Universal joint is a mechanical connection between two shafts whose axis is generally intersecting. It is known in the market with various names as Hooke’s joint, Cardan joint, Hardy spicer joint, and universal coupling. In the automotive industry, universal joint is used for the transmission of drive as well as torque.
Demand for universal joint in the automotive industry is on the rise due to the ever-increasing production of automobiles. Till date, it is the only trending product for the coupling between intersecting shafts owing to the absence of a more suitable alternative. Universal joint is a key component of the transmission assembly, thus it attributes to the continuous growth of the automotive universal joint market.
Automotive universal joints can be classified on the basis of their usage in different systems such as in power transmission system, steering system, and wheel drive system. In the transmission system, universal joint is used for the coupling of engine shaft and propeller shaft, and then for the coupling of propeller shaft and the differential. Steering system provides directional stability to the vehicle. In the steering system, universal joint is used to transmit the motion of steering column to the tie rods. In the wheel drive system, universal joint is used for the coupling of wheel stub axle and the final drive.
On the basis of drive of vehicle, automotive universal joints can be categorized into rear wheel drive vehicles and four wheel drive vehicles. Rear wheel drive vehicles are those in which the rear wheels are driven by the engine through propeller shaft and only two universal joints are used in the transmission system. In four wheel drive vehicles, all the four wheels are connected to the engine through propeller shafts and four universal joints are used in the transmission assembly. Two additional universal joints are used between the transfer box and the front axle.
There are primarily two types of Hooke’s joints available in the market for the automotive industry such as single Hooke’s type and double Hooke’s type. Single Hooke’s type joint contains a spider, driving yoke, and driven yoke; whereas, in double hook’s joint, two spiders are used with a solid member between them. Double Hooke’s joint is also known as constant velocity joint due to its advantage over single Hooke’s joint of transferring uniform motion as received by the driving member. Addition of rubber bushing to the Hooke’s joint helps in providing a smooth drive.
Automotive universal joints can also be segmented according to vehicle type such as passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles. Passenger vehicles include hatchbacks, sedans, multi-utility vehicles, and sports utility vehicles. Commercial vehicles include light-weight commercial vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles.
The most common method used for the manufacturing of automotive universal joints are casting, forging, and machining. Pressure fitting is used for the assembly of all the parts. In casting, molten metal is poured into the cast; after the casting process, machining is done to give it a finish. Sometimes only machining is also used for the manufacturing of automotive universal joints. Press forging is used for the manufacturing of heavy universal joints.
Based on geography, the automotive universal joints market can be segmented into Asia Pacific, North America, Europe, and the Rest of the World. Asia Pacific is the largest producer of automotive universal joints, whereas, Germany has set a benchmark in the quality of the product. The booming production of the automotive industry in India and China is contributing to the remarkable growth of the automotive universal joint market.
Some of the key manufacturers of automotive universal joints are ATIL-SAN Automotive, GMB bearings, Neapco, U J Tech, RSA Tesisat Marzemeleri A.S., Cardanshaft Engineers India, Gellenkwellenwerk stadtilm GmbH, Robert Bosch GmBH among others.
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