Autosport manufacturing made easy

6 min read

Complex parts, tight tolerances, difficult materials? Nothing a trip to Autosport 2012 won't resolve. Steed Webzell previews the main attractions

On 12-13 January 2012, Autosport Engineering (part of Autosport International) will take place at the NEC in Birmingham. Featuring around 250 exhibitors of manufacturing equipment, all claiming to improve the production of motorsport parts, the show is regarded as the sector's most important manufacturing technology event. Among the returning exhibitors to the show in 2012 is long-term Vodafone McLaren Mercedes supplier Yamazaki Mazak UK (01905 755755). "Autosport Engineering is a very important show for Mazak and we have a long history of supplying machines to the sector," says Tony Saunders, UK sales director at Yamazaki Mazak. "The 2011 event was very successful for us. Crucially, the number of stand visitors increased on the previous year." Yamazaki Mazak will bring its new Integrex i-400 S to Autosport Engineering 2012, a high capacity version of the Integrex i-series of machines, offering full 5-axis machining and capable, in conjunction with the second spindle, of true 'done-in-one' machining. The machine offers a 1,500 mm bed, a maximum machining diameter of 658 mm and a machining length of up to 1,519 mm. Image: The Integrex i-400 S The main spindle has a maximum speed of 3,300 rpm, while the secondary spindle is capable of 4,000 rpm. During the course of the show, the Integrex i-400 S will be performing live cutting demonstrations of a front upright component for a UB Racing Formula Student car. UB Racing is the Formula Student racing team from the University of Birmingham that competes in Formula Student UK and Formula Student Germany, and which is supported by Mazak. Haas Automation (01603 760539) is another machine tool supplier that has confirmed its return to Autosport. "Even though Autosport International is not a dedicated machine tool event, our presence in 2011 was very successful," says Tim Hately, business development director at Haas Automation. "The stand was continuously busy for the two-day show and even just before closing time we still had potential customers looking at the machines." Haas will be taking an ST-30 turning centre, which is being exhibited in the UK for the first time at Autosport. The machine, designed to provide heavy cutting ability, rigidity and high thermal stability, is suitable for refinishing the rims of alloy wheels – a growing market in the UK. It has a maximum cutting capacity of 533 by 660 mm, with maximum swings of 806 mm over the front apron and 527 mm over the cross-slide. Haas will also take the 2012 version of its VF-2TR 5-axis machining centre and two other models, yet to be decided. Fellow machine tool specialist XYZ Machine Tools (01823 674200) will use Autosport to showcase a variable speed (40-5,000 rpm) XYZ ProtoTrak SMX 3500 bed mill; a 50-4,000 rpm XYZ ProTurn SLX 355 lathe; a 5,000 rpm Compact Turn 52 turning centre; and a 5-8,000 rpm XYZ 710 VMC vertical machining centre. The two ProtoTrak-equipped CNC/manual machine tools feature the latest generation version of this control, while the full-CNC CT 52 and 710 VMC are equipped with the new Siemens 828D conversational control. Featuring ShopMill/ShopTurn sequence programming, the Siemens 828D CNC can be programmed without any 'G code' knowledge. Programming via CADCAM is also possible, of course. Image: XYZ's 710 VMC will be on show Datron Technology (01908 261655) is likely to promote its new M10 Pro, which heralds a new generation of high speed milling machines – it's the fastest in the range to date, with traverse times up to 43 m/min. Image: The M10 Pro heralds a new generation of high speed milling machines, says Datron The machine's new HSC Pro control system delivers up to 40,000 rpm on the machine's 3 kW spindle with spindle power optimisation and HSK toolholding technology providing concentricity levels better than 2 micron. Coupled with significant software enhancements, the new high power AC servo control system ensures a fast drive interface, thereby allowing the M10 Pro to cut quicker and increase production capability. Technology enhancements also ensure that, even delivering more power, the three-phase M10 Pro is economical to run, costing of less than £5 per day. HIGH SPEED, 5-AXIS Another machine tool specialist, Hurco Europe (01494 442222), will promote new technology, such as its BX30U machining centre – a high speed, 5-axis machining centre of bridge-type design boasting an 18,000 rpm spindle and 40 m/min rapids. The machine's integrated trunnion table provides good part clearances and large part capacity, while the Hurco control powered by WinMax software has 5-axis features that simplify complexity in motorsport machining applications. Moving to workholding technology, Roemheld UK (0121 453 1414) will be launching the very latest additions to its 5-axis vices and zero point mounting ranges at Autosport 2012. Visitors to the company's stand will see a selection of new workholding solutions, such as the flagship Hilma KC100 5-axis vice. This combines all the features of the SCS vice range with the added advantage of round carbide inserts, which enable concentric components to be gripped in the same vice. Also on display will be a new, fast-closing zero point mounting system that simply clicks into place and holds immediately; making it suitable for use within an automated cell. The Stark Speedy 'easy click' is a mechanical, fast closing clamp that engages without the application of any force