Mario Rodríguez
View from the Top

Near-Net Geometries, Heat Treatments, Aluminum to Stay Current

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:36

Q: What are Arbomex’s goals in terms of material and process innovation?

A: Our main strength is our vertical integration between iron foundry and precision machining. This integration gives us enough competitiveness to stand up against our international counterparts. In terms of innovation, we have substituted steel products with heat-treated iron. Our next step is to develop a foundry process for iron that can replace steel without the need for an additional heat treatment.

We are waiting to obtain the first patent for a camshaft manufactured through a foundry process of iron and steel. This will be a disruptive improvement for the engine. Combining both materials will result in less weight, lower costs and better injection-system performance. We need to work on our testing processes, to assure our clients that this component will provide better quality at a lower cost.

Q: How can Arbomex solve engine and injection-system problems to improve vehicle efficiency?

A: There is a trend to change the traditional Otto cycle in an engine to the Atkinson model and that puts a lot of pressure on the camshaft. This component operates the valves that will allow air to enter and exit the cylinders thus controlling the moment fuel is injected to the engine. We have a specialist dedicated to analyzing several types of engines and establishing a benchmark of the advantages each presents. That way we can offer several solutions for our clients to choose whatever works best for their performance, cost and efficiency objectives.

Suppliers are increasingly involved in the design process for new components. This allows us to analyze and test all aspects related to a new part, along with its manufacturing conditions and related costs. That is how we designed a solution for one of our main customers. The system previously had only one cam and we added another two. That way, according to the fuel demand and speed stability, one or maybe two cam actions could reduce fuel consumption. Our improvements may be advantageous in terms of manufacturing or logistic costs and the client must decide how best to alter its operations.

Q: How will Arbomex address the growth of electric and hybrid cars in the industry?

A: The three main drivers for the automotive industry are mobility, connectivity and alternative energy sources. By 2035, we expect electric vehicles to take over the market and we are preparing to face this development accordingly. We must take the elimination of camshafts as a likely scenario and that will lead the company in two directions. The internal combustion engine, although it may be limited, is unlikely to disappear and we want to be the best camshaft company in the world. At the same time, we are targeting the heavy vehicle industry, particularly in parts that are expensive to manufacture. We plan to move toward other types of components, delving into near-net geometries and new materials like aluminum.

Q: How has Arbomex’s possible joint venture with a Japanese company evolved?

A: The company wants to take advantage of the experience Arbomex has in the Mexican market but recent exchange rate volatility and the situation between Mexico and the US has slowed the process. But negotiations have not halted and we hope to finalize the deal before the end of 2017.

Q: How can Mexico attract further investment in advanced manufacturing and design processes?

A: Software and basic engineering processes are still carried out abroad. Most design centers in Mexico focus on small changes and product adaptations according to the region but the base design is done in Germany, Japan or the US. Each day more and more universities are collaborating with companies to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship among students. Some institutions already have excellent manufacturing and material research centers but the industry would benefit from more integration with them.