iCAT was set up in 2006 and is the first of the new world class centres coming up under the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP). NATRiP itself is part of the ambitious Automotive Mission Plan 2016 which aims to support the Indian automotive industry to report a turnover of $145 billion, accounting to about 10 percent of GDP besides, offering additional employment to 25 million people. In line with this target, NATRiP is setting up testing centres in Ahmednagar, Chennai, Indore, Manesar, Pune, Silchar and Rae Bareilly.
iCAT is expected to fill a longstanding void in the country through its state-of-the-art testing, validation and research and development facilities, particularly to OEMs and component manufacturers, in North India, which till now had to depend on ARAI in Pune and VRDE in Ahmednagar.
The Rs 500 crore facility has facilities for vehicle homologation and also testing laboratories for noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and passive safety. It also includes a powertrain laboratory, engine dynamometers, emission laboratory with Euro-V capability, a fatigue laboratory, passive safety laboratory, and vehicle test tracks. iCAT is also being developed as a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for component development and NVH. Tyagi says, “We have so far invested Rs 65 crore and Rs 500 crore investments are in the pipeline. The entire project will be ready by end of calendar year 2011.”
According to Tyagi, at Site 1, its present location, iCAT currently has an engine test lab with two engine dynamometers; the third one will be commissioned before end-2010. The vehicle test lab is equipped with two chassis dynamometers, which can test two- and three- wheelers, and passenger cars, and a mileage accumulation chassis dynamometer. At present, the centre is expanding its facilities at Site 1 and is also constructing labs and test tracks at Site 2, which is situated about 3km away.
One-stop test shop
Tyagi says there is ongoing development work on setting up a fatigue lab, certification lab and rapid prototyping, four-post test bed for body structure development, Multi Axial Simulation Table (MAST) for components, vibration test machines in environmental chambers, besides expansion of the engine and emission testing facilities.
The fatigue lab can test all vehicular systems, sub-systems and components for fatigue durability or endurance. It will be equipped with servo-hydraulic test systems comprising linear and rotary actuators and helping cover a vast range of force and torque. “The type of fatigue tests supported by this facility include purely structural (static, dynamic and cyclic), combined structural and environmental and for NVH. In addition some impact test benches are also being included in the fatigue lab,” he reveals.
The MAST for components is dedicated to test durability of vehicle components and allows six degrees of freedom — three translational in x, y and z axis and three rotational about x, y and z axis. The system also has a removable climatic chamber. The X-Poster test facility can conduct durability testing of vehicles and body structure and will have a flexible configuration depending upon the test requirements.
In addition to the test track, Site 2 will have a NVH, EMC Competency Centre and crash lab. The new facility will also house two additional chassis dynamometers and a climatic test chamber in which a dynamometer will be housed in a climatic chamber with operating temperatures ranging from minus 40deg Celsius up to plus 50deg Celsius. “This lab will help us carry out development work including ECU calibration and optimisation of HVAC and engine cooling system besides conducting trials,” says Tyagi. The centre will also be commissioning three transient engine dynamometers that are capable of testing engines up to Euro 5 and engines using all types of fuels.
“Most of the 46.4 acres in Site 2 is for test tracks and the rest for laboratories including NVH. We are getting about 50 rigs that can test a range of components,” he adds.
iCat will help OEMs and component manufacturers conduct regulatory and non-regulatory tests. While regulatory test are safety critical to meet government regulations, non-regulatory tests are for developmental work. For instance, the fatigue lab and the climatic test cell are designed solely for component development.
NATRiP is also setting up nine Centres of Excellence (CoEs) specifically focusing on different vehicle streams. Of this, iCAT will have two CoEs for component development and NVH.
CoE for components
Tyagi says the CoE for components development starts right from the rendering of a sketch through to prototyping of the part and validation. Typically, a passenger car comprises of about 800 components from sheet metal to castings to forgings and plastics. The CoE will begin operations by developing a few critical components including all types of brackets – forged and casting, axles, suspension, body structure, auto electrical components including lighting, and seating systems. Eventually it aims to be a one stop-shop for all components. “It is the capability that has to be added over time,”
“After the completion of the NATRiP project next year, I think iCAT will be doing much more work, particularly in testing. We will be testing 80 to 85 percent of the parts but it will be much more in terms of component development, as we need more knowledge. Testing knowledge is just one part. We have to understand the component, its function, various technologies, benchmarking facilities and knowledge of trends and new technologies. Later, we have to think of design concepts and styling issues, new materials and emerging trends. CAE is a difficult and challenging step in between. Even though we will have all CAE tools, to build a team from scratch, with people who can understand and deliver results that would simulate real-world conditions will only come with experience,” he admits.
Tyagi believes iCAT’s capabilities will draw OEMs and component makers both from India and overseas markets. “OEMs might have some of the capabilities; we can complement them and work as a team. We are also working on signing MoUs with some design houses,” he says. Also, with OEMs increasingly looking to component manufacturers for solutions, he says that iCAT will help support vendors both in terms of developing new products and technologies and at a faster pace.
Autocar Professional spoke to a few OEMs and component manufacturers, which said testing centres like iCAT will help speed up the vehicle and component development process considerably. Even for smaller tests, they had to rely on ARAI or VRDE.
iCAT's efforts seem to be paying off. According to P K Sehgal, division head - R&D of India Yamaha Motor, "We appreciate iCAT's dedicated efforts towards understanding industry needs and its customer-oriented approach." The bikemaker has received CMVR Type Approval and carried out COP and other development testing at iCAT, Manesar.
Neo Petcon India, which has a technical and marketing pact with Total France to import and market fuel additives in India, conducted a fleet study for evaluation of fuel economy with a the Total AC 2010A diesel additive earlier this year. The company says it has recognised iCAT's precise methodology, systems and technical analysis, and says it will use the facilities for future fuel economy tests.
While facilities for component testing are yet to be set up at iCAT, a few component makers that we spoke said that iCAT will prove to be a helpful aid in their quest to come up with newer and better products at a faster pace. Not only are they under pressure to supply components faster but OEMs are pushing them to develop lighter and energy efficient products. The iCAT initiative couldn't have come sooner. n