Friday, 26 December 2014

Promising future for auto-parts recycling

END-OF-LIFE vehicles (ELV) offer numerous recyclable materials such as steel, aluminium, plastic, antifreeze and batteries, and salvageable parts and components such as engines, transmission, compressors and alternators for reconditioning and reuseable opportunities.
It is estimated that some 27 million vehicles globally reach end of their useful life annually and are recovered for recycling. When cars are scrapped, some 75 per cent (by weight) of the materials are recyclable while the remaining is disposed into landfills.
An estimated five million tonnes of non-recyclable materials, including plastic, rubber, wood, paper, fabric and glass are shredded for disposal into landfills annually. The colossal amount of these wasted non-recyclable materials is now an environmental concern.
Currently, Malaysians own more than 10 million vehicles of which some five million vehicles are more than 10 years old while some are approaching the end of their usable lives.
It only makes sense for some of the owners of the ageing vehicles to choose reusable parts and components in their vehicle maintenance exercises.
Fully recyclable parts and components will not only benefit the owners in prolonging their ELVs, but at the same time they are economical to own in the long run as reusable parts and components that are 50 per cent or less cheaper are readily available.
In general, accidents do not destroy every part in an automobile as at least a dozen parts and components can be salvaged. An organised selling and salvaging of ELV or wrecked vehicles will provide some financial returns to the consumers, while generating lucrative businesses among auto recyclers.
Automotive manufacturers are aware of the demand and government’s foresight that soon their vehicles will have to adopt a full recyclable vehicle design concept. Future vehicles will be designed and manufactured with fully recyclable materials, parts and components that can be reconditioned for reuse repeatedly and eventually recycled. The components will be simple to dismantle and labelled so that they are identifiable for reuse and recyling.
Local automotive manufacturers must from now incorporate recycling and reusable parameters in all their future vehicle designs. This will not only be favourable to the consumers in reducing their vehicle maintenance costs, but open up recycling and remanufacturing businesses in the automotive after-market sector.
Advanced nations are considering regulating their automotive recycling industries with Europe proposing that automotive manufacturers be responsible for their vehicles’ ELV disposals.
Therefore, full recyling will soon be the competitive advantage among global automakers.
Steps have since been taken to inculcate the “Reduce-Reuse-
Recycle” practices within the local automotive ecosystem. Malaysia Automotive Institute has established close rapport with various industry players and related associations to formulate strategies and activities to further boost the local recycling and remanufacturing capabilities.
National Occupational Skills Standard for the remanufacturing industry recently developed one of those initiatives. Involving local recycling industrialists and academia, the re-manufacturing development is a starting point towards boosting the quality of manpower required within the sector.
Automotive stakeholders like the manufacturers, vendors, related authorities and recycling operators should collaborate in initiatives towards developing the local industry.
Public awareness too is crucial to ensure a future sustainable local recycling and remanufacturing industrial ecosystem.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Lightweight EEV essential to competitiveness

A VEHICLE is recognized as an “energy efficient vehicle” (EEV) only if it is able to fulfill the stipulated distance travelled over a given quantity of fuel (energy), as well as satisfy the allowable exhaust emission level of detrimental greenhouse gases.
Towards this end, many car makers have adopted various approaches to achieve the EEV status for their vehicles.
In a decade or so, Asian car makers, particularly the Japanese, would be introducing the hybrid power train EEVs while the European car makers would prefer to enhance internal combustion engines (ICE) powered by diesel fuel from fossil or bio diesel to achieve EEV objectives.
Of late, however, the European car makers have started to introduce hybrid vehicles into the EEV market while advancing the diesel ICE power train.
While the power train advancement remains in the forefront of developmental endeavors among EEV car makers, the vehicle’s weight, too, has been recognized as a major criteria of a successful EEV.
Vehicle weight will become crucial as the global mobility moves towards full electric power train.
Global automotive researchers and engineers are aggressively looking for ways to reduce weight of nearly every part of a vehicle in their efforts to achieve an EEV with higher fuel economy.
This is becoming more crucial as the United States government has now mandated a 23.2 km/liter (54.5 miles/gallon) average fuel consumption for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025.
Since the invention of automobiles, car makers have been incrementally adding weight to their vehicles.
Due to the need to reduce fuel consumption and global demand for lower emission, vehicle dead weight has become a major criterion in automotive design. It is postulated that vehicles dead weight will be significantly reduced to some 10 to 15 percentage of 2010 baseline by 2025.
Dead weight is a measure of the maximum weight a vehicle can
safely carry during mobility, which includes the vehicle’s weight and
the sum of allowable passengers and its cargo.
The current popular practice focuses on weight reduction of selective components to reduce the total vehicle weight.
Although this is an acceptable approach, such practices are deem to take a longer time frame to achieve the best possible dead weight of a vehicle being produced.
Dead weight designation during the early stage of development will govern the designers to select the most suitable systems and materials to achieve the targeted weight.
It will serve as a driving force in ensuring that component vendors at all levels continuously seek new materials for weight reduction.
However, balancing the cost differential between the new and current materials and processes is a factor to be considered to avoid the possible setback upon adoption of the dead weight designation approach.
An increase in manufacturing and materials cost is not always a good excuse for the price increase of a vehicle.
Therefore, car makers need to recognize weight reduction strategies in one way or another, either selective components weight reduction or dead weight designation during the early stage of vehicle development.
Failing to explore possibilities of materials and processes for reducing weight of vehicles being developed will render the car makers less competitive in the world of the EEV market.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Material composition in a vehicle

