ZF is one of the technology and innovation leaders worldwide in construction equipment. Suresh KV, Country Head, ZF India, explains the trends in transmission systems and the company's outlook on the industry.
What are the key components in a transmission system?
The transmission system plays an important role in an equipment as the gearbox determines the performance and robustness of an equipment. The key components in a drive line of the construction equipment (CE) transmission system are front and rear axles with planetary gears, differential brakes, transmission shaft, clutch, and torque converters.
What are the current market trends for transmission systems in CE space?
Cost reduction as a result of reduced fuel consumption while simultaneously increasing productivity are the mega trends in the construction machinery business. Also, today there is a lot of emphasis on safety and sustainability. Some of the current trends also include diesel electric hybrid transmissions, continuously variable transmission and electronically controlled power shift transmissions.
ZF serves these trends with its innovative products, which can be viewed at several major trade fairs worldwide. While producing transmission systems, we aim at reducing fuel consumption, increasing efficiency, reducing noise, simplifying handling and increasing driver comfort and safety.
OEMs develop products with better efficiency, higher performance, higher durability and improved operator comfort. What is the role of transmission systems to achieve these in a construction equipment?
Even if wheel loaders and other construction machines appear large and cumbersome, they must apply their force and power precisely in measured amounts. The ransmission system determines the efficiency, productivity and power of a machine. Efficient and eco-friendly transmission systems ensure significant consumption benefits. A variable transmission system will have multiple benefits like ease of operation, durability of machine (working under extreme conditions) and it will increase the productivity. A robust transmission ensures that everything remains steadfast in motion during operation.
What are the new technology developments in transmissions in CE?
There is no doubt that technology has disrupted all industries across sectors. Additive manufacturing, advanced robotics and industrial Internet of things (IIoT) are few of the technological innovations that will change the way transmissions are manufactured. It will be interesting to see the use of automation in transmissions. With the changing climatic conditions, there is also an emphasis on producing emission-free machines, which can be achieved by using lightweight materials to build the transmission system. Electrification of chassis and transmission is also a new trend on the rise which will play a significant role in reducing the emissions.
How are transmission systems gearing up to meet the new emission requirements?
Transmission system makers are gearing up to adhere to the new emission laws and standards. For this, the manufacturers have to use the latest technology to redesign the components with the help of R&D. Light weighting and electrification of chassis can play a major role in reducing the carbon footprint of a machine.
In the field of construction machinery, ZF is one of the technology and innovation leaders worldwide. Our focus in this field is on reducing fuel consumption and emissions, increasing productivity, driving comfort and safety as well as increasing the ease of operation and reducing noise. The ZF EFFICIENCY PACKAGE is setting benchmarks with up to 20 per cent fuel savings and up to 40 per cent productivity increase. The ZF hybrid module based on well-proven series products is the logical evolutionary step towards an electric drive. Therefore, it follows the trend towards more environmental protection and preservation of resources.
Please elaborate on your range of transmission solutions for construction equipment. What are the distinguished features? Who are your major customers?
At ZF, we have more than five decades of experience in developing and manufacturing driveline systems and axles for construction equipment. ZF gearboxes take up the heaviest loads. They are extremely compact and facilitate precise machine control with high power transmission. ZF has an unequalled, wide range of gearboxes for mining applications and large construction machines. We have drive gearboxes, swing gearboxes, winch gearboxes and pump distribution gearboxes, which can be used in excavators, crawlers, loaders, road rollers etc. As a systems supplier, ZF concentrates on the drive as a whole and combines axles and transmissions with advanced software functions. Numerous milestones in the development of construction machinery are attributable to ZF. With the cPOWER, ZF presented the first CVT transmission for construction machinery to the world. By advancing the CVT powersplit technology known from agricultural machinery, the cPOWER provides significant consumption benefits and it also increases productivity with a level of efficiency previously inconceivable. Our reputed set of customers in the construction equipment space include JCB India, LeeBoy India, BEML and Tata Hitachi Construction Machinery.
What are your future plans of expanding your range of geared drives?
Rapid progress and the process of globalisation have triggered a global building boom whose sophisticated construction projects demand maximum performance from people and machines. More productivity, more efficiency, and increased driving comfort - these are the requirements construction machinery has to meet today. At ZF, we want to further expand the share of the non-automotive segment in Group sales. We have the range of products which meet the requirement of the market and our main focus is to make it more compact in size, with reduced weight and quiet in operation.
ZF has planned to expand the usage in mixer drives, swing drives, and industrial drives. The gearboxes are also being used in tow tractors and pick and carry cranes.
What is the future of transmission systems for CE, going forward? What are the perceptible changes you expect in the short to medium term?
With technological advancements, there are going to be a lot of innovations in the field of transmission systems for construction equipment. In India, there is a huge stimulus from government to develop the infrastructure, which is going to be a big growth driver for the construction equipment industry. Although incorporating the latest and cutting-edge technology in the transmission system may take time, we can expect a lot of innovative concepts in the field of transmission systems.
With the rise in requirement for construction equipment in India, our construction equipment components such as gearboxes for mining applications, travel gearbox GPTs used in excavators, crawler cranes, etc, are much in demand and we are expecting it to grow further in the coming times. At Excon 2017, ZF had showcased diverse range of product offerings for construction machinery and material handling. We received a good response for our products and procured some great business opportunities.
What is the key future trend in transmissions?
Electrification of the construction equipment is going to be the focus of many equipment manufacturers in the coming years. This is to make it more digital, safe and easy in operation. Real time data like health of machine, location of the machine etc. will help in accurate hours monitoring and alerts like preventive maintenance, critical alerts on oil, temperature etc, will also be useful. While providing transmission systems, ZF has geared up to serve these requirements of the OEM by continuously monitoring the vehicle environment through different sensors, cameras, radar etc. This is possible through the recent acquisition of TRW.
'ZF has planned to expand the usage in mixer drives, swing drives, and industrial drives. The gearboxes are also being used in tow tractors and pick and carry cranes.'