ALF Engineering is introducing a new hot-stamping technology to support automakers’ lightweight needs.
Here, the boron steel is heated to high temperatures and rapidly cooled. This changes the metrological structure and the material becomes three times stronger than any cold-forming processed steel. Consequently, it can make structural parts in lightweighting and crash safety.
The cold-forming process has limitations when it comes to achieving the required strength with certain geometry of parts. Hot stamping, on the other hand, gets the best of both worlds. ALF has received orders from a couple of passenger car OEMs, one of which is into ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles and is now kicking off a project in electric cars.
The ancillary supplier recently commissioned a plant in Kedh, an integrated industrial park near Talegaon and Chakan in Pune. ALF decided to invest in this hot-stamping facility without any confirmed orders, a bold move which has now begun to pay off.
It was an encore of the scenario 12 years ago when it ventured into hydroforming (making parts from sheet metal and tubes). ALF has been making tubular parts using this technology and even while it bought these in the early stages, it went in for indigenisation with tools, designs and machines developed in-house. This helped contain costs and it now makes about 80,000 hydroformed parts every month.
These include the entire frame and side rails of the Tata Ace Intra. With no stamping and welding, hydroformed frames give far better structural integrity and significantly reduce tool cost and weight. It also helps when it comes to reducing the number of assembled parts and, eventually, the assembly line’s takt. For instance, the engine cradle for Bajaj 3Ws had 36 parts when made in the conventional method and just 12 with hydroforming.
Usually, 3D laser cutting is used to make prototypes but with its expertise in metallurgy and processes, ALF was able to productionise laser cutting. This helped out with many processes, including hydroforming, and the company is now seeing better quality and higher output with fewer rejections.
ALF has 16 plants spread across Nashik, Pune, Hosur, Zaheerabad and Haridwar. The 17th and the fifth in Nasik is being commissioned to supply frames to an OEM’s new SUV.
A leading manufacturer of automotive chassis, ALF makes over 1,400 frames daily from its plants. Its parts are used in pickups, SUVs, LCVs, MPVs and SCVs.
The company also makes parts for both front and rear suspensions including cradles, control arms & links. As a Tier-1 supplier, it meets the needs of Mahindra & Mahindra, Ashok Leyland, Tata Motors, Isuzu Motors, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles and Mahindra Electric while Stellantis is a recent addition. As a Tier-2 vendor, it caters to Bajaj Auto, Piaggio and Royal Enfield.