MATERIAL selections have been the primary exercise in the design and development of automotive vehicles since the early days of mass production.
The general trend showed that the material development and innovations were focused on weight reduction of the vehicles with the introduction of materials which were inexpensive and yet superior in mechanical properties.
Car users are more familiar with the functionality of their vehicles such as the engine, transmission and ABS system, but little thought is given to the raw materials that are used in the production of the vehicles.
Automotive manufacturers use a tremendous number of materials in the mass production of their vehicles.
The types of materials vary from the smallest parts such as screws and clips to the larger components such as engine and transmission. Five major materials are predominant in the development of a vehicle and their utilization has significant impact on the weight and cost of the vehicle produced.
Steel was largely used by automobiles of the late 1980s for the body and frame, to produce vehicles that were strong but heavy. The vehicles compromised on fuel consumption as they had lesser value compared with the vehicles today.
Percentage composition by weight of the major materials include high strength steel about six per cent, other steel 50 per cent, iron 15 per cent, plastics seven per cent, aluminium four per cent and others (such as rubber, glass, textile) about 18 per cent.
Aluminium began to replace steel and iron components in the mid 1990s, thereby reducing the weight of the vehicle, leading to significant improvement in the performance.
Composition of major materials during this period was altered as following: high strength steel 10 per cent, other steel 43 per cent, iron 12 per cent, plastics seven per cent, aluminium eight per cent and others about 20 per cent.
Attempt to reduce the weight and cost of modern cars in the late 2000 had led to the use of more plastic materials and reduction in iron-made components. The composition of major materials was then: high strength steel 13 per cent, other steel 42 per cent, iron seven per cent, plastics nine per cent, aluminium eight per cent and others 21 per cent.
The weight of a modern vehicle is centered on the body, including frame and panels that are attached to it. According to current estimation, the body constitutes 40 per cent of the vehicle weight.
Interior components contribute some 15 per cent, while chassis and power train make up 24 per cent and 16 per cent of the vehicle weight, respectively.
However, the percentage may differ in vehicles that use sub-frames for front-wheel drive instead of chassis, which is more common for rear-wheel drive. Electrical systems are more in use in modern vehicles as technology advances further, contributing to five per cent of the vehicle weight.
It is apparent that for further weight reduction exercises, more focus should be given to body design and construction using lighter materials than high strength steel. Composite material is becoming the best available choice for vehicle body. Metal and ceramic composites may offer alternatives in replacing some of the iron and other steel parts.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Heat treatment of metals ensures quality car parts

MECHANICAL properties of many metallic materials can be manipulated by the process called “heat treatment”, a phenomenon practiced since antiquity. The practice now is an advanced science in any manufacturing of metallic components.
Steel and aluminium alloys are among the most popular heat-treatable materials that are widely used in the manufacture of automotive parts to achieve the desired properties.
Heat-treatment produces a great variety of micro structural changes or transformation within the metal matrices during heating and cooling in their solid states. The right transformation that occurs in the final micro structure will result in the component having the mechanical properties required to serve its function.
Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon with iron being the base metal. Heat-treatment procedures transform the iron-carbon compound in the steel matrices into a variety of steel micro structures. These transformations result in the variation of the properties of steel, such as; tensile strength, hardness, toughness, ductility etc.
Heat-treatment processes such as annealing, hardening, normalizing and tempering are familiar among metallurgists and engineers in manipulating the properties of steel at various levels of processes and finishing work in components manufacturing.
On a similar account aluminium alloy with silicon is the most popular lightweight material that is heat-treatable. The alloy, in the presence of a right quantity of silicon and magnesium, transforms into aluminium-silicon-magnesium compound in the micro structure of the alloy after heat-treatment. The procedures strengthen the alloy as well as improve its properties amongst which are; ductility, tensile strength, impact strength and fracture resistance.
The quality of tools (moulds and dies) for mass production of components as described in the previous article, demand right heat-treatment procedures to ensure longer operational lives.
This article does not intend to elaborate in depth on the scientific and metallurgical aspects of heat-treatment of metals, but suffice to demonstrate the importance of heat-treatment of in achieving the required properties of metals used in any engineering endeavour and in the manufacture of quality parts and components.
There are 20 local heat-treatment companies that provide heat-treatment services, such as; vacuum hardening, carburising, carbonitriding, nitriding, annealing and tempering, to the local automotive industries.
Heat-treatment facilities are best installed within the production line of a mass component manufacturing set-up. This is to ensure that operation flows are without interruptions. Sub-contracting heat-treatment work to another party may render inefficiency in the production line process sequence.
There seems to be sufficient metallurgical and practical knowledge on heat-treatment processes amongst the downstream steel industries due to their long term establishments.
However, knowledge on metallurgical aspects and heat-treatment procedures for aluminium alloys seems inadequate within the local aluminium parts manufacturers. Some of the producers heat-treat their manufactured parts without in-depth knowledge on the microstructural transform that occurs during the process.
Enhancing the heat-treatment knowledge and capabilities amongst the aluminium industrialist is crucial as the nation embarks on the manufacture of energy efficient vehicles.
Aluminium as a lightweight material is expected to be extensively used in these vehicles.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Toolmaking sector a key manufacturing component

The last few articles highlighted the important role of designers and the necessity to develop the capability and skills in prototyping and rapid tooling technology in order to enhance product competitiveness of the local automotive industry. 

The support from the moulds and dies sector is equally important to ensure that efficient mass production of the parts and components being designed is achieved. 

NAP 2014 is giving special attention to further enhance the moulds and dies sector capable of supporting automotive manufacturing. 

The tool-making industry, regarded by many industrialists as the “mother of all industries” plays a strategic role in ensuring competitiveness and sustainability in many key industrial sectors such as aeronautics, electronics, packaging, house appliances, rubber and most importantly, the automotive sector. 

Moulds are tools for the production of plastic parts while dies are used for shaping sheet metal. Liquid metals such as aluminium alloys are shaped into components through die-casting, while jigs and fixture are tools for holding of components during machining, assembling and testing. Fabricating all these tools are recognised as “tool-making” and the specialists are “toolmakers”. 

The efficient supply of parts and components to the finished goods assemblers or the original equipment manufacturers depend on the tooling quality made for mass production. 

The success of moulded plastic parts, as an example, derives from the capability of designing, engineering and the right tools (moulds) in their manufacturing processes. 

