Monday 11 February 2013

‘King of the Road’ Scania widens CGI use


Scania, it can be revealed, is the latest heavy commercial vehicle maker to widen its use of compacted graphite iron (CGI) in diesel engines.

Our detailed and analytical process of elimination lifts the veil on Scania’s foundry in Södertälje, Sweden, as the latest to install SinterCast’s process control technology to produce CGI. SinterCast is banned from naming its customer.

Already making use of CGI cylinder blocks for its top-of-the-range V-8 truck engine – the 90-degree blocks for this engine are sourced from Halberg-Guss’s foundry in Leipzig, Germany which also uses SinterCast’s CGI process control technology – it is now known that from March of this year Scania will use high-strength CGI material from its own tied foundry to produce cylinder blocks for its popular 12.7-litre truck engine So two of Scania’s engine lines will carry CGI blocks.

The Swedish truck maker also makes a 9.3-litre engine, the blocks of which could later become the subject of further CGI expansion. The 9.3-, 12.7- and 16.4-litre engines share the same bores to offer parts’ commonality.

A press release this morning from SinterCast states: “Following successful technical support of Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI) product development, an undisclosed major European commercial vehicle OEM has ordered a SinterCast System 3000 to enable independent CGI series production in its captive foundry. At the request of the OEM, the details of the installation and the engine application remain confidential.”

However, an examination of leading heavy commercial vehicle builders and their captive foundries in Europe reveals the following: Daimler’s foundry in Manheim has for some years been casting CGI components (though not using SinterCast’s patented process control technology); MAN has a small foundry in Nurnberg, Germany, though this does not cast cylinder blocks; Volvo, which a few years back commissioned a new foundry, has already made a commitment to CGI using SinterCast’s technology – and cryptically, SinterCast’s press release states that the commitment increased “the number of foundries with SinterCast installations to 29”, which denotes the latest installation is being made to a new, rather than a repeat, customer; and finally DAF in Eindhoven, although a CGI user for many years, has no captive foundry.

This logic chain clearly leads to Scania as the focus of SinterCast’s latest installation.

Scania has four versions of its V-8 truck diesel: three of 15.6-litre and one of 16.4-litre. The latter is one of the most powerful engine on the roads with a torque and power rating of 3,500Nm and 730bhp respectively. (Volvo, with an engine giving 750bhp is probably the most powerful engine.)

Other power outputs of the Scania V8 are 500, 560 and 620bhp. These engines use the ground-breaking XPI fuelling system. The 16.4-litre engine is the only member of Scania’s V-8 line-up to use CGI to date. This again not only demonstrates the industry’s need for CGI as power ratings increase, but the ‘irreversible trend’ towards CGI for state-of-the-art commercial vehicle engines.

The latest announcement effectively means that once again, Scania has stolen a lead on its arch rival and country compatriot Volvo. Significantly, Scania will adopt CGI cylinder blocks for its popular 12.7-litre engine, rivalling for example DAF and MAN.

Curiously, following its launch of the 16.4-litre engine, Scania took the opportunity to reveal in its house magazine Halberg-Guss GmbH, with headquarters in Saarbrücken, Germany, as its foundry of choice. The CGI V-8 block is cast only at Halberg-Guss before shipped to Södertälje. Halberg-Guss was the world’s first foundry to cast production CGI engine blocks with the launch of the Audi 3.3-litre V-8 in 1999.

The Scania V-8 blocks cast in Halberg-Guss’s foundry are machined on a CGI-compatible transfer line installed several years ago by MAG, the well-known machine tool builder, using robotic equipment supplied by Fanuc Robotics.

Scania’s choice of Swedish foundry technology not only supports local industry but helps preserve jobs within its Södertälje foundry.

The Swedish company is well versed in the practices associated with machining CGI material, but has maintained a decade of silence of its experiences of the material – work on CGI development began over 12 years ago.

So, from next month, Scania will begin the process of casting and machining six-cylinder blocks for its second engine line to carry major CGI components.

In the new installation, the System 3000 process control hardware will be integrated with a SinterCast wire feeder previously installed at the OEM’s foundry during intensified product development activities in 2012 to provide  a fully integrated process control system. The complete installation is planned to be commissioned during the first quarter of 2013.

The new foundry installation will, in the initial stages, produce cylinder blocks only for the 12.7-litre engine. Quite what the future brings remains to be seen. However, based on previous experience, it is well known that OEMs which adopt CGI later choose to widen the material’s application. DAF/Paccar, Daimler, Ford, MAN and Navistar have all reinforced their confidence in the material by extending CGI use in powertrain applications. Scania has now seemingly done the same, extending CGI to its second engine application.

It remains to be seen if the company, at a later stage adopts CGI as the source material for the cylinder heads of both the I-6 and the V-8 engines in the face of increasing demands of truck engine emission legislation. At present these are cast in grey iron.

Scania’s 12.7-litre I-6 engine, of which it is understood production rates could reach 30,000 units a year, uses modular heads in preference to slab heads. This design offers benefits of scale as the same head can be used on both I-6 and V-8 engines.

In 2012, Scania delivered 61,051 trucks, 6,350 buses and coaches, and 7,063 engines, according to the company's latest year-end report. Scania has truck plants in Sweden, France, Holland and Brazil; engines are made only in Sweden.

Meanwhile, the contract from Scania adds yet another important blue-chip reference supplier for SinterCast which usually expects to sign up three or four new customers every year.