Rubber & Tyre Machinery World

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Know The Structure of A Mechanical Bladder Curing Press

Curing is the process of applying pressure to the green tyre in a mould. This gives it its final shape. There is heat energy applied to stimulate a chemical reaction between the rubber compounds and other materials.

In curing process, you will observe (a video) that the green tyre is transferred onto the lower mold bead seat, a rubber bladder is inserted into the green tire, and the mold closes while the bladder inflates. As the mold closes and is locked the bladder pressure increases so as to make the green tire flow into the mold, taking on the tread pattern and sidewall lettering engraved into the mold.

The bladder is filled with a circulating heat transfer medium (such as steam, hot water, or inert gas). At the end of cure the pressure is bled down, the mold opened, and the tire stripped out of the mold.

Various suppliers manufacture curing bladders to fit to the different curing press types viz. Bag-o-Matic (BOM), Autoform and Hydraulic (Bagwell).

A bladder curing press cure bladders. Sizes vary because there are radial and bias type curing bladders for the passenger car, light truck, OTR (Off-The-Road), agricultural, bicycle, and motorcycle tyres. You will also find curing bladders for tire retreading and air spring production.

Here’s a structure of a compact mechanical bladder curing press.

Know A Bladder Curing Press

Additionally, you would also find this L&T newsletter informative on technical aspects.

A good curing bladder has following key features

  • It is made of a sustainable and flexible compound
  • The bladder contour is optimized to tire contour
  • A good surface structure to prevent trapped air
  • Durable and simple to use during service

If the bladder contour and venting system are not optimized, the tyre plants experience higher level of trapped air and blisters. This is predominant in motorcycle tyres when compared to other tyre segments.

A good bladder has minimum inner-liner consumption. It also facilitates a smooth and simple final inspection of the tyre due to its constant surface structure. Imperfections, if any, can be easily detected  which in turn gives you extra ordinary final finish.

So choose your bladder curing press wisely and operate it smartly to produce the best curing bladder for your customers.

Let us know your thoughts.


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Tyre Machinery Industry: What to Expect?

At a recent event organized by a major automation brand, I had the opportunity to sit through a customer presentation (a leading tyre brand). A well articulated presentation, the speaker outlined the challenges that the tyre producers are facing in business today – increased competition on price, quality and delivery, pressure to reduce the tire development life cycle, enforcement of modular processes, perform with fewer employees and frequently changing product demands.

I bet that a tire producer three or five-year back would have presented these same set of challenges as the major concerns for their business. So what’s new and why are these concerns still valid?

It’s the fast pace of change!

Tug-of-War

Image from Web

Competition Galore

Tire manufacturing is a highly competitive field and faces volatile changes. The whole ecosystem of tire manufacturers, raw material suppliers, and machinery manufacturers are affected by industry consolidation, innovations in technology, labeling and safety requirements, increasing government regulations, shifting customer demands, and the pressure for lower customer prices.

For example, car manufacturers are focusing on energy-saving technologies. Translated to tyre, machinery experts feel energy-saving tyres will be a major focus area on the tyre equipment sector over next few years. As a machinery manufacturer, you must ensure the tires produced using your machinery has the highest manufacturing accuracy to meet the customers’ specifications in their local markets and overall quality standards.

Tyre manufacturing is a complex process. A fault or improper procedure at any of these stages threatens the structural integrity of the tire. And, tyre manufacturers demand the highest productivity from every stage of their manufacturing process. This means as a machinery manufacturer, you must cater to their demands of machines that offer high production output, manufacturing accuracy, reliability and product quality with low processing and maintenance costs and lowest possible manpower.

Over the next few years in tire machinery sector, you will have just two segments – “Chinese” & “Non-Chinese”. This thought first occurred to me a few years back. But in the recent times, I have heard this statement echoing strongly from peers in the industry. There is a handful of technologically strong tyre machinery manufacturers in China and some others are fast growing. I would not get into the industry perceptions because then I could digress.

However, this means that every tyre machinery manufacturer is continuously challenged to evolve rapidly in technology offered and differentiate globally. Also, the machines that you manufacture should possess the flexibility to adapt to changing trends in tire dimensions and complex designs.

Tyre Building Machines (TBM’s) and Curing Presses will be under intense scrutiny by tyre manufacturers for various reasons.

Tyre Building Machines

In TBM, it would be more to do with design and automation. A TBM assembles all components such as tread, sidewall, inner liner, body ply, bead, and cord body together to build green tyres. Each cycle is programmed to carry out the various operations automatically and concurrently, to give a balanced building cycle.

