Manufacturing News

Team strategy boosts automotive exports

TEAM Australia Automotive (TAA) is continuing to push an aggressive strategy through the continuing engagement of a contractor on the ground in Detroit and strong attendance for an upcoming mission to the US to showcase the global competitiveness of the Australian automotive supply base.

Supported by Australian governments and Austrade, and managed by the Industry Capability Network (ICN), the consortium brings together some of the country’s most competitive, innovative and efficient parts manufacturers.

According to the executive director of ICN, Derek Lark, the key objective is to help Australian suppliers compete against international suppliers and to break into global supply chains, with a particular emphasis on the US market.

“Australian automotive components, with the assistance of our Detroit team, are now breaking into the US market on several fronts, largely as a result of a strong focus on innovation, efficiency and quality,” Lark told Manufacturers Monthly.

One example is Melbourne-based TAA consortium member, Davies Craig, who has developed an electric water pump (EWP), run by a digital controller.

It is designed to replace mechanical belt-driven automotive water pumps and is expected to have a major impact in the international marketplace.

Company MD, Richard Davies, points out that a mechanical water pump installed on a car engine runs at the same speed as the engine regardless of how hot the engine is.

“From start-up on a cold morning when the engine speed is high, the pump speed and coolant flow are also high. But in this situation there is no need for cooling. Similarly, in heavy traffic and high ambient temperatures, the engine is idling or slow and so is the belt-driven pump, even though in these conditions extra coolant flow is required,” Davies said.

“With an EWP, the speed of the pump is varied by the digital controller which adjusts the voltage supplied to the pump in response to engine temperature.

“A target temperature is set for the controller and when the engine reaches that temperature the controller locks on, constantly changing the pump speed in response to small temperature changes. In this way the target temperature is maintained in all driving conditions.

“In view of high oil prices and the need to reduce emissions, the automotive industry is actively looking for fuel savings as a high priority. At high engine speeds the mechanical pump takes a lot of power, and it is the saving of this power by using an EWP that in turn results in fuel savings. Our trials indicate that significant fuel savings of 3-4% can be achieved,” he told Manufacturers Monthly.

In addition to fuel savings, Davies emphasises a number of other reasons for using an EWP instead of a mechanical pump, including avoiding heat soak which is caused by the engine overheating after it is turned off, which can result in damage to the cylinder head.

“At the same time, new hybrids and fuel cell vehicles have huge amounts of heat to dissipate. While there is plenty of electrical power about and not much mechanical power, EWP cooling is the obvious choice.

“The size of the potential market is enormous, given that every car engine produced currently has a mechanical pump.

“By designing and manufacturing a light, small and inexpensive (less than $30) EWP we believe we have a product that can compete with and supersede existing mechanical belt-driven pumps,” Davies said.

Exporting technology

An area that is gaining greater prominence in Australia’s export efforts is the marketing of technology and intellectual property.

TAA consortium member Futuris Automotive has developed a strategy of exporting technology rather than physical products, and according to the company’s chief marketing officer, David Chuter, the future across Australia’s automotive industry lies particularly in the development and marketing of know-how.

“Australia continues to provide a good home for R&D and innovation. The key is to generate the ideas and then decide whether to manufacture the resultant product here or overseas.

Many factors will play a part in this decision, including logistics, and future growth opportunities. To be cost effective and to ensure future viability, it is important to clearly identify the best place to manufacture,” Chuter told Manufacturers Monthly.

“There are significant opportunities for adding value in the automotive industry.

“For example we have developed a unique new carpet product for passenger vehicles called Footprint.

“This involves moulding a recess into the floor carpet and providing mats that come in sets of different finishes to fit into the recess.

“This product, which not only has aesthetic appeal but also offers acoustic benefits.

“Another development that we are working on is an automotive grade carpet material that can be produced from recycled plastic water bottles — our PET solution.

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