-end components like actuation units, booster and tandem master cylinder offers better margins, drum brakes and linings along with friction material offer negligible margins. Rate of increase in price of raw material like steel and plastic are likely to rise in the future.

Tech trends

India has the most road accidents in the world bereft of adequate motor safety regulations. Most of the industry players were unanimous in their views that ABS is the next big thing and is likely to witness unprecedented penetration in the country. Technology-wise, hydraulic actuated brakes are used in LCVs, cars, etc, while air actuated brakes, which are a tad costlier, are used in HCVs. In the long term, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is likely to find application in bigger sedans and premium SUVs. EBD is an active vehicle safety feature designed to make braking as efficient as possible. It distributes braking power according to which wheels are braking most effectively at the time.

Leaders in action

The current downturn in the passenger and commercial vehicle markets has not applied the brakes on the growth ambitions of brake component suppliers. On the contrary, they are developing groundbreaking solutions for OEMs demanding safe and reliable parts for their high-torque and high-performance vehicles.

Kaniappan P, Country Business Leader, WABCO India, states, "WABCO provides all CV makers with a range of innovative products drawn from its portfolio of industry-leading safety and efficiency technologies, as the high speeding racing trucks require superior vehicle control systems. Each of these trucks is equipped with a fully integrated compressed air system that includes our high-performance anti-lock braking system alongside high-output compressor technology, advanced air processing systems and braking components." He adds, "WABCO India will sustain its success and power its growth by introducing and localising new technologies, continuously pursuing a world-class service level and leveraging new technologies through an extensive product support network."

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Shedding light on the initiatives taken by WABCO towards vehicle safety, Kaniappan elaborates, "WABCO is the pioneer of ABS in commercial vehicles. ABS mandate has enabled WABCO to move further towards its vision of 'saving lives and protecting the environment' through continuous innovations in bringing up advanced vehicle control systems. It has already retrofitted ABS in about 35,000 hazardous goods carriers to make them safer on Indian roads. Significant investments were made recently in expansion of WABCO test track facility that allows vehicles to be tested on various advanced vehicle control systems. Our new Lucknow facility will manufacture leading technologies like ABS and innovative products apart from the currently manufacturing conventional products like actuators, hand brake valves (HBVs) and relay valves to serve multiple global truck and bus manufacturers like Tata Motors, VECV, and AMW operating in India and also the new plant will support WABCO's Pantnagar plant."

UNO Minda, a leading Tier-I supplier of proprietary automotive solutions to OEMs, is anticipating an unprecedented growth in the domestic CV industry with roll out of air brake systems along with its existing products. It may be recalled that the homegrown auto component firm had announced a joint venture almost three years back with the Japanese firm Nabtesco Automotive Corporation for designing, manufacture and sale of air brake products for CVs in addition to clutch products for passenger vehicles. The JV's manufacturing plant was established at Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, with products going on-stream shortly. This JV is being considered as a major move by UNO Minda for adding a product line and enhancing its presence in the CV industry.

Sanjay Walia, Vice President - Corporate Marketing, UNO Minda, explains, "We have allied with Nabtesco which is known for its technical excellence, exhaustive product expertise and extensive experience in Japan. With this partnership, we are strategically venturing into a new product line, in keeping with our diversification and consolidation approach to the Indian market. The air-brake systems, which will be jointly branded, will be competing with some of the leading players in the industry."

Shedding light on the progress of the JV, Walia adds, "We are currently into the product development stage. Once the products are developed and tested, we will start commercially rolling it out this year. We are already in touch with a handful of OEMs and are updating them continuously on the product development status. We are in advanced stage of discussions with some of the OEMs as well to supply our products. The investment outlay for plant and other capital expenditure has not been earmarked yet."

Since 1937, Nabtesco Automotive Corporation is a technology leader and supplier in automotive air brake systems and clutch control systems. It manufactures automobile components for OEMs in Japan and other countries.

Walia elaborates, "It (air brake) is a high-value product and we are confident of integrating with all the domestic and overseas OEMs once the product is rolled out. We look forward to gain good numbers in this business. Nabtesco is one of the biggest players in its home market and Japanese technology is always world class. So we are offering the Japanese technology at an Indian cost. We are confident of cornering a market share of 25 per cent in this segment by 2020. It will also be catering to the aftermarket vertical at a later stage."