VMI_TBM

Image: VMI Holland

Automation of TBM especially for quicker synchronization of machine sections, including let-off, feed cutter, splicer, and wind-up; achieve better tension and edge control, ergonomics and operator safety, higher accuracy of cut-to-length independent of machine speed, slip correction between belts and tire building material; and capability to make adjustments in tire dimensions with demands for advancements in fault diagnosis would be more rigorous.

Tyre producers are regularly involved in either green field or brown field projects to meet their growing market demands. They demand from you the lowest set-up time for TBM integration, mechanical and electrical optimization and wiring. Leading TBM manufacturers like VMI have advanced models for cycle times of 36 seconds, full hands-off/eyes-off production, with automatic splice checking systems, a robot for green tire removal, connection to a green tire transport system, apexed bead unstacking and loading.

Tyre Curing Press

Curing is the process of applying pressure to the green tire in a mould in order to give it its final shape.  This is traditionally the bottleneck of every tyre manufacturer. For curing presses, the emphasis would be on enhancing the process efficiency and reducing the energy consumption.

One visible trend among tyre manufacturers is to produce smaller lot sizes. This will require more moulds and more frequent mould changes. Quick mould-change devices will become a unique selling feature for machinery builders to compete on. Leading manufacturers like HF have models that achieve the mould-change-time in less than 30 minutes.

HF_curing press

Image: HF

Hydraulic curing presses are preferred (over its mechanical counterparts) because they have repeatable accuracy over their life time. Secondly, they offer higher output which keeps the tyre manufacturers process cost under control. To improve the process efficiency and reduce curing time, post cure inflators are desired.

Curing presses occupy a large real estate space within a plant. So when the curing press manufacturers offer equipment with high-efficiency, tire manufacturers save substantially – not only by reducing the investment in quantity of machinery required (CAPEX) but also in terms of space utilization. Jacob Peled, Executive Chairman of Pelmar Engineering, foresees that split curing (tread and carcass separately) will eventually dominate the industry.

Summarizing, it’s the rapid pace of change faced by tyre producers that is driving the tyre machinery manufacturers to invest more in R&D, evolve rapidly in technology and offer customized automated solutions for maximum output to their customers. For tyre manufacturers, the consequence of increasing the automation to eliminate human errors will be that stringent testing on 100 per cent of tyre production will be a binding procedure in future.


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Rubber Machinery and Make In India

The new government of Narendra Modi has enhanced India’s image in the world economy. And a new thrust is being built-up in our manufacturing arena. The flavor of the season has been the rising roar of lion (read “Make in India” logo). Their Facebook page has garnered 2.1 million ‘Likes’ while “#EASEOFDOINGBUSINESS” is popular hash tag on Twitter, reflecting the aspirations of a billion dreams.

And why not?

We have a stable and strong pro-industry government. Global economy is picking up, and India’s core advantages continue to be strong. The government has started well, and already made few minor yet important changes to improve manufacturing sector. Their intent to address obstacles across infrastructure, labour reforms and ease of doing business along with marketing of Brand India are much awaited heartening measures.

Industry Scenario

Rubber machinery comprises of equipment used for Compounding, Mixing, Shaping, and Vulcanizing.

This industry in India manufactures mixers, mixing mills, calenders, extruders, tyre curing presses, tyre moulds, tyre building machines, bias cutters, injection moulding machine, etc.

Estimated at USD 405 million (in 2014), the total market in India is expected to grow at 20% CAGR to USD 580 million by 2016.

According to the Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI), currently there are 19 units in the organized sector for the manufacture of rubber machinery required for tyre/tube industry. The Indian rubber machinery manufacturing industry is a net exporter. Up to 100% FDI is allowed under the automatic route. Technology collaboration is also freely allowed.

The Indian Rubber Machinery industry is mostly a cluster of SME’s that epitomises the famous “jugaad” entrepreneurial spirit. Over the years, some have grown and compete globally. I wear the name of one such home-grown brand on my chest – Bainite Machines.

Today, some leading global brands in rubber machinery have manufacturing presence in the country through JV’s, wholly owned subsidiaries or technology license arrangements.

Opportunities Galore

Industry has witnessed growth in tandem with our growing economy in the past. Domestic manufacturers have 60% share in the machinery market. Share of imports is 40%, mainly from Far East on account of low price and shorter delivery.

An accepted approach to purchase equipment today follows this thought process – customers need to look West (Europe) for advanced technological machinery if the price tag is affordable or look to China for a low-cost replica.  Another option is to import used-machinery, which is being discarded by the developed world, at an attractive price tag.

Should this approach be refined? Yes, let me explain.

Increased deployment of used-machinery will render our domestic rubber processing industry inefficient in the long run. Because, rubber processors in the developed world are replacing the older machines with new technology machines under the compulsions to reduce the carbon footprint. Old/Used machinery has high operating cost, higher energy consumption as well as loss of productivity from higher maintenance. One industry friend said this aptly “its wishful thinking to assume another enterprises’ liability (used-machinery) can be your long-term asset (productive machinery)”.

