It seems that we are all buying new vehicles again, which comes as some relief to the automotive sector. According the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 19.9 per cent more new cars were registered in the UK during the first six months of 2010 than in the corresponding period last year. Similarly, light and commercial vehicles (LCVs) were up 14.1 per cent.
With similar patterns reported across Europe and the rest of the world, suppliers of manufacturing technologies to the automotive sector are rejoicing. At Scania's truck plant in Södertälje, Sweden, for example, a new V8 engine has driven demand for new Magnus machining centres from MAG (0121 306 5600), fitted with Series 31i-A CNCs and drives from Fanuc (01895 634182). The new CNC machining centres are used in the production of cylinder heads and cylinder blocks.
Rolf Johansson, project manager at Scania, takes up the story. "Fanuc helped a great deal by working closely with us to specify the requirements of the two production lines. They produced a 'project book', which defined the CNC and drives that the machines would need and how they would be used to control each machine and the transportation of parts between them."
Scania then took its specifications to four machine tool builders in Germany, a quotation process that took about 12 months, particularly asking for Fanuc controls and drives to be quoted. Eventually a decision was made to opt for a solution provided by MAG, based on the company's Magnus machining centres. Each cylinder head passes through eight twin-spindle MAG horizontal machining centres on the line, with each machining cycle taking less than one minute: three machining centres are paired with three others at one stage for parallel operation to avoid bottlenecks. The new V8 cylinder block line, with a further 12 MAG machining centres and 12 Fanuc Series 31i-A CNCs, is planned to go into full production shortly.
Moving down the supply chain, ZF Lenksysteme of Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, manufactures steering mechanisms for passenger and utility vehicles.
For pinion production, the company is today placing its trust in the TENDOturn hydraulic expansion toolholder from Schunk (01908 611127). The company previously clamped its cutting tool with a standard ER collet tightened using an oversized spanner wrench, a method that often failed to give fast, accurate tool clamping. The company says, in comparison, using the Schunk TENDOturn is "child's play".
Image: ZF Lenksysteme of Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, says the Schunk TENDOturn is "child's play"
Using a Gildemeister CTX 400 series CNC universal lathe (DMG 01582 570661), a robot loads and unloads a steering pinion every 30 seconds.
Image: Steering pinions - Schunk toolholding is driving up productivity and quality
"Rejects have been reduced by switching over to the hydraulic expansion holder from Schunk. In addition, we have increased the feed from 0.08 to 0.15 mm. This way, we save around 50 per cent machining time. At the same time, we also achieve a much better surface quality and profit from the prolonged service life of our tools," says Dionys Müller, NC programming and planning operator.
Retaining the theme of steering components, Adwest Engineering Ltd (AEL) near Reading has boosted the quality assurance of both its manual and power-assist steering gears with the installation of PC-2200 flexible electronic/air columns from Bowers Metrology (01274 223456). The advanced new columns from Bowers are capable of operating with both air gauging products and measuring probes, and contain a multitude of measuring functions, including static and dynamic gauging, classification grading mode and probe mixing capability.
Image: PC-2200 flexible electronic/air columns from Bowers Metrology, at Adwest
One of its PC-2200 units is employed to measure the critical clearance between the rotor and sleeve components that are part of the valve assembly delivering power assistance within Land Rover and Bentley steering units – machine operators are able to take all of the necessary measurements within the cycle time of the production machines.
Also keen on new metrology investment is Saarstahl AG. Based in southwest Germany, the company needed to measure carbide rings manufactured for an automotive customer. The rings are manufactured on a new VSC 400DS turn/grind centre from EMAG (01902 376090). Previously, every ring was measured offline after machining, using a height measuring device – a complex and time consuming task.
Image: Blum probes are saving time at Saarstahl AG
A design engineer from EMAG proposed the use of a TC76 probe system from Blum-Novotest (01543 257111), which is designed specially to measure workpieces and tools in turning and grinding machines. The higher measuring speed with the Blum probe (up to 2 m/min) has reduced the measuring process time by 40 per cent.
Remaining in Germany, this time in the heart of the country at Thuringia, DECS GmbH is a specialist in the design and manufacture of interior and exterior trim composite components for the automotive industry. Reference customers include Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche.
Its latest project is the Artega GT high performance sports car. Within the framework of this project, DECS GmbH has contributed the manufacture of the front bonnet, tailgate and roof. One example of process optimisation involves the use of gantry milling machines from Huber & Grimme (+49 082 4196080), which are equipped with two shaft spindles and tandem worktables for multi-axis part trimming. Once the body panels are removed from the tool, they are placed on to jigs and fixtures for part trimming and additional CAM operations.
All 5-axis operations are now programmed using VISI from Vero Software (01242 542040) and posted for use with a Siemens (0161 446 5731) 840D controller. VISI was installed originally to solve a problem that involved the trimming of plastic parts with undercut positions that could not be processed using water jet.
Image: The Artega GT high performance sports car
"One major advantage of VISI is the ability to constantly switch between solid and surface technologies," says managing director Ulrich Krämer. "This is vitally important and allows us to follow a flexible design path."
CADCAM is also helping Canadian automotive giant Magna Advanced Technologies, in the form of PowerSHAPE design and PowerMILL CAM software from Delcam (0121 683 1000). "The automotive market has always been tough and, in the past couple of years, it's become even tougher. Companies throughout the industry, Magna included, are looking to conserve capital expenditure, where possible. We need our programs and processes to run as fast as possible to ensure that we maintain our competitive edge," says Durward Smith, director of Magna's facility in Aurora, Ontario. Magna purchased PowerSHAPE and PowerMILL to save time and money by making parts faster, better and less expensively.
Image: Delcam CADCAM software is also helping Canadian automotive giant Magna Advanced Technologies
"It's really easy with PowerSHAPE and PowerMILL to just go back and forth between them, for example, when I'm machining a part and want to cover up holes and extend surfaces," says project leader Paul Miranda.
"I'm also able to quickly export the results from PowerMILL to Vericut [CG Tech, 01273 773538] to check for any sign of collisions and make sure I don't have any accidents on the machine."
First published in Machinery, November 2010