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Rockman Industries Invests in Next-Generation Carbon Composites Technology

  • Tuesday, 10th January 2017
  • Reading time: about 5 minutes

Rockman Industries, the auto-components arm of Hero Group, has entered into the carbon composites technology market.

According to Rockman, carbon composites are beginning to replace conventional aluminium and steel globally. It says that this shift, which has already gained significant momentum in motorsports and aerospace, is now making inroads into automobiles and it has made the move in preparation for this.

Rockman has acquired a majority stake in Moldex Composites, a Gujarat-based British-Indian design and manufacturing company. Moldex Composites provides world-class and advanced carbon composites to USA’s premier motor racing series. This diversification is a part of Rockman’s strategy to be a front-runner in emerging technologies.

Rockman claims that the technological disruption taking place in the motorsports, aerospace and automobiles sectors is being driven by electronics and lightweighting. It says that Motorsports and Aerospace industries are at the forefront of the move towards shedding weight and carbon composites are playing a vital role. Reduction in weight translates into airplane carrying larger payload for longer distances while reducing emissions, at the same time it helps motorsports vehicles accelerate and travel faster. This acquisition has taken place to create a nucleus for Rockman to leverage the technology and to expand presence in the global aerospace, motorsports and automotive businesses.

“Anticipating and preparing for changes is built into Rockman’s DNA. Our investment into the carbon composites technology is aimed at pre-empting the global shift towards carbon fibre in automobiles, besides an entry into motorsports and aerospace. The move is also a part of our diversification strategy aimed at a turnover of Rs. 5000 crore by 2021. Carbon composites is expected to account for 10% of Rockman Industries turnover in the next five years,” says Suman Kant Munjal, Chairman Managing Director, Rockman Industries. 

Moldex is a phased acquisition, which will be at an ultimate valuation close to Rs.100 crore. Rockman is looking to expand Moldex’s presence in Europe and US and has already started a sales office in the UK and is building a sales team. In the next three months, the company is looking to have presence in the US as well. Rockman says it is actively looking to invest in manufacturing facilities in Europe or US. However, there are no plans to start a greenfield manufacturing facility there. The focus in both Europe and US is to grow the existing business, which is motorsports, and then gradually get into aerospace as well as high-end premium, luxury and sports cars. 

Rockman explains that regulatory requirements, stringent emission norms such as CAFE standards and move towards electric and hybrid vehicles increase focus on weight reductions. Carbon composites is one such material that helps save weight and increases performance of the vehicles. With rising fuel costs, there is an increasing desire to also make more fuel-efficient planes which are stronger and lighter. Carbon composites fulfil this need and also provide flexibility in design with the ability to optimise performance and load bearing capacities. They have much superior strength to weight ratio than steel or aluminium. Since composite materials offer such a significant increase in performance over metallics in any application where mass is important, the global demand for composite structures is increasing dramatically.

“Carbon composites are replacing conventional aluminium alloys and steel components in aerospace, motorsports, automobiles, medical and defence applications. These composite materials ensure reduction in complete life cycle costs not only due to their lower weight but also longer life reducing downtime of whatever they are fitted to. The advantages of composites are lower weight, higher performance, good fatigue, good corrosion resistance and their ability to be readily formed into complex shapes and fully integrated structures with less capital expenditure in tooling. A typical carbon composite would provide same strength as steel or aluminum with one-fourth of the weight of steel and half the weight of aluminum,” says Ian Thomson, Co-founder, Moldex Composites. 

“Rockman has ambitions to invest in technologies that will make it future ready, as well as, to gain entry into niche/high end applications. The motorsports, aerospace and the automobiles sectors are witnessing a disruptive shift towards carbon composites. The acquisition of a majority stake in Moldex Composites is focused on being at the forefront of this emerging new technology,” says Ujjwal Munjal, Executive Director, Rockman Industries.

Rockman explains that a good indicator of the way technology is changing in the automobiles industry would be to evaluate the direction that aerospace and motorsports have taken. About 30 years ago the penetration of aluminium started to increase as a lighter option to iron and steel. The next wave is towards carbon fibres and it is expected to proliferate rapidly in the mass production of vehicles as manufacturing technologies evolve. 

“When it comes to innovation in carbon composites, Moldex Composites has been a frontrunner. Various awards won by Moldex in last few years are testimonial of its design and manufacturing capabilities. Our global customers turn to us whenever they need tailor-made solutions for their business. Our partnership with the Hero Group would help us in gaining scale and ensure that this technology reaches mass production faster and efficiently,” says Parag Rajda and Robert Neumann, Founders of Moldex Composites.

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