Putting the brakes on inefficiency

Established in 1983 by engineer and sports car racer John Moore, Alcon Components initially made brakes for Audi Sport’s Group B Quattro rally cars.

Today, the Tamworth-based company provides braking solutions such as discs, callipers, cylinders, valves, balance bars, pedal boxes, clutches and much more for the top echelons of motorsport and specialist markets. It is this reputation in motorsport that has led the company to Open Mind and its HyperMill CAM software.
Alcon Components designs, manufactures and supplies braking solutions to some of the world’s most prestigious brands, including Audi, Bentley, Brabus and Jaguar Land Rover. The company has products that can be found in anything as diverse as the extreme 900 bhp/tonne Ariel Atom 500 and the 225 mph Noble M600, through to military vehicles, armoured SUVs and anything in-between. To cope with the capacity demands of up to 500 discs a week, Alcon has recently invested in three new Doosan vertical turning lathes (VTLs) for its disc machining line, which is yielding a 30 to 40% cycle time improvement. The Doosan VTLs follow a considerable investment in machining centres that include a Doosan Mynx 6500/50, a DMG Mori NHX 4000 and a Hermle C32U.
When it comes to machining brake callipers, a solid aluminium billet will go through a complete range of five-axis machining cycles with four individual operations. Commenting upon this process, production engineering manager Brian Cutler says: “The first operation will be a lot of roughing on a VMC, which is programmed with HyperMill. We’ll then hold the callipers on their side and machine all the internal features on a five-axis machine. We flip it over again to finish the top faces and it will be turned once more for the final operation, which is the machining of the precision piston bores.”

Whereas many callipers may be small volumes or bespoke specialist products, the company is also manufacturing over 100 callipers per week for a high-end sports car.
Referring particularly to the company’s investment in Open Mind’s HyperMill CAM system, Alcon’s Adam Saweczko says: “The reason we moved from another CAM system to HyperMill was the stability of the software. Since opting for HyperMill, there has been a huge improvement in performance and calculation times. It calculates the paths with greater speed and is far more reliable than the software we used before. Our previous CAM software was problematic, sometimes crashing up to six times a day.
“This crashing was due to the complexity and data requirements of the parts, and the respective programs that we generate here at Alcon,” he continues. “The HyperMill system is very flexible, it allows us to copy proven methods from one program to another, which saves significant time. We can work with a number of windows open at the same time and this also reduces our programming times.”
Referring to the HyperMill tool library, Saweczko adds: “We can store more detail than ever before. We can now store all the cutting data, tooling suppliers and even the product codes. It has become the one-stop solution for our tool management data.”
Commenting upon the five-axis credentials of HyperMill, he says: “The five-axis routines are very easy to use. You no longer have to go into hundreds of different settings to get the job done. The parts we are making are quite complex, but our new CAM software has given us the ability to take existing programs and copy them over to HyperMill. So, existing and proven cycles can be applied to the existing part.”

Alcon manufactures its automotive brakes in sets, with left and right hand parts. Commenting on this requirement, Saweczko states: “Typically, HyperMill can save 50% on programming times as it can be done instantly. This also saves time where we have parts that are symmetrical to other components we machine. We actually save a lot of time by programming one half of a part and performing a mirroring routine, so the next component is produced automatically. The cutting conditions are respected also, meaning that if the one half is climb-cutting, then the mirrored half would also climb cut.”
Confidently backing this statement, Cutler adds: “In terms of improvements with HyperMill, we’ve made some pretty big savings in programming times. I would say that a complex five-axis calliper previously took upwards of four weeks to program with our previous CAM system; this is now less than 2 weeks with HyperMill. Producing brake callipers, we typically do a left and right-hand calliper and the first side takes 3-4 weeks to program. Mirroring the first calliper would then take up to another week. The mirroring function in HyperMill is really impressive and enables us to produce the opposite mirrored part in less than half a day.”
The feature recognition package has also been a major benefit for this progressive brake manufacturer, as Saweczko states: “For example, we have an M4 tapped hole and, to conduct that operation, we will need a tapping cycle, a drill and maybe even a countersink operation. HyperMill’s feature recognition will automatically recognise the task in hand and apply the correct tools and machining procedure.”