Optimum dimensional stability, excellent thermal conductivity, hard, tough and the ability to withstand compressive stress are characteristics of high-quality tools. 

Tools that are able to produce parts with consistently high accuracy and finishing quality are prerequisites for cost-effectiveness and the industry’s competitive advantage.

 Apart from the precision machining processes during tool fabrication, the quality characteristics of tools are attained by employing the right tool materials and the heat-treatment process before final assembly. 

Some 240 toolmakers are now operating locally and are members of the Malaysia Moulds and Dies Association. They are involved in the fabrication of various types of tools for the manufacturing industry. 

It is reported that some 20 of these toolmakers specialise in making moulds and dies for the local automotive sector. 

About 800 moulds and almost a similar number of dies are required for the production of all the parts and components in every new vehicle model introduction. 

These moulds and dies, numbering more than 1,500 sets, are required to be completed within the timeframe set for pre-production and mass production of the vehicles. It is a challenging task for the toolmakers, vendors and vehicle assemblers alike to meet the launching dateline of the new model.   

Local toolmakers, however, are currently only able to fabricate small- to middle-sized tools, which further aggravates the challenges faced by local automotive players in reducing manufacturing costs. 

Initiatives towards enhancing the capability to produce larger moulds and dies locally are ongoing but the inability of local foundries to supply the larger casted mould bases and dies sets remains a hindrance. 

Shortage of highly skilled machinists and experienced tools design engineers, prerequisites for tool-making, are among the setbacks in the industry. 

Tool-making technicians and engineers are highly paid and highly recognised skilled workforce in the automotive industry of developed nations. 

Industry-driven tool-making exposure and skill training among the younger generation are therefore essential to produce respected tool-makers for the nation.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Enhancing design competitiveness

PRODUCT design ideas of the yesteryear were rendered on paper by skillful designers who were both artistic and technically competent.

The ideas were then translated into three-dimensional “mock-ups” or models, using clay, wood or paper board. Skillful craftsmen carved out or assembled the mock-ups for visual assistance to evaluate the aesthetic, dimensional proportionality, manufacturability and tool-making constraints of the product design.

Photographic snapshots of the mock-ups were used for advertising campaigns of the products.

Similar steps were taken in those days to design and develop automotive parts and components for a new vehicle model introduction.

The practice was time-consuming.

Component mock-ups were merely for visual assistance and were not intended for mechanical testing and engineering evaluation purposes. This further prolonged the process of design-to-manufacture time frame.

The problem persisted when the vehicles’ original equipment manufacturer (OEM) insisted that vendors present small quantities of the parts being developed in the form of finished products.

In this case, the vendors have no alternative but to proceed with the fabrication of the expensive production molds or dies to produce the part samples.

The risk can be on the vendors should the parts presented were not accepted. More often than not, the vendors were asked to reproduce the samples through further modifications on the molds or dies on condition that the new samples were delivered within narrow time frames.

The advent of digital technology has helped to minimize the problems by virtually eliminating the manual mock-up stage of the product development process.

The introduction of computer-assisted prototype-making machines, such as the “Stereolithography (SLA)” and “Laminated Object Manufacturing” are now able to generate accurate parts prototypes for visual analysis.

The parts are rendered on the computer screen in the initial design stage. Upon finalisation, the data are transferred to the machine for prototype generation. The prototype can be produced by having the exact visual appearance of the expected finish product with dimensional accuracies.

Since the prototypes are generated using materials such as polymer, in the case of SLA, they are not suitable for physical or mechanical testing, but are useful for visual analysis and fittings or assembly in the vehicle.

The technique is not only able to generate accurate prototypes, model-making time frame is shortened multifold. The process is now recognized as “rapid prototyping technology”.

Rapid prototyping does not overcome the problem of the OEM requirement for vendors to produce a few working parts samples for mechanical testing and other engineering evaluations.

 This requirement is fulfilled by the “rapid tooling” technology, which comprises “soft-tooling” and “bridge-tooling” techniques.

Soft-tooling is made from silicon rubber resin and used to produce plastic-prototype components using Polyurethane Resin. Accuracy is rather limited, but suitable for production of 100 rigid samples.

Bridge-tooling is an intermediary between soft-tooling and the actual production tooling strong enough to produce some 3,000 working samples required for the new design and engineering evaluations.

Rapid tooling fabrication time frame is about one fifth and costs some five per cent of the production tooling, thereby reducing the risk of vendor’s parts bidding significantly.

There are a few rapid prototyping operators locally with little or no rapid tooling capability. In order to encourage product design and development activities among the local vendors and the public at large, the availability of a comprehensive prototyping facility in a one-stop center is appropriate.

The initiative will enhance the local design capability and competitiveness for the local industry.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Graphene holds potential for automotive applications

THE discovery of graphene by two scientists at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom who have won a Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 has opened up new possibilities of the material being used in many engineering applications.

Thin and yet extremely strong, graphene, is able to conduct electricity very efficiently at room temperature, thus promoting its major applications in the electronics and computer industry.

Excitingly, the application of graphene is foreseen to replace the use of steel in many engineering applications, in particular the aerospace and the automotive industries.

Known to demonstrate a breaking strength of 200 times greater than steel, the material will be the best substitute for steel in weight reduction endeavours desired in the development of energy-efficient vehicles (EEV).

Using graphene as the base material in the manufacture of composite components with different polymer matrices will enhance the vehicle design, with the vehicle weight to remain very light for fuel efficiency.

The material will provide benefits such as improved strength, dimensional stability and superior durability, while its flame retardant characteristic is useful for the replacement of the iron and steel components in the exhaust emission reduction application.

The usage of graphene in lithium-ion batteries can help to enhance storage capacity by 10 times compared to the current battery technology, and the batteries will be able to withstand rapid recharging. These possibilities will expedite the entrance of plug-in hybrid and full-electric vehicles in the marketplace.