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Another leading homegrown firm Makino, which is a well ensconced player in this industry engaged in manufacturing automotive clutches and brakes for two and three-wheeler industry for two decades, is optimistic about its next-generation products like sintered brake pads used for middleweight and heavyweight motorcycles. Makino's product range comprises clutches, clutch plates and clutch assemblies, clutch shoes and centrifugal clutches, brakes, brake linings and brake shoes (asbestos/non-asbestos), disc pads (non-asbestos), high pressure die castings, high precision sheet metal components and other allied products meant for two and three-wheelers.

Sunil Sharma, HOD, Engineering and R&D, Makino Auto Industries, explains, "For over two decades, we have been the trusted name in the automotive industry as we started as a friction disc manufacturer and now offer a complete clutch and brake solution provider. Our range of automotive clutch assemblies, brake assemblies and components are among the leaders in India in the category and discerning markets of the world. This is underpinned by the fact that we have developed internal competency in complete product design, standardised problem solving methodology, project management, and tool design and manufacturing. Our vision is to provide technologically advanced clutches and brakes for existing and future vehicles."

Talking about future plans on product developments and innovations, Sharma further adds, "We are known for our global standard in quality, delivery and customer support. Our focus on future technologies have resulted into intellectual property rights. Moreover, we work closely with our customer. We have a technical licence agreement with Tokai Carbon and are working on new-generation friction material for brake pads. We are also developing sintered disc pads which are already been in practice in Europe, US etc. We have been a Tier-II player to Nissin and Brembo and they will use our pads to their Complete Brake Systems (CBS). We have already rolled out disc pads for four wheelers (cars) six months back and the response has been very good. Eventually, disc pads will gradually replace brake shoes (in the vehicles) in the country."

Brakes India Ltd, one of the largest component manufacturing companies within the TVS Group, will be reportedly investing on a new facility to localise the four-channel ABS at its Padi facility within its existing plant premises. Starting with a capacity of 300,000 units per annum, scalable to 1,000,000 units as the market for ABS grows, the company will be in a position to meet the requirements of the domestic market. The investment, to be done in phases, is being made by Brakes India in which TRW holds a 49 per cent stake. This ABS technology, acquired from its joint venture partner TRW of the US under a licensed agreement signed last year, will find applications on passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks. It may be recalled that the brake manufacturer has already developed the two-channel ABS indigenously for motorcycles and utility vehicles but is yet to commercially roll it out as the volumes are minuscule.

Badri Vijayaraghavan, Executive Director - Business Development, Brakes India states, "We will be making a TRW-licensed four-channel ABS product for which manufacturing facilities have been set up. In addition, we have a world-class test track for testing and validating ABS. We have localised the wheel speed sensor and have a slip control team trained by TRW so that vehicles can be configured and trimmed in India."

Another Chennai-based company, Rane Brake Lining Ltd (RBL) established in 1964, has formulated a vision to be global supplier of choice in friction material industry. PS Rao, President, Rane Brake Lining Ltd, states, "We are known for high life brake lining for new generation buses. We also have higher rivet holding strength lining for aftermarket use and disc pad integral parking brake. To top it all, we are running state-of-the-art test facilities." On the future trends of the Indian brake industry, he states, "We foresee copper-free disc pad development, grade development for electric parking brake, likely regulation for after market friction products (like European standards - ECR -90 ) by Ministry of Road Transport, electric parking brake, regenerative braking system for hybrid cars and automatic braking system - brake by wire technology."

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RBL has a technical collaboration with Nisshinbo Brakes Inc, Japan for know-how in asbestos-free brake linings, disc pads and clutch facings, and has application in every segment of automobile industry. In the brake lining segment, it is the leader in CV, passenger car, utility vehicle and two-wheeler applications. It is also a leading supplier of composite brake blocks to Indian Railways and is the most preferred brand in independent replacement markets. Further, the company is a significant supplier to state transport undertakings. Its products are supplied to more than 15 countries and has a supply experience to Sri Lankan Railways for composite brake blocks.

Emerging trends

All hazardous goods carrier vehicles are fitted with ABS after government's mandate in 2006 and subsequently in 2007 government mandated the tractor trailers. From October 2015, all heavy commercial vehicles and buses will be fitted with ABS as per the latest government mandate. Going forward, the Indian automotive industry will also witness regulations to become more stringent on mass forced deceleration, braking performance, NVH levels (of brakes). OEMs such as Tata Motors, Hyundai, and Maruti follow systems sourcing technology (instead of single part procurement).