Alluding to the benefits of purchasing HyperMill, Saweczko concludes: “We are very pleased that we have moved over to HyperMill from another CAM suite. It has not only improved our product quality and surface finishes, it has also improved the working environment because staff are not as frustrated as before. This is because the software is more reliable and easier to work with.”
For further information www.openmind-tech.com

Rifle maker shoots to success with ITC

Many people will have fired a rifle, but for Robert Nibbs it has been a lifelong passion that evolved from childhood enthusiasm, through professional career, to the founding of a high-end rifle manufacturing business. Since joining his first rifle club at the age of 14, Nibbs has immersed himself in the sport, representing Team GB during his career. For the past 26 years, he has proudly been making rifles of distinction and precision.

Located in rural Somerset, Nibbs runs a small business that designs, manufactures, builds and sells high-end target and professional rifles. As an SME, the company relies on a blend of innovative manufacturing techniques and productive processes – it is here that Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC) Ltd has stepped into the sights of this progressive company.
At the end of 2017, Nibbs was having tool life issues when producing a component from 303 stainless steel. Existing solid-carbide end mills were struggling to cope with the skin on the stainless and the intermittent machining process. Applying an existing solid-carbide end mill, the business could only produce 25 parts prior to tool failure. This limited tool life resulted in increased tool costs, and inconvenient and repeated tool changes.
Recalling the introduction of ITC cutting tools, Nibbs says: “I was familiar with the ITC brand and I made an enquiry via their website. They subsequently came in to review the stainless steel components and we haven’t looked back since. ITC’s engineers initially trialled the Widia M1200HF high-feed face mill, but this was a little too aggressive for the machine parameters. We moved to the Widia M200 button end mills and the results have been exceptional.”

The 40 mm diameter Widia M200 button mill cutter with WP25-PM grade inserts instantly ramped up productivity and decreased tooling costs. Commenting on this first installation, ITC’s Matt White says: “The M200 increased the feed rate from 0.1 mm/tooth to 0.3 mm/tooth, cutting the cycle time by more than 50%. For all of his machining processes, Robert would use a Microloc work-holding system to set up to 20 parts in a single cycle; the M200 slashed the cycle time from over one hour, to 35 minutes. This would give him valuable time to leave the machine running while he moved to other tasks, knowing that the tooling would finish the cycle intact.”
Tool costs and changeovers were also reduced, as White recalls: “The previous solid-carbide end mills would need to be replaced after 30 components. However, the
40 mm diameter M200 featuring four insert seats has six edged double-sided inserts with a location lug for precision indexing. This reduced tool changeovers and set-ups drastically, but more important was the reduced tooling costs. Each edge of the inserts could achieve the same performance as the previous solid-carbide end mill; but with 12 edges the M200 is 12 times more cost efficient. Machining to a 2 mm depth of cut, we suggested that Robert use the Widia M1200 for finishing operations. Applying a 0.2 mm depth of cut, the M1200 has machined over 300 parts without changing an insert edge to date.”
The success of the Widia face milling tools opened the door to trial other ITC products on Nibbs’ Haas VF2- SSYT thee-axis machining centre.
“We introduced the Widia 49N9 solid carbide three-flute rougher to the profiling of pockets on 6082-T6 grade chassis sections,” says Nibbs. “Previously we used solid carbide end mills from two well-known brands with limited success.”