Graphene-based materials and their respective processing technologies are now intensely being developed for commercialisation among developed countries. It is foreseen graphene-based parts and components will soon enter the marketplace, replacing those that have been produced by less superior conventional materials.

It is pleasing to note that Malaysia is one of those countries venturing to locally commercialise the production of graphene.

Under the government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), a National Graphene Action Plan has recently been unveiled to guide the development of graphene-based materials and the manufacture of the material in a big way.

The key players in this graphene commercialisation venture are Pemandu, Agensi Inovasi Malaysia and NanoMalaysia Bhd, with the participation of relevant private sector, research and development institutions and universities.

Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) is equally thrilled on the ETP initiative and its support for the development of graphene-based material production locally as the venture will expedite the development of EEV manufacturing in the country.

MAI is committed to encourage and assist the local automotive players to embark on the production of EEV batteries.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Perusahaan Automotif sebagai industri pemangkin perindustrian negara

Malaysia asalnya merupakan negara pertanian dan perlombongan yang terkenal dengan pengeluaran getah dan bijih timah. Kesedaran dikalangan pentadbir negara bermula diakhir-akhir tahun 70an, bahawa negara tidak lagi dapat bergantung kepada ekonomi pertanian dan perlombongan ini untuk mengujudkan peluang pekerjaan kepada rakyat jelata.

Diawal tahun 80an perusahaan berasaskan tani dan perlombongan tidak dapat memberikan kepuasan pekerjaan kepada para graduan yang jumlahnya sentiasa meningkat setiap tahun. Kewujudan Petronas memberikan peluang pekerjaan yang memuaskan bagi mereka yang berkelulusan dibidang kejuruteraan petrolium dan bidang-bidang yang bersangkutan dengan aktiviti carigali seperti geologi dan sebagainya.

Namun peluang pekerjaan bagi para graduan di bidang-bidang sains, kejuruteraan  dan teknologi lain amat berkurangan. Kebanyakkan graduan-graduan kejuruteraan hanya mendapat pekerjaan dibadan-badan kerajaan seperti Jabatan Kerja Raya, Jabatan Parit dan Taliair, Lembaga Letrik Negara, SIRIM dan institusi-institusi penyelidikan, instutisi-institusi pengajian tinggi dan lain-lain seupamanya.

Menyedari hakikat akan timbulnya masaalah sosial dalam masyarakat Malaysia akibat kekurangan peluang pekerjaan, ketidakpuasan dengan bidang kerja dan juga bagi mengelakkan berlakunya penghijrahan bijak pandai, sesuatu usaha harus dilakukan bagi mengujudkan peluang pekerjaan ini. Justeru dasar perindustrian negara di maktubkan dan implimentasinya bermula pada awal tahun lapan puluhan.

Dasar perindustrian negara bermula dengan penubuhan HICOM, “Heavy Industry Corporation of Malaysia”, sebuah syarikat induk yang dipertanggungjawab untuk membangunkan rangkaian industri-industri sejajar dengan hasrat untuk menjadikan Malaysia sebuah negara perindustrian menjelang tahun 2020.

HICOM-Honda adalah salah satu perusahaan HICOM pada peringkat awal sektor automotif Malaysia.
Industri memproses bahan mentah untuk dijadikan bahan asas keperluan kilang-kilang pembuatan dibangunkan seperti perusahaan besi keluli seperti PERWAJA sebagai contoh. Disamping itu beberapa pelaburan usahasama menghasilkan bahan asas plastic dari minyak mentah digalakkan dimana projek-projek ini dibangunkan di kawasan pantai timur.

Bagi menggalakkan kegunaan bahan asas ini, industri-industri pemasangan ditubuhkan dan industri-industri kecil dan sederhana tumbuh dengan pesat memproses bahan asas mengeluarkan komponen-komponen keperluan industri pemasangan tersebut.

Justeru industri automotif telah dikenalpasti sebagai “industri pemangkin” yang menggunakan komponen-komponen keluaran tempatan tersebut.  Antara industri-industri pemasangan yang dibangunkan oleh HICOM ialah Proton dan kemudian diikuti dengan penubuhan Perodua, industri pengeluar enjin kecil motosikal seperti Hicom-Yamaha dan industri pemasangan motosikal seperti Hicom-Honda dan Modenas.

Rangkaian projek-projek pengilangan ini berkembang dengan pesat dalam dekat lapan puluhan hingga ke pertengahan dekad kesembilan puluhan. Kejayaan Malaysia dalam dua dekad ini telah menarik mata dunia diatas kemampuan rakyatnya memenuhi hasrat untuk menuju status negara maju pada tahun 2020.

Peroses industrilisasi negara telah berusia hampir tiga dekat dan tidak dapat dinafikan telah berjaya meningkatkan kemajuan rakyat tempatan dari semua sudut termasuk dari aspek pengetahuan sains, kejuruteraan dan teknologi, kemahiran teknikal dan pengilangan, ekonomi mahupun intelektual. Disamping itu usaha ini telah berjaya mengujudkan usahawan dibidang automotif yang sekarang mampu menyokong keperluan bekalan komponen-komponen yang diperlukan oleh kilang-kilang pemasangan kenderaan tempatan.

Berlandaskan kemampuan yang sedia ada Malaysia berkeyakinan mampu untuk menjadi sebagai  hub pengeluar “kenderaan cekap tenaga” atau “Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) dirantau ini. Rencana menjadikan Malaysia sebagai hub pengeluaran EEV adalah sebagai industri pemangkin baru yang akan menentukan arah perkembangan industri automotif negera. Disamping itu usaha ini juga akan membuka peranan dan cabaran baru dikalangan komuniti automotif negara agar kemampuan sains dan teknologi, peluang perniagaan dan peluang pekerjaan akan terus meningkat dimasa hadapan.

Safety features vital for market competitiveness

DESIGN excellence and advanced engineering achievements in automotive developments are nothing without the adequate incorporation of safety features in the vehicles being produced.