and which holds immediately. Release is also quick, at 0.1 seconds. A number of subcontract machining companies specialising in the motorsport sector will also be in attendance at the show and among their number will figure Rodmatic (01189 596969), which will be running machining demonstrations from its stand. Rodmatic, based in Reading, close to the heart of UK motorsport engineering, has the installed capability of providing CADCAM and toolmaking, as well as prototype, small batch production (including ramp-up and ramp-down), spares manufacture and assembly. In place at the 30,000 ft² facility in Reading are 50 machine tools, including CNC sliding-headstock, sliding-head and fixed-head turn-mill centres, wire EDM, programmable cleaning and 38 multi-spindle automatic lathes. There will also be many manufacturing companies at Autosport specialising in gear production. Mini Gears (0161 432 0222), for example, is a Stockport-based subcontract manufacturer of gears, racks and machined parts. Having purchased a Hoefler Helix 400K CNC gear grinder to extend its production capability, Mini Gears has turned its focus to providing precision ground gears to the trade in the motorsport industry. Exhibiting at Autosport in 2011 proved to be a good platform to launch Mini Gears into this market, gaining seven new customers in the process. Among the components that Mini Gears is now manufacturing as a result of Autosport 2011 are gear and rack replacement parts for steering systems for TVR, plus steering racks for a number of customers, ranging from the latest racing series through to classic cars where parts are no longer available. The company has reverse engineered various gears for the T-Type gearbox, and is also manufacturing flywheels for a British sports car manufacturing company. This new market is fitting in well with Mini Gears' production, as the company, in order not to disrupt regular work on its turning and milling machines, recently purchased two XYZ CNC turning and milling machines to make lower volume production batches and prototyping for all aspects of the motorsport industry. The company has also ordered a new Gleason 350 GMS CNC gear checking machine, due for delivery in March 2012. Another specialist in this area is RT Quaife Engineering (01732 741144), which can boast three significant new transmission launches. Quaife's plan is to run a dedicated trade stand in the prestigious 'Engineering' section of the show and augment this with a display in the main section of Autosport International, thus providing four days of continuous cover. "We felt that this was the best method of providing an unbeatable presence for a wide variety of different requirements, covering specialist small volume and general business customers," says Quaife director Sharon Quaife-Hobbs. Plans for Quaife's dual stands are still being finalised, but the firm is anticipating an exciting debut at the show – its first seven-speed motorsport transmission unit, an enhanced derivative of Quaife's QBE60G in-line rear wheel drive gearbox. The seven ratios are designed to deliver optimum gearing for heavily tuned, high revving engines often used in rear wheel drive/front-engine sports cars. The new gearbox – carrying part number QBE89G – features a lightweight alloy two piece casing, ultra-close gear ratios and full paddle shift compatibility. MEASURED PERFORMANCE In a precision-fuelled industry such as motorsport, there will be plenty of measurement innovations on display. Renishaw (01453 524524), for example, is likely to present the PH20 5-axis touch trigger system for co-ordinate measuring machines (CMMs), which increases touch trigger probing throughput up to three times, using fast, infinite, rotary positioning and innovative 'head touch' capability for high speed point capture. The PH20 uses two axes of head motion to minimise CMM movement and associated dynamic errors at higher measurement speeds. Its 'inferred calibration' feature determines head orientation and probe position in a single operation, eliminating the need for calibration at each orientation. Renishaw is also expected to highlight its certified CMM retrofit service to upgrade existing machines to state-of-the-art capabilities, including REVO 5-axis high speed scanning. The retrofit programme applies to all brands of machines. Box item Cross-over printer A significant trend in motorsport at the moment is the growing uptake of rapid manufacturing technologies. With this in mind, Laser Lines (01295 672500) will be promoting the new Stratasys Fortus 250 mc cross-over 3D printer. This machine combines the ease-of-use and affordability of Stratasys' Dimension 3D printers with the control of Insight Software used to drive the Fortus line of production 3D printers. With Insight, users will have added control of build speed, part accuracy and feature detail. Like all Stratasys additive manufacturing systems, the Fortus 250mc is based on the Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) process. "The engineers interested in this new product will likely be traditional 3D printer candidates who want more sophisticated build-parameter control," says product manager Mary Stanley. "Users are moving beyond prototyping into production with their additive manufacturing machines. The most common manufacturing application is to build functioning manufacturing tools, like jigs and fixtures used in the production process." The Fortus 250mc has a 254 by 254 by 305 mm build envelope and offers three build layer options: 0.178, 0.254 and 0.330 mm First published in Machinery, December 2011