Then Tom Lindley, ITC area sales engineer, suggested running the WIDIA 49N9 at 12,000rpm and just shy of 8 m/min at full 24 mm depth of cut with a 10 mm step-over; each parameter at least 50% greater than the previous tools.
“I was very apprehensive, but the Widia tool cut through the aluminium like a hot knife through butter,” states Nibbs. “Processing the roughing operation at double the speed and feed parameters of the previous tools, and with manageable chip size, the Widia 49N9 contributed to reducing the overall cycle time of rifle butt components. This high-speed machining operation reduced the chassis blank from 4.1 to 1.7 kg in 75 just seconds.”
The success of the Widia face mill and solid-carbide end mills gave Nibbs the confidence in the application expertise of ITC’s Lindley and White and, moreover, the quality of the products applied. This confidence opened the door for more ITC innovations to be introduced.
Since the initial introduction, company now utilises ITC 2041 and 2052 solid-carbide square-end tools, as well as 3041, 3051, 2201 and 3081 corner radius end mills on aluminium parts. Offering another example of the productivity gains from ITC’s cutters for aluminium, Nibbs says: “We used to manufacture aluminium thumb wheel adjustors in three minutes with our previous tooling supplier and machine, but the investment in the Haas machining centre and ITC’s 3081 radius end mill for profiling the thumb wheels has reduced the cycle time to 45 seconds, a 75% cycle time improvement. Likewise, the three-flute, 20 mm diameter 3051 series with 0.5 mm radius, and the 10 mm diameter 3041 series with 3 mm radius, have both made similar improvements on a scope stand project while generating excellent surface finishes.”
Referring to this influx of ITC products, Nibbs continues: “The rifles consist of over 30 major components and a huge variety of smaller parts. There is a complete range of rifle variants with three different stock configurations for a multitude of action types, and then surface finish options and colours.”
For profiling stainless steel components, Robert Nibbs has introduced ITC’s 4777 solid-carbide end mills in 10 and 16 mm diameters. With regard to hole-making, the Widia VDS series of drills has been successfully implemented in combination with the TTMM range of ITC mini thread mills.

“I’ve not had any ITC tools that haven’t achieved what the engineers have said they would do,” says Nibbs. “As a small business owner, I don’t have time to endlessly trial new tools in the hope of achieving success, so the recommendations and results of ITC tools have been invaluable. In just 12 months, I have changed out the majority of tooling and ITC now supplies almost 90% of our tools. This is down to the results and the service, support and technical solutions that have improved the productivity of my business by at least 30% in the past year.”
Producing more than 50 rifles each year that are accurate up to 2000 yards (1829 m), Nibbs says the rifles are instruments of true precision: “During my professional career, I spent 40 hours training every week. It is the years of training and a lifetime spent working with rifles that sets my business and products apart and puts them in the very top echelon of the market. A precision rifle is all about balance, not weight; the balance and the recoil action are what sets high-end rifles apart. Controlling the recoil action and efficiently using the energy expended from the action to benefit the user is all about the application of physics. To continually develop and enhance rifles is something that requires considerable design and development effort. By introducing ITC to my business and reducing my production times, I now have more time to spend on designing and trialling new components and techniques.”
For further information www.itc-ltd.co.uk

The power of a positive partnership

GF Machining Solutions has supplied Renault F1 Team with two bespoke five-axis machining centres for the accurate and safe machining of epoxy resin patterns, carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) parts and Rohacell foam core components.

To cope with the different demands of machining composite materials, both machines were significantly modified and supplied with integrated, high-efficiency extraction systems, as well as fully enclosed and sealed working areas. The machine modifications were implemented seamlessly as part of the long-standing technical partnership agreement that exists between the two companies.
The two Mikron HPM 1350U machines have been installed at Renault F1 Team’s manufacturing facility in Enstone, Oxfordshire, within the team’s expanding Composites Department. Both machines were acquired, initially, to machine high-precision patterns (made from epoxy resin tooling board), which are used to make moulds for CFRP body parts.
However, owing to the machines’ versatility and performance attributes, the HPM 1350Us are also being used (now) to machine carbon inserts, and Rohacell foam (used as a structural filler to strengthen CFRP parts), as well as a range of jigs and fixtures.
The decision to invest in the two Mikron HPM 1350U machines was made as a direct result of accuracy issues being experienced in Renault F1 Team’s Composites Department, and the inability of existing equipment to meet increasingly stringent part precision requirements.
Explains Renault F1 Team’s composites manager Keith Dunsby: “We are committed to continuous improvement and striving for excellence. So, when it became apparent to us in 2016 that two of our machines were not able to meet the accuracy and repeatability requirements demanded by our design engineers, we acted quickly to rectify the situation.