Automotive safety has since evolved from the early simple seat belts to intelligent high-technology gadgets that are able to assist drivers in avoiding serious or fatal accidents.

Continuous innovations on safety systems and controls have contributed to significant reduction in fatalities and severe injuries worldwide.

Understanding vehicle safety features is crucial for a driver and his passengers.

More importantly, the buyer’s comprehension of the safety technologies the vehicle offers can be a priority in the marque and model selection when purchasing new vehicles.

Safety features in vehicles fall into two categories, namely “active” and “passive”.

Active safety systems are installed in vehicles to assist the driver to avoid an accident, while passive systems are provided for in the vehicle to protect the driver and passengers in the event of a collision.

Awareness of the safety features and their functions are important to eliminate human error and ensure safe driving practices.

Most of the active safety features are electronically controlled, such as stability control, brake assist and traction control.

The systems are manufacturer-designated, such as BMW for its electronic stability programme, and the anti-lock braking system by most manufacturers.

In addition, adaptive headlights, parking sensors and adaptive cruise control are installed in many latest models.

Recent introductions of active safety innovative technologies and gadgets include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, front pedestrian impact mitigation braking, dynamic brake support and crash imminent braking.

The automatic crash notification is another innovation that notifies emergency respondents in the event of an accident and provides them with the location of the mishap.

Passive safety systems, on the other hand, are only activated in the event of an accident.

Airbags and headrest are features that protect the vehicle users’ body.

A warning light that appears should the driver not wear his seat belt is a passive feature that is familiar to vehicle users.

Physical structure of the vehicle itself can be a passive feature, where the monocoque design is able to protect the occupants from injuries during a collision.

Incorporating safety features in vehicle design and development is a challenging feat.

While customers’ preference may be centered on the sales price, the prescribed safety features and systems in the vehicle are enticing attributes.

Appropriate balancing decision between sales price and cost of manufacture is, therefore, crucial.

As the nation is moving forward towards becoming an energy-efficient vehicle (EEV) producer, the ability by local designers and engineers to design and develop advanced vehicle safety features is desirable. Coupled with the ability to manufacture at a more competitive cost, Malaysian EEVs will stand to compete in the marketplace.

This article commemorates the launching of an automotive safety exhibition from tomorrow to Sunday at Matrade, a collaborative effort between the Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) and Lafarge Malaysia Bhd.

The exhibition is organised to fulfill MAI’s corporate social responsibility, and is in line with the National Automotive Policy 2014 thrust on “Safety, Security and Environment” aimed at promoting safety within the automotive and logistics sector.

The NST Truck of the Year Award will also be featured at this event.

MAI foresees that the exhibition will be the ideal platform for future promotion on safety and health within the automotive sector.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Kearah Mempertingkatkan Daya Saing

Menyusun semula masyarakat Malaysia demi membasmi kemiskinan untuk sama-sama menikmati hasil kekayaan negara adalah teras perlaksanaan Dasar Ekonomi Baru (DEB) diawal tahun tujuh puluhan. Langkah pertama yang dilaksanakan pada awal tahun tujuh puluhan ini ialah membuka peluang pelajaran hingga keperingkat tinggi bagi anak-anak muda yang kebanyakannya terpinggir diluar bandar. Banyak biasiswa yang ditawarkan bagi anak bangsa Malaysia yang berkebolehan untuk melanjutkan pelajaran diperingkat ijazah di universiti-universiti tempatan mahupun keluar negera. Disamping itu pertumbuhan ekonomi banyak bergantung kepada hasil bumi dimana tanah-tanah yang tidak diusahakan dijadikan estat-estat kelapa sawit untuk penyusunan semula masyarakat miskin di pendalaman. Perusahaan minyak, getah dan bijih timah memberikan pendapatan lumayan dan digunakan untuk pembangunan negara dan pembangunan sumber manusia.

Menjelang awal tahun lapan puluhan, peluang pekerjaan khususnya dibidang sains dan teknologi amat berkurangan bagi menampung jumlah graduan yang dikeluarkan setiap tahun. Perusahaan berasaskan tani tidak dapat memberikan kepuasan pekerjaan kepada para graduan kecuali perusahaan minyak yang dapat memberi peluang kerja khusus bagi graduan dibidang kejuruteraan petrolium dan bidang-bidang yang bersangkutan dengan aktiviti carigali seperti geologi. Kebanyakkan graduan-graduan kejuruteraan mendapat pekerjaan dibadan-badan kerajaan seperti  JKR, Jabatan Parit dan Taliair, Lembaga Letrik Negara, di universiti-universiti dan lain-lain seupamanya. Menyedari hakikat akan timbulnya masalah sosial dalam masyarakat Malaysia akibat kekurangan peluang pekerjaan, ketidakpuasan dengan bidang kerja dan juga bagi mengelakkan berlakunya penghijrahan bijak pandai, sesuatu usaha harus dilakukan bagi mengujudkan peluang pekerjaan ini. Justeru dasar perindustrian negara di maktubkan dan implimentasinya bermula dengan bagitu cepat pada awal tahun lapan puluhan.

