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“Industry 4.0 is continuously sensing the durability of the system”

The theory of enhancing the time of any automobile or machinery is a routine service. The idea is to plan for a predictive maintenance of the line, wherein a sudden breakdown can be prevented. Biswajyoti Mandal, Vice President, Technology, Schaeffler India explains in this exclusive interview with IPF’s Neellohit Banerjee that Industry 4.0 tries to analyse and synthesize the data to tell the system owners to change a particular component when it needs to be done, or warn them about the low life of a particular component before it needs to be changed.
 
Schaeffler participated in the recently concluded Hannover Messe. What are the kind of solutions that Schaeffler observed, which are relevant to the auto component industry in India?
The expo is a global platform to highlight innovation and technologies for tomorrow. Being a technology leader, we have also presented our technologies at the fair. Industry 4.0 is one of our key focus areas and we found that significant amount of work is happening on this front. Not just Schaeffler, a lot of participants tried to bring cost-effective, intelligent solutions. Some of the new age products from an auto and industrial manufacturer’s perspective, grabbed most attention were, plain bearing and anti-friction bearing components and solutions. This includes power transmission equipment, couplings and clutch units and brakes. Showcases of industrial applications for integrated automation, motion and drives, industry solutions have also been the centre of attraction. Applicability for those solutions in India can only be told after some time, but India is catching up gradually.
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"Industry 4.0 is one of our key focus areas and we found that significant amount of work is happening on this front. Not just Schaeffler, a lot of participants tried to bring cost-effective, intelligent solutions."
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What are the products and technologies that you displayed?
Schaeffler has a product-line where few components are connected to rotation. There is relative motion between two components and friction will play a critical role. That’s the place where Schaeffler has got different types of solutions. Schaeffler owns patented sensorised bearings, which have different technologies for different applications. We have got our own sensors and patented technology, and we continuously sense and monitor the data in terms of noises, vibration, temperature, etc. Through that process, we send the data via cloud. We synthesize that data and then we forecast the behaviour of the bearing, wheel or axle. Apart from prediction, we can also distinguish the lifespan of a bearing. These are the things that we directly tell the owner of the function if there are some problems and suggest on taking corrective actions. And the action taken can be related to a particular component of the bearing, wheel, axle, a rise in temperature, lubrication etc. We identify the exact root cause, which the function owner should know, so that they can avoid having a larger downtime of their system.
 
What advantages will the OEMs get from these technologies in India?
The theory of enhancing the time of any automobile or machinery is simple, a routine service. For instance, in a cement plant, the downtime involves a large amount of money. If one bearing fails, the entire cement plant will come to a halt unless the bearing is changed. So, the idea is to plan for a predictive maintenance of the line, wherein we can prevent a sudden breakdown. Industry 4.0 is continuously sensing the durability of the system 24x7 and tries to analyse and synthesize the data to tell the system owners to change a particular component when it needs to be done, or warn them about the low life of a particular component before it needs to be changed. That is the way in which the uptime, quality and reliability of the system can be increased, bringing the cost down.
 
What is the situation of electrification in India?
E-mobility is inevitable, and the main driver is CO2 emission reduction. Across the globe including India, people are discussing hazards of CO2 emission. In India, there is a mixed feeling within the industry to synthesize FAME II. FAME II has brought friction in terms of subsidy to boost the battery-operated and hybrid vehicles get into the market. If we consider a two-wheeler, they have many boundary conditions. Now comparing FAME I and FAME II, in the latter, people will get much less subsidy than the former. This is creating a negative sentiment in the 2W industry on how the battery operated technology will be accepted in the market. But there is a rapid fall in the battery cost. One of the largest cost contributor in an EV is the battery cost. In the last decade, from $1000 per kW hour, the cost of the battery has come down to $175 now. But the business case of the OEMs and auto players is telling that unless the price of the battery comes down to below $100, against the diesel and petrol engine cost-benefit comparable, we will not see a positive comparable. In a country like India, most of the sales happen due to value for money and to get that, battery cost plays a critical role. One positive side of FAME II is that it will provide a 
Rs 10,000-subsidy for a 1 kW battery. So the linkage is there with respect to the battery and some other boundary conditions, such as minimum charging distance, better technological battery instead of the acid-lead battery, and so on.
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"There is a rapid fall in the battery cost. One of the largest cost contributor in an EV is the battery cost. In the last decade, from $1000 per kW hour, the cost of the battery has come down to $175 now."
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What are some of the emerging technologies that Schaefflerhas to offer in the space of bearings?
We see a disruption technology demands, and changes are expected to happen in bearings. There is a technology change happening rapidly within the transmission. OEMs are focusing on making more compact and lightweight transmission, where they want to improve the power density. There are rapid changes happening in transmission lubrication, such as viscosity of the oil. Taking these two parameters, this is forcing a technology change on Schaeffler, wherein the bearing has to be smaller in size. But with this compactness, it should take more load since the power density of the transmission is increasing. This means power density of the bearing also has to increase. There is a huge demand across the world for bearings to increase the rotating speed, i.e a faster rotating bearing. The next is to minimise friction and we have been working on several research projects to give the world a frictionless bearing. We have bearings with different coating technologies and through them the friction has been reduced by more than 50 per cent. These are some Schaffler-driven patented coating technologies on the bearings. If this is connected to fuel economy or CAFE norms, since this has got a direct linkage to that, the time the friction is minimised for a vehicle, less fuel is needed to run a car, and consequently the carbon footprint goes down, which in turn, helps meet fuel economy norms. So bearing plays a critical role in terms of upcoming technology changes coming into the automotive space. As lot of lubrication is getting changed due to the high-speed and high RPM of the transmission, the bearing has to be corrosion resistant, for which we have a lot of corrosion-resistant coating technologies. With those coating technologies we completely insulate the surface of the bearing. The automotive industry is also demanding ‘one type one life’ bearing, which will last till the entire life of a vehicle. Wear and tear is also a common problem for which we have invented a patented technology called Durotect, where there is close to nil wear and tear happening. For corrosion we have Corrotect and for friction we have Triondur. There is something called sensor coating, wherein sensors 
are also built-in to the bearing. 
 
There are certain technological coatings we have built for that sensorised bearing called Sensotect. To run a motor in a vehicle, one needs electric power and there is a possibility of electricity passing through the bearing. When that happens, the bearing fails and we have developed a technology to take care of this problem called Insutect. If there are such types of coatings, electricity won’t pass through it since it will be a completely insulated bearing.



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