“Since being installed, the machines have been working around the clock – including at weekends – and haven’t missed a beat. From struggling to hit 0.5 mm positional accuracies previously, we are now, since investing in the HPM 1350U machines, achieving 0.1 mm accuracies or better.”
The working envelope of the HPM 1350U machines (1350 x 1150 x 700 mm) enables Renault F1 Team to machine a majority (up to 60%) of these parts. For larger components, like the car chassis itself or a rear crash structure, Renault F1 Team relies on big gantry-type machines with a 4 x 3 m working area.
Renault F1 Team has a long-established technical partnership agreement with GF Machining Solutions. The partnership has been instrumental in Renault F1 Team investing, over recent years, in a number of AgieCharmilles wire and die-sink EDM machines, and Mikron five-axis machining centres. To address the accuracy issues being experienced in the Composites Department it was therefore natural that Renault F1 Team first approached GF Machining Solutions.
Explains Richard Ferguson, Renault F1 Team’s composites supervisor: “This was, to all intents and purposes, a different requirement in that previously, the Mikron machines acquired for the machine shop were for machining metal components. We explained the issues and our requirements to GF Machining Solutions and they recommended the HPM 1350U machines for their size, power, versatility and performance, but with a number of significant modifications to make them more suitable for machining composite parts.”
These modifications included the integration of a high-efficiency extraction system
on the table of the machines.
“Machining carbon fibre composites and Rohacell foam essentially creates a significant amount of dust,” says Ferguson. “This dust needs to be removed quickly and safely from the interior of the machine and the wider machining area and environment. Positioning the extraction units on the tables delivered an effective and optimal solution.”
The modifications to the HPM 1350U machines also included the removal of the swarf conveyors, enclosing the Y-axes and providing additional guarding to prevent dust ingress and escape. A final modification on both machines was the inclusion and integration of the more advanced Renishaw RMP600 – a compact workpiece probing system featuring radio signal transmission which, working in conjunction with Renault F1 Team’s MSP software, ensures improved process reliability, faster and more accurate set-ups, and reduced scrap.
Says Dunsby: “The customisation of the HPM 1350 machines demonstrates the power of the positive partnership, and the way in which specific needs can be quickly addressed and solved through collaboration, and by thinking outside the box.”

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18.
Japanese Grand Prix, Friday 5th October 2018. Suzuka, Japan.

The HPM 1350U machines’ arrival has enabled the Composites Department to improve its own productivity, as well as having a direct and positive impact on Renault F1 Team’s performance. The team finished fourth in the 2018 season’s Constructors’ Championship – two places higher than in 2017.
“Our HPM 1350U machines are reliable high-performance machines,” concludes Dunsby. “They are equipped with high-torque spindles that enable us to ramp-up feed rates and achieve big depths of cut which, as a result, have helped us improve our productivity levels, reduce part cycle times and meet tight lead times.
“The configuration of the machines also has a positive impact on productivity [and accuracy] as complex and intricate parts can be machined in fewer set-ups using 3+2 and full simultaneous five-axis machining operations,” he continues. “Although initially acquired to machine bodywork patterns, the machines’ versatility and all-round performance has meant that they are being used to machine a wide range and variety of parts, which has clearly resulted in a better ROI than was originally imagined.”
For further information www.gfms.com

True to form

A global industrial high-shear mixing solutions specialist has selected advanced EDM technology from GF Machining Solutions. Silverson Machines, based in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, has recently invested in two new state-of-the-art die-sink EDM machines.

The machines, AgieCharmilles Form P 600 models, were installed in Silverson’s production facility last year and are being used, primarily, to machine complex, high-precision rotor/stator workheads; integral components used in the company’s best-selling high-shear industrial mixers.
For over 60 years Silverson has been at the forefront of industrial mixing technology and innovation, supplying standard products that include laboratory scale mixers and assemblies, pilot scale mixers, batch mixers, in-line mixers, powder/liquid mixing systems and bottom-entry mixers, as well as customised and turnkey system solutions, to a growing global customer base.
Silverson products are used and specified by customers operating in a number of processing and manufacturing industries, such as food processing, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, lube oils and petrochemicals. Customers in over 150 countries are currently on the books at Silverson and, to service and support this base, the firm operates a network of associated companies, distributors and agents in more than 50 countries.
The company’s mixing systems and solutions help customers reduce process times by as much as 90% in some instances. In addition to delivering a distinct speed advantage, Silverson’s mixing systems are said to be inherently versatile and cost-effective, with one mixing machine being able to perform a range of different operations like blending, emulsifying, disintegrating, reducing particle sizes and gelling. Such versatility is achieved by the incorporation of interchangeable workheads.

