The automotive industry is one of the four sectors among the SECO/WARWICK Group’s equipment main recipients in 2023. Manufacturers of battery coolers, vehicle suspensions, catalytic converters and air conditioning systems dominated among buyers of metal heat treatment equipment.
For decades, the automotive industry has been one of the European’s economy key sectors, generating almost 7 percent of the region’s GDP and being directly or indirectly responsible for almost 14 million jobs. In Asia, the automotive industry is also one of the main industries. Car exports from China in 2023 in the January-July period increased by 74 percent compared to the same period the previous year. Of the 2.8 million vehicles exported, 1.8 million were powered by gasoline engines.
Solutions from SECO/WARWICK for the automotive industry
The automotive industry eagerly uses SECO/WARWICK solutions in almost every area of the company’s specialization. The automotive industry is looking for solutions that bring a real reduction in production costs as well as an increase in efficiency in mass production. The most frequently chosen solutions in 2023 included the CaseMaster Evolution – T (CMe-T) three-chamber vacuum furnace and the Vector single-chamber vaccum furnace, as well as the EV/CAB continuous line designed for the electric automotive industry.
The production of battery coolers for electric cars is growing rapidly, and the demand for electric vehicles is increasing around the world. Due to their size, this type of heat exchanger cannot be brazed in a standard furnace. This requires a special product, the EV/CAB.
The EV/CAB is a complete line designed for the production of oversized heat exchangers. Thanks to continuous operation, it guarantees an uninterrupted production process and high production efficiency. Its greatest advantage is the perfect temperature uniformity over the entire furnace conveyor belt width. This allows the system to obtain perfect and repeatable results, which is the key to success in mass production.
According to KPMG data, in the two quarters of 2023, 5.4 million passenger cars were registered throughout the European Union, which is 17.9 percent more than in the previous year. Among the 10 largest domestic markets in terms of volume, an improvement in the result was recorded in nine, including the largest in the Netherlands (+31% y/y).
However, when we talk about electric vehicles, which is the focus of SECO/WARWICK’s offer in the field of continuous lines, we can talk about a real boom. Especially in Asia.
“Last year, electric cars accounted for 1/4 of all passenger cars sold in China. The share of EVs in new car sales in China was much higher than in other markets. In the USA, 1 in 7 cars sold had an electric drive, while in Europe, 1 in 8 new cars were electric. It is therefore not surprising that our EV/CAB product, intended for the production of electric vehicle battery coolers, is selling very well on the Asian market. Recently, our solutions have been delivered to Jiangsu RIDEA and NBR Cooling Systems from India,” said Sławomir Woźniak, CEO of the SECO/WARWICK Group.
“We are receiving signals that the automotive industry is recovering from the crisis. It concerns both – the traditional and electric vehicles. This is a positive signal for our Group, because customers from this industry constitute 25 percent of our orders. The development of the electric vehicle industry made us decide to highlight our product and its purpose for the electromobility industry. Hence the introduction of a new brand for the CAB line – EV/CAB, which, it must be admitted, not only sells very well, but also has gained trust among our partners,” added S. Woźniak.
Controlled Atmosphere Brazing (CAB) is the technology of first choice in the production of aluminum heat exchangers in the automotive industry.
„We are one of the leading manufacturers of lines intended for brazing heat exchangers. It is thanks to our furnaces that radiators for passenger cars, delivery vans, agricultural machines and power generators are successfully manufactured. When it comes to the automotive industry, the radiators produced in our furnaces supply power to all leading automotive concerns,” says Piotr Skarbiński, Vice-President of the Aluminum and CAB Products Segment at SECO/WARWICK.
Europe has multiple patents for the automotive industry
It is worth remembering that nearly 30 percent of world automotive patents come from European countries, and the value of the 10 largest European automotive companies has reached EUR 200 billion. Half of these companies are the most valuable brands in the world. The German automotive industry is of particular importance, whose representatives have been considered world leaders in the industry for many years.
“Europe, despite temporary interruptions, will always be the Sevres model when it comes to the automotive industry. This is where new technologies and patents are created. This is where key motor sports come from, which are the foreground and testing ground for many new technological solutions. This year we delivered furnaces to manufacturers of parts for Formula 1. Our flagship product was the Vector vacuum furnace. Carburizing and hardening parts such as gears for engines and transmissions for high-performance F1 sports cars is quite a rare production challenge compared to other markets where SECO/WARWICK supplies its equipment. Motorsport is a demanding industry expecting perfect quality, and our vacuum furnaces guarantee it,” said Maciej Korecki, Vice-President of the SECO/WARWICK Vacuum Segment.
India – the dark horse of the automotive industry
In addition to the Vector furnace, the automotive industry eagerly chooses the CaseMaster Evolution – T furnace. It is a three-chamber vacuum furnace which can be used for many processes. Among other things, it can provide surface hardening using low-pressure carburizing (LPC) technology and high-pressure oil or nitrogen hardening. The solution is distinguished not only by its three-chamber design, but above all, by a significant improvement in process quality, cost reduction, increased efficiency and greater production flexibility. It is one of the most frequently chosen metal processing furnaces by the automotive industry. The furnace recently ordered by an Indian customer will be used for gas brazing and cooling. This is but one of many such solutions to be delivered in India.
“India is a very interesting market and the fifth largest car manufacturer in the world. European corporations also invest there. We as well have a domestic giant in India – the TATA concern, which, by the way, is our customer. In recent years, we have supplied furnaces to several large factories in the automotive sector in India. So we know for sure that SECO/WARWICK solutions work perfectly in the industry, they are efficient, precise and economical. This year was a breakthrough for us when it comes to the Indian market, because we are starting production in India. Already this year, the first CAB lines will roll off the Indian assembly line and reach new customers,” says Sławomir Woźniak, President of the SECO/WARWICK Group.
The automotive industry is slowly recovering after the worst crisis in years. In the last few years, the sector has been challenged by disruptions in supply chains caused by the pandemic and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. The limited availability of semiconductors and other components, necessary for production, have had a negative impact on the production of new cars, which collapsed in 2020.
Although the situation is not back to normal yet, it is clearly improving. Data from OICA (International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers) show that in 2022, just over 85 million vehicles left the production lines. This is a result of over 6 percent improvement over the last year, and nearly 10 percent improvement than in the pandemic year of 2020. Over the last year, the number of customers from the automotive sector interested in metal heat treatment solutions has increased significantly. SECO/WARWICK estimates that the trend related to increased demand for metal heat treatment furnaces in the automotive industry will continue in 2024.