HICOM, “Heavy Industry Corporation of Malaysia”, sebuah syarikat induk ditubuhkan dan dipertanggungjawab untuk membangunkan rangkaian industri-industri sejajar dengan hasrat untuk menjadikan Malaysia sebuah negara perindustrian menjelang tahun 2020. Projek-projek memproses bahan mentah untuk dijadikan bahan asas keperluan kilang-kilang pembuatan dibangunkan seperti perusahaan besi keluli, PERWAJA, dan beberapa pelaburan usahasama menghasilkan bahan asas plastic dari minyak mentah digalakkan dimana projek-projek ini dibangunkan di kawasan pantai timur. Bagi menampung kegunaan bahan asas ini, industri-industri pemasangan ditubuhkan dan industri-industri kecil dan sederhana tumbuh dengan pesat memproses bahan asas mengeluarkan komponen-komponen keperluan industri pemasangan tersebut. Antara industri-industri pemasangan yang dibangunkan oleh HICOM ialah Proton kemudian diikuti dengan penubuhan Perodua, industri pengeluar enjin kecil motosikal seperti Hicom-Yamaha dan industri pemasangan motosikal seperti Hicom-Honda dan Modenas. Rangkaian projek-projek pengilangan ini berkembang dengan pesat dalam dekad lapan puluhan hingga ke pertengahan dekad kesembilan puluhan. Kejayaan Malaysia dalam dua dekad ini telah menarik mata dunia diatas kemampuan rakyatnya memenuhi hasrat untuk menuju status negara maju. Pertumbuhan ekonomi tahunan dalam dua dekad ini setinggi lebih 8% amat memberangsangkan.

Proses industrilisasi, khususnya perusahaan otomotif, ini telah berjaya meningkatkan kemajuan rakyat tempatan dari semua sudut termasuk dari aspek pengetahuan sains dan teknologi, kemahiran teknikal dan pengilangan, ekonomi mahupun intelektual. Perusahaan automotif yang berteknologi tinggi ini secara langsung telah menyediakan tapak kerja permulaan bagi para graduan kejuruteraan yang berkalibar dan berpotensi ditahun-tahun lapan puluhan dan seterusnya. Kini mereka ini telah berpengalaman dan menjadi pakar teknologi dan juga ahli korporat yang sangat-sangat diperlukan untuk terus membangun negara. Perusahaan otomotif juga telah berjaya mengujudkan, para usahawan dan ahli perniagaan yang mengambil peluang menubuhkan perusahaan mereka dalam memberikan sokongan bekalan komponen kepada industri otomotif tersebut. Bagitu juga dengan perkembangan didalam bidang akadamia di seluruh negara dimana para pelajar diperingkat tinggi mendapat pendedahan latihan praktikal diperusahaan otomotif yang memberikan gambaran dan pendedahan yang lebih meluas didalam bidang teknologi termasuk juga penyelidikan dan pembangunan di bidang teknologi otomotif.

Kalau pada tahun-tahun enam puluhan topik-topik  perbicangan banyak tertumpu kepada sektor hasil bumi semata-mata tetapi proses industrialisasi telah membuka pemikiran dan menambah pengetahuan rakyat Malaysia ketahap yang lebih tinggi sejajar dengan hasrat menuju kearah negara perindustrian dan negara maju. Walau apa pun yang diperkatakan, positif atau negatif, wujudnya sektor otomotif telah menyumbang kearah perubahan dan perkembangan sosial ekonomi rakyat Malaysia dari sebuah masyarakat yang hanya dikenali sebagai pengeluar bahan getah, kelapa sawit dan bijih timah kepada masyarakat perindustrian. Artikal seterusnya akan membincangkan segala cabaran dan rintangan dalam usaha rakyat Malaysia memajukan sektor otomotif ini.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Ensuring smooth transition to EEVs

NEW energy-efficient vehicles (EEV), with reference to the “plug-in hybrid electric vehicle”, the full “electric vehicle” and the “fuel cell hybrid”, are new mobility concepts beginning to enter the marketplace.

As can be expected, there would be many market and technical barriers that need to be addressed for their acceptance, both on the part of manufacturers and consumers alike.

Among the market barriers include a lack of market drivers, price, and infrastructure.

The current market demand is still insufficient to drive vehicle manufacturers to commit high investment necessary to develop and produce new energy-saving technological vehicles on a large scale.

Fluctuation in oil prices coupled with lack of customers’ knowledge are hurdles among car makers to venture into mass production of the new EEV.

Customers’ acceptance of these revolutionary concept of the new EEV may take a long time to ascertain in the marketplace.

Today’s customers are so accustomed to the established performance of the conventional and advanced internal combustion engine, and perhaps the hybrid technology too. Therefore, their expectation of the new EEV attributes must be the same or better.

Before these EEV can penetrate the marketplace, exposure and education on the vehicle is vital so that new mindset and expectations among the public are ascertained.

Availability of charging infrastructure, battery charging period and aftermarket services, such as maintenance facilities and qualified technicians, are additional concerns among road users who care more of their mobility rather that the type of vehicle they are in.

Affordability is yet another attribute that may discourage the widespread use of the new EEV. While all of the above prescribed market barriers may discourage car makers from venturing into mass production of the EEV, current production mainly focuses on low volume and high-end profitable models. Until up-scaling into mass production is viable, most of the EEV may remain beyond the general public’s affordability.

In the manufacturing arena, the lightweight materials have largely been developed for the aerospace industry, of which many of the technologies are applicable to the new EEV. Due to high value-added aerospace parts and components, material suppliers may choose to avoid selling their products to automotive parts and components manufacturers, unless there are promises of large volume orders. As such, start-up manufacturing with lower volume of parts and components may be hindered.

The new EEV promoters strongly believe that the life cycle cost of the vehicle is lower in the long run compared to the conventional technology but the initial investment cost is likely to be higher.

Generally, consumers are unwilling to invest in costly new technology until it is proven viable. The predicament is further enhanced if the vehicle risk is factored into where the manufacturers and consumers are concerned on the warranty and litigation.

Despite the prescribed barriers, the new EEV will eventually be the mode of public mobility due to the gradual global climatic changes.

Global legislators are pressured to regulate the harmful emission in their respective countries and inevitably, the new EEV is the long- term solution for transportation.

Malaysia’s involvement in promoting the EEV is therefore a commendable and visionary initiative that will position the nation towards well-prepared future EEV usage.

There are a lot to be done among automotive stakeholders to overcome barriers towards ensuring successful implementation of the EEV agenda in public education, infrastructure preparation, manufacturing concerns and future aftermarket requirements.