Silverson workheads are precision machined units that are manufactured in different sizes and have different designs and configurations depending on their function and end use application. Workheads are made from 316L stainless steel but, for special purpose applications, titanium and exotic alloys such as Hastelloy can also be used. The workheads feature a number of integral components, such as rotor blades, and circular stators and screens with different-shaped holes, apertures, slots or perforations.
EDM spark erosion technology is deployed by the company to machine its stators and screens.
The two new Form P 600 machines have replaced two older RoboForm die-sink EDM machines purchased from GF Machining Solutions some years ago. Silverson’s latest machines provide the company with improved productivity and performance, and are equipped with sophisticated digital generators and feature a number of on-board smart technologies that help Silverson achieve higher part accuracies, improved surface finishes, reduced cycle times, reduced electrode wear and greater process reliability.
Says Alan Pepper, head of manufacturing at Silverson Machines: “We regularly invest in new advanced machine tool technologies as a route to improving our performance and competitiveness. EDM is a mainstream manufacturing technology for us, and has been for some time. However, to meet the growing global demand for our industrial mixers and optimise the machining of sophisticated next-generation workheads, it became evident that we needed to strengthen, and make further investment in our spark erosion capacity and capabilities.”
Silverson has a long-established relationship with GF Machining Solutions and, in addition to investing in AgieCharmilles EDM die-sinking machines, has also purchased two Mikron vertical machining centres from the company in the past.
Says Pepper: “Having talked to GF Machining Solutions about our immediate and future requirements, we were introduced to the new Form P die-sink machines.
We were particularly interested the performance of the new machines’ ISPG generators and IQ technology, supplied
as standard on the machines.”
The Intelligent Speed Power Generators (ISPG) in the Form P 600 machines are said to deliver improved surface quality, material removal and accuracy. As a result of using this technology, electrode wear is reduced during roughing and finishing operations, irrespective of whether copper or graphite electrodes are used.
The Innovative Quality (IQ) technology from GF Machining Solutions has been designed to reduce, and in some cases completely eliminate, electrode wear when using graphite or copper electrodes. This technology helps manufacturers improve their productivity by reducing job set-up times and facilitates improved machine utilisation. In addition, IQ lowers costs by reducing the number of electrodes required.

“Since being installed, the Form P 600 machines have been working around the clock,” states Pepper.
“We are particularly pleased with the low electrode wear and are impressed by the speed of the machines and their ability to produce repeatable, high-quality burr-free slots and perforations.”
In the recent past, prior to investing in spark erosion machines from GF Machining Solutions, Silverson manufactured its workhead components using a combination of turning and welding technologies. Screens, which were bought-in, were made from fine metal mesh and welded to the turned machined stator. This process created a number of issues. The weld lines were not aesthetically pleasing and created potential weak spots and contamination areas in
the workhead.
The use of spark erosion machine tools in conjunction with copper and graphite electrodes has enabled Silverson to simplify and optimise its manufacturing processes, and achieve improved accuracies, reduced cycle times and costs.
For further information www.gfms.com

Schunk has fingerprint in automotive industry

With its additively manufactured gripper fingers, Schunk has opened a new chapter of online sales in the field of mechanical and plant engineering. Automotive supplier ROS from Coburg uses the Schunk eGRIP 3D design tool for diverse robot handling in assembly systems.

