Taking place on 13-16 January at the Birmingham NEC, the annual Autosport International show is a not-to-be-missed event for anyone with an interest in motorsport. The exhibition benefits from the emergence of Autosport Engineering, a dedicated trade show, which itself incorporates Manufacturing Technology (13-14 January), an associated and co-located event aimed at production engineers working in the motorsport sector.
Among the machine tool suppliers present will be Yamazaki Mazak (stand E1328, 01905 755755), a company with a long history of providing machines to the motorsport sector, including some 12 years as an official supplier to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Mazak will showcase its new Integrex j series multi-tasking machine, with the aim of bringing the benefits of multi-tasking to a wider motorsport sub-contracting audience, in particular those who continue to use conventional machining equipment, such as driven tool lathes.
Image: Mazak will be showing how to reduce process steps, with its Integrex j
Mazak says the Integrex j can reduce a two-machine process to a one-machine operation, with consequent reductions in the number of operators required and the amount of programming involved. The use of a single machine also has accuracy benefits, with no manual handling of components.
For complex motorsport parts heavy on prismatic features, visitors to Autosport will also be interested in Haas Automation (stand E920, 01603 760539), where making its debut UK appearance will be the new 2011 VF-2TR 5-axis vertical machining centre.
Image: Haas' VF-2TR trunnion machine allows 5-axis machining of complex multi-sided parts in a single set-up
Haas says the new VF-2TR trunnion machine allows 5-axis machining of complex multi-sided parts in a single set-up, thus reducing set-up time and increasing accuracy. The machine features a Haas TR-160 dual-axis trunnion table-mounted to the standard T-slot table, to provide 5-axis simultaneous motion or position a workpiece to nearly any angle.
XYZ Machine Tools (stand E1320, 01823 674200) will also be hoping to capture the attention of production engineers at the show, where two of the three machines on display – an XYZ ProTurn SLX 425 gap bed CNC/manual lathe and a variable speed head ProtoTrak SMX 3500 CNC/manual bed mill – are equipped with the ProtoTrak control. According to XYZ, the beauty of ProtoTrak is that there are no codes to learn, because programming needs only a response to simple English language prompts, with the added reassurance that manual control can be assumed at any time. The third machine on the stand at Autosport will be an XYZ 710 VMC, featuring the latest generation Siemens 828D control.
Image: XYZ Machine Tools' XYZ ProTurn SLX 425 gap bed CNC/manual lathe
CUTTING A DASH
New cutting tool innovations will also be evident at the show. For instance, with the increasing use of composites, such as carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) within the motorsport sector, Seco (stand E928, 01789 764341) will be hoping to offer some relief via a new range of tooling designed specifically for machining these advanced materials.
Image: Jabro routers, from Seco Tools, are aimed at composite machining
The new line of Jabro routers features five solid carbide styles with cylindrical shank diameters that range from 3.0 to 20.0 mm. Each of the routers features a DURA high performance CVD diamond coating, