Equipment in good shape
Autopromotec special: automotive equipment
At Autopromotec, optimism and a desire to ride the wave of recovery characterized the presence of many new products and a wider segmentation of the offer from automotive equipment manufacturers
by Mino de Rigo
Dynamic and lively, fed by a strong propensity for innovation and a declared talent for exporting, the automotive equipment sector is already on the road to growth.
Proof is also given by data from the Autopromotec Observatory, according to which Italian manufacturers’ 2010 revenues stood at 3.6 billion euros, a significant increase of 20% against the previous year. And just under 2.5 billion came from exports, corresponding to 69% of turnover.
A growing segment
Throughout Autopromotec, there was a feeling of widespread and renewed optimism and tangible signs of confidence in the ability to meet the trends of a market linked, on the one hand, to technological innovation, which means that repair shop and tyre specialist equipment and operator training must be continually updated, and on the other, an approach that is increasingly segmented on the basis of customer type and geographical area of reference. Particularly in the case of tyre and wheel equipment, the new generation that makes wide use of electronics and digital technologies expands the range of offers, raises the performance bar for the top of the range (as well as the lower ranges) and has become another product class. Capable of taking significant steps towards operating efficiency, ergonomics, reliability and versatility.
Conventional and hi-tech additions
With the motto “each to his own”, for tyre specialists who have struggled with joysticks and touch screens with over-the-top interfaces and have decided not to change their habits or work methods, there are now units with traditional contents and forms that will still facilitate operations with simplified man-machine interfaces for reducing times and increasing safety and comfort. For the more technically-minded operators, there are interactive systems, self-diagnosis and self-calibrating mechanisms, tools that facilitate training in the field but also require greater specialization. And there was also something for anyone who is convinced by price as part of a prudent product segmentation area. This is the case of tyre changers with models ranging from semiautomatic to hi-tech examples where computers not only automatically recognize the size of the wheel, and as a consequence the correct positioning of the tool, but also have an interactive interface that suggests the operations to be carried out. Which also means that you don’t have to start again from the beginning if the work is interrupted. The principal aim is to increase accuracy, the dividing line for increasingly demanding customers, and guarantee the integrity of the wheel and the tyre. Undoubtedly making an immediate contribution to these factors is the possibility of carrying out a wheel check-up, from calculating tread thickness to tyre pressure monitoring to the visualization of the use and maintenance manual on the screen, which is very useful for tyres that are handled less frequently.
Automation and diagnostics
Totally analogous logic implies the development of balancers, the most advanced expression of which is the diagnostics centre. With sonar and laser for detecting and positioning without any manual intervention, for memorizing the setup for each wheel so subsequent operations take less time and, above all, the automatic analysis of wheel geometry: this is to the advantage of tyre specialists, who probably will not have to repeat balancing operations and can give customers printouts “before” and “after” the work, and safe driving. New additions shared by the lower range of models, a parallel trend, have no frills and not too many functions, more intuitive interface software, more space between the machine and the wheel for better access and increased speed of operation. If vehicle lifts have electronically-controlled heights and the control box on the lift communicates with the wheel alignment console, it is above all this latter product category that is at the centre of expected new developments. New prototypes at the fair promise to explode the remaining taboos about touchless systems and consolidate the omnipresence and versatility of 3D aligners.