Just a few clicks are sufficient to upload the STEP or STL data, design the finger and trigger the order for the additively manufactured components. What sounds simple in theory is apparently also simple in practice. Christopher Lamprecht, production planner at the manufacturing facility of ROS, comes to this conclusion: “With just a little bit of background information on CAD, the program is very easy to use. It is ultimately a great modular design. You upload the STEP model, align it in the X, Y and Z directions, rotate the part how you want to grip it and then the fingers are automatically adjusted. It really is child’s play.”
Comparable with an online photo service, the operator configures the required gripper fingers by means of a few specifications with regards to material, gripper type, installation position and finger length. Once the basic information has been entered, the tool shows the delivery date and the exact price. Upon changing the material, the price changes automatically, making it very easy to compare the available materials with one another. Using a volume-based price model, Schunk can pass the cost benefits of cumulative production directly on to its customers: the smaller the volume, the more affordable the fingers.
With around 300 employees, ROS GmbH develops and manufactures precise tools and assembly systems at its Coburg and Ummerstadt plants for the production of functional and aesthetic plastic parts. In the field of seat systems, ROS provides a comprehensive portfolio of components for headrests and seat adjustments. Worldwide, in virtually all cars in the premium segment, guide bushings are fitted by ROS to lock the headrests.
ROS is extremely open to technologies like Schunk eGRIP. In two assembly plants for a Bavarian car maker, the company fully used the potential of the 3D design tool for the first time. Within two weeks, the additively manufactured gripper fingers were on Lamprecht’s table – additively manufactured, complete with the contour specified by him. Almost 20 different module variants are produced on the two fully automatic machines. Each achieves an output of several hundred parts per hour, so it is worthwhile if the gripper fingers are designed so universally that no conversion is required.

“By being able to additively manufacture the fingers, we always have the same gripper by which we can cover all variants,” says Lamprecht. “I don’t have to change any mountings and have neither maintenance nor retrofitting work. This is a huge advantage.
“All in all, the online tool has saved a great deal of work in device construction,” he continues. “From developing the idea, to the first tests, milling operations and co-ordination, two days would certainly have been needed. However, with eGRIP, the effort was half an hour maximum. When the fingers were delivered, they worked straight away. You mount the jaws, teach in your point, close them and that’s it.”
The effect of the world’s first online shop for individually designed gripper fingers is impressive. According to Schunk’s estimates, it enables the design time for gripper fingers to be reduced by up to 97%, while the production and delivery time is reduced by up to 88%. In addition, finger price is reduced by up to 50%.
Some eight to 10 different sleeve variants can today be produced for each machine: for this, the guide bushings are separated on one linear unit and delivered suspended. A camera records the rotational position and transfers the values to the robot, which grips and places the sleeve so that it is precisely aligned on the rotary table using a multi-tooth guided Schunk PGN-plus 64 universal gripper. At each station, springs, buttons and caps are then assembled. A second robot, which is also fitted with a Schunk PGN-plus gripper, serves to discharge NIO parts. In this way, secure access must be ensured, regardless of which components were fitted before and which ones were not. The gripper jaws of the two Yaskawa robots used differ accordingly.
So that the material of the gripper fingers can be precisely adjusted for the specific application, there are three materials on offer from Schunk eGRIP. Stainless steel fingers with a material density of 8 g/cm3, a tensile strength of
700 N/mm2, an elasticity modulus of 190 kN/mm2, an elongation at fracture of 34% and a tolerance of ±0.1 mm (coating thickness 30 µm) or ±0.2 mm (coating thickness 50 µm) are primarily suitable for sophisticated applications in machine manufacturing.

Fingers made of aluminum (AlSi10Mg) or polyamide 12 show their strengths primarily in dynamic assembly applications. The latter, with a density of barely 0.9 g/cm3, are extremely lightweight, resistant to chemicals, suitable for use with food products and can additionally be used reliably in connection with cooling lubricants and aggressive media. Schunk also offers top jaws made of FDA-approved polyamide 12 (PA 2201), specially for use in the pharmaceutical and medical sector.
For Lamprecht, the polyamide fingers also offer additional benefits: “While until now conventionally manufactured aluminum fingers had been used, we chose polyamide for the additively produced fingers. This will ensure that the sleeves are handled carefully.”
Looking forward, he sees excellent implementation possibilities for the 3D printed fingers: “When we have to tightly grip difficult parts in the future, we will certainly use eGRIP again.”
For further information www.schunk.com