In all aspects, clear understanding of the EEV prerequisites is imperative for successful utilisation. Dynamic collaboration and concerted efforts of stakeholders on initiatives undertaken will surely position Malaysia as the prominent EEV user and producer of the future

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Materials innovations driver for EEV ventures

REDUCTION in vehicle weight is a major attribute towards achieving fuel economy in energy-efficient vehicle (EEV). Henceforth, developing low-cost lightweight materials is now becoming one of the major focuses within the global automotive community.

Although well designed parts and components will help reduce the vehicle weight, however, right material selections for all components are better approach to achieve higher degree in their weight reduction.

Advanced materials are now being incorporated into the vehicle design, including body, chassis, suspension, power train and interior features, such as seats and fittings.

Most developmental work is focused on advancing the characteristics of materials, including aluminium and magnesium, alloys, ultra-high strength steels, carbon fiber and polymer composites.

To maintain compatibility with the current manufacturing assets within the automotive industry, application of advanced high strength steel (AHSS) is still preferred in the short- to middle-term venture towards EEV.

AHSS has the potential to reduce parts and components weight, especially those in the strength limited structural design, by as high as 25 per cent.

AHSS cost more than the current regular steel by about 15 per cent, but still cheaper, although heavier as compared to lighter materials, such as aluminium and magnesium. Steel, being alloyed with nickel and titanium, demonstrates increase in strength with relatively lighter in weight.

Thinner AHSS, coupled with right design approach, may reduce the weight of components in its application.

Lightweight aluminium and its alloys have been successfully exploited due to years of developmental work within the aerospace industry.

Aluminium alloys have been well developed and their metallurgical aspects are reasonably understood.

Existing processes to shape the material into components are continuously being enhanced, and new processes are being introduced to achieve better production efficiency and quality output.

Aluminium alloys have entered automotive application in a broader spectrum in the last few decades. Body-in-white structures, power train components, engine parts, hood and panels are among its applications by automotive designers towards weight reduction exercises.

A reduction of some 25 per cent in weight is achievable with aluminium as compared to the steel materials used in most vehicles.

Magnesium and its alloys are currently the lightest material having the potential for automotive lightweight component application, achieving some 60 per cent in weight reduction against the current steel materials being employed.

However, magnesium widespread application is still limited due to its high cost and price volatility.

Carbon fiber reinforced polymer composite, five times stronger than steel, but only one third of its weight, is the most promising lightweight material applicable for automotive, such as body panels.

The material has the potential of reducing some 60 per cent of the vehicle body weight. The composite imparts high strength in the body structure and is able to resist impact loads. Widespread application, however, is still limited due to the cost of carbonisation process to produce the carbon fiber input material.

Metallic metric composites are now gaining ground in automotive applications for engine parts and components.

Aluminium matrix composites, although still costly, have the potential of replacing heavy steel components, such as brake discs and drums, cylinder blocks, cylinder liners, pistons, crankshafts, camshafts, valves, push rods, connecting rods, brake calipers and turbo exchanges.

Various local universities have been involved in metal matrix and fiber polymer composites. Although the research initiatives are mostly of academic exercises in nature, the accumulated knowledge can be useful for lightweight material development in the near future by the local automotive industry players.

Automotive aluminium parts and components manufacturers have long been established in the local scene.

The support of trained local metallurgists and material engineers in various advanced materials is crucial for their advancement into the manufacture of lightweight components for future EEV initiatives.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Electric vehicles most viable solution to pollution

RAPID urbanization and human migrations into cities are happening worldwide. Cities are becoming mega cities with population in tens of millions. Human mobility pollutes the environment and some of these cities’ air qualities are becoming unbearable.

The solution is at hand, that is to intensify the usage of non-emission vehicles in these cities and the closest technology developed thus far is the electric vehicles (EVs).

Some cities now designate areas free from polluting vehicles and some have designated areas for “EVs only”, serving as test bed for EVs application and public education and familiarization on them.

Malaysians too will be able to experience the electric cars upon the launching of the first EV “sharing programme” next month. It is a collaborative effort between a private company, Comos, Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) and Malaysian Green Technology Corp.

Despite the favorable characteristic of EVs to overcome the environmental issues, commercialization of mass-produced EVs are still restricted due to the lengthy charging time, modest driving range attainable and relatively sluggish performance of current battery technologies powering the vehicles.

Batteries for EV differ significantly from to the “Starting, Lighting, and Ignition (SLI)” batteries used in the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE). EV batteries must be able to supply power over sustained periods of time and have an excellent power or energy-to-weight ratio. Smaller and lighter batteries reduce the vehicle weight, thereby improving vehicles’ performances.

Battery pack is more often the most expensive components of EVs, constituting about half the vehicle cost, rendering initial investment on an EV high. EV batteries are generally warranted to have a life span of between eight and 10 years, and upon expiry, the battery pack needs to be replaced, which is expensive.

Debates among industry experts are going on but many would agree that the cost benefit of EV usage is still significant in comparison to its ICE competitor, on proviso that no dipping in oil price occurs.

However, for many other reasons such as charging conveniences, safety, charging time and driving range, continuous battery improvement is inevitable before mass produced EVs fully enter the marketplace. Extensive research and development (R&D) on battery is ongoing and positive result shows that cost has been reduced by more than 35 per cent since 2008.

Lead-acid, Nickel metal hydroxide, molten salt battery and lithium-ion are among rechargeable battery technologies available for EV usage. The most popular is the lithium-ion battery which now dominates most developmental work for EV application. The battery characteristic advantage is its 80 to 90 per cent charge-discharge efficiency and having good power density, while its downside is short charge cycle life and significant degradation with age.

Contender to the lithium-ion battery is the vanadium flow battery, having the potential for fast charging capability. Interestingly the technology offers the possibility of refueling, akin to petrol refueling of the ICE vehicle, by pumping the electrolyte into the battery’s tank once emptied at the refueling station. The battery offers a degree of flexibility in its outlay for space optimization of the EV final design.