Is it then China? Wait!

Recent statistics are interesting. They reveal China is slowly loses its manufacturing edge. And the reasons are multiple. The labour there aspires to work in hi-tech factories creating workforce shortage for labour intensive machine shops. Wages are rising over 10% per year higher than Indian labour cost increase. The rising Yuan (over 7% against dollar in last three years) makes China’s exports costlier while dropping Rupee (over 26% against dollar in last three years) makes India’s imports costlier. Reports of various forex experts suggest China can afford to let the Yuan strengthen a little bit more while Rupee will remain currency competitive as along as India’s trade-deficit is under control. Also for world-wide importers, shipping costs out of Chennai or Mumbai to most ports of the world are competitive (sometimes even lower) to that from Chinese peers.

Most tire producers around the world and few rubber product manufacturers standardize their production processes across their multiple plants. They adopt one machinery manufacturer for one particular production step and develop them to their customization requirements. This is a win-win situation for both the machinery manufacturer and end user.

It’s an acknowledged fact that Indian machinery manufacturers meet 95% of domestic rubber processing industry needs on technology and product range. Our product technologies are at par with leading brands of developed world albeit offered at great cost advantage.

This is also because leading manufacturers know their fundamentals well. We understand machinery and also rubber processing.

The importance of metallurgy, selection of the right material technology, process technology and appropriate designs that bring out machine systems which are long lasting is paramount to us. And hence, we can design and manufacture customized equipment for our customers. This is definitely our niche as compared to competitors of Far-East.

So, I feel, Indian rubber machinery industry is well positioned on the technological and logistical fronts to offer customized USPs in both domestic and export markets.

Sprucing-up

Indian machinery manufacturers have undertaken capacity expansion, upgradation in technology and adoption of best manufacturing practices to compete effectively – both in the domestic and export markets.  At Bainite Machines, we had started a phase-wise replacement of conventional machines with CNC’s since 2011. We invested in latest design and simulation software to build newer machineries like TSS from scratch, introduce latest B-Turbo tangential rotors, and offer value added sophistication to our regular machineries.

The focus is shifting to automation to create customer value. Smart automation on rubber machineries improves productivity of our customers and enhances operator safety. For example, we developed fully automatic Mixing Room technology requiring only one operator and have highest levels of safety interlocks in the complete processing line. For a large rubber processor, adopting technology and automation is sustainable because the benefits include lower cost of production (cost/kg), consistence in quality, superior aesthetics and reduce defects in throughput production.

Operator-friendly, energy-efficient, machinery that are safe, meets global compliance standards and satisfies the technology appetite is the need of the hour. Bainite Machines recognizes this and design customized machinery. Our recently built Hydraulic Ram in Mixers has a Ram up and down time of less than 3 seconds which in conventional mixers used to be 7 – 8 seconds. In a mixing cycle, there are 2–3 Ram Up and Down operations and hence this 4 seconds saving in each stroke is a tremendous boost to productivity.

Our tagline “Technology That Drives Industry” encapsulates Bainite’s dreams to be a technology driver and is equally fuelled by a passion to position an Indian Machinery manufacturer as a significant force to reckon within the global rubber/tire machinery market. Similar aspirations prevail among my industry friends.

What Next – Two Way Bridge?

Indian Rubber Machinery Industry requires further investments to raise the production volumes and technology to global scale. Volumes will give price competitiveness that our customers expect from us. Government has taken few initiatives to fuel growth and support manufacturing industry.

Equally important is the Indian customers’ recognition of the fact that machinery manufacturers must invest a part of the revenue to R&D efforts. This helps them to improve consistency, improvise continuously on quality, innovation and development of new machines. More importantly, customers can expect prompt after-market (spares and service) support when the machinery manufacturing is local.

So, squeezing the domestic machinery manufacturer to unviable price levels during commercial negotiations citing Far-East competition kills all future advancement efforts. This could then become an impediment to your progress as well tomorrow. Indian Rubber Machinery Industry needs your patronage today more than ever.

We have already demonstrated our competence and quality to the world. Rubber processors across the world are regularly reposing their faith on the Indian Rubber Machinery Industry, eventually making us a net exporter. So, there is no restraint that you could think of to establish this two-way bridge for mutual benefit.

A tinge of extra patriotism to “Make in India” can lead to a sustainable partnership between domestic Rubber Processors and Indian Rubber Machinery Manufacturers for the future and boost the domestic economy further.

Make In India

Snap shot of article as it appeared in Rubber Asia Jan 2015 Special Edition

 

(This article by Prasanth Warrier first appeared in the Rubber Asia, IRE 2015 Special Edition) 


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