Industry experts are of the opinion that mass-produced EVs may not enter the marketplace sooner as long as battery technology is not maturely developed for EV usage, offering cost benefit and other conveniences almost parallel to its ICE competitors.

In the meantime, Malaysia cannot remain passive in pursuing battery development and manufacturing initiatives. The nation must be prepared for the EV market entrance whenever it may be.

On this accord, MAI in partnership with the Australian Automotive Research organisation, is in the process of drawing up a master plan for EV battery development in the country. A steering committee has been formed allowing industry players, academicians and experts to steer the forthcoming programmes and projects implementation under the master plan.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Balanced quality practices to enhance creativity, innovation

IT has been highlighted in the last few articles that passionate, creative and innovative traits among the local automotive industrial community are the needed foundations for competitive advantage that will ensure future success of the industry.

Many would agree that passion is the first most essential ingredient for building a creative and innovative automotive industrial culture.

Major global original equipment (OEM) manufacturer often credited their success to the culture of creativity and innovation that exist at all levels of their organisations, which are driven by the workforce that is committed and passionate in their respective field.

Their successes are further supported by the equally creative, innovative, passionate and entrepreneurial suppliers that work closely, deploying creative thinking to all problems solving in their working routines.

The current drive to enhance the competitiveness among local automotive industry focuses on quality aspects of manufacturing. Quality tools, such as the “lean Production System (LPS)” is being widely employed by vendors to ensure that their manufactured parts are of high quality as demanded by the OEMs.

Assisted by experts from Japan, Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) is the main driver behind the implementation of LPS within the local automotive vendors.

Results have shown that vendors that have adopted the LPS are now producing parts of the quality required by the OEMs and close relationship at all levels between vendors and OEMs are attained out of the LPS implementation.

A question may arise — Will the current aggressive focus to enhance quality have a long-term negative effect on creativity and innovative development among the workforce within the local automotive industry? One may also ponder creativity and innovativeness are the result of quality improvement initiatives, or vice versa.

It is obvious that creativity and innovativeness create business opportunities while quality initiative optimists the current business. Industry experts are in agreement that should quality is the main focus then creative and innovative thinking among employees will surely help in achieving the objectives.

On the other hand, if creativity and innovation are the focus, practical and productive breakthroughs need the quality techniques to be appropriately applied. It is therefore apparent that creativity and innovativeness within the organisation require quality improvement techniques being widely practiced and enhanced quality mindset is the result of the employees being creative and innovative.

However, there is a need to strike a balance in managing creativity and innovation as against quality improvement endeavors. Too much focus on creativity and innovation may lead to the downturn in quality excellence while less attention is given may result in the organisation to suffer from business opportunity stagnation.

The ability of the local vendors and the upcoming entrepreneurs to participate in the energy-efficient vehicle (EEV) national agenda will largely depend on their creativity and innovativeness, apart of attaining excellence in their quality management and outputs.

EEV manufacturing demands a new spectrum of engineering, materials and processing knowledge. Only those organisations and entrepreneurs that are keeping abreast with the latest technological development and having the creative and innovative abilities to exploit these technologies will survive in the future automotive industrial arena.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Creativity, innovation the recipe for success

THE rapid transformation of automotive mobility — from fossil fuel to hybrid and fully electric vehicles — is attributed to the creativity and innovativeness of the global automotive industrial community.

The transformation pace is further expedited to fulfill the demand for global environmental improvement and energy saving.

Organisations within the local automotive industry at all levels, from parts and components manufacturing to aftermarket services, research and development (R&D) and marketing, also need to attain creative and innovative ability within their workforce to remain competitive on the global scene.

There is marked distinction between creativity and innovation.

Creativity is the ability among the automotive industrial community to generate ideas, albeit product design, product development, process selections, process improvements, production management, marketing strategies and daily shop-floor problem-solving exercises.

Innovation, on the other hand, is the ability to transform ideas into practice.

Creativity is a thinking process while innovation is a productive process that adds value to ideas.

Passionate automotive entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs will go a long way should their everyday endeavours be creative and innovative. Not only are shop-floor problems readily resolved but customer satisfaction is also achieved.

Regimented shop-floor operations are no longer valid practices today. Instead, a creative and innovative ability among the workforce is the recipe for success.

A frequent grouse among local intellectuals is the lack of creativity and innovation within the local automotive industrial community.

Simple conclusions are often put forward that the scarcity of a creative and innovative ability is gauged by the number of locally developed and manufactured automotive products in the marketplace, or the number of automotive-related patents registered.

There may be some truth in the assessments.

It is a fact that creativity and innovation must be continuously inculcated to create winnings for the present and future generations of workforce, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in the local automotive community.

Creativity and innovation within the workforce result from knowledge, curiosity and experiences, although some may view that these abilities can be taught.

The workplace environment is a top factor to inculcate creativity and innovation.

Curiosity, imagination and intuition among automotive workers can be instilled by frequent exposures to the various and latest technologies, processes and products which will encourage them towards creative and innovative thinking.

Accessibility to the vast information on social media and multimedia should be broadened for the latest automotive development and happenings.

Fostering a creative and innovative culture requires careful planning, with a clearly-defined implementation methodology, which is still receiving little attention from the local automotive industrial community.

Many global automotive original equipment manufacturers and Tier One suppliers have since given attention to creating the right environment for creativity and innovation to flourish within their organisations.

The approaches include internal innovation contests and creative awards open to all design, technology and car enthusiasts, innovative grouping for new materials and process technologies, and project partnerships with universities, businesses and R&D institutions.

The Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI), in a modest way, has regularly inserted video presentations on advanced automotive development and information via social media.

This month, MAI will launch its portal version 3.0 ( that will serve as an enhanced platform to promote creativity and innovation.

The portal will give the automotive community a collaborative platform that can help the industry connect the dots between ideas for a game-changing approach in creating a sustainable innovation.

The portal version 3.0 was developed with simplicity in mind and is more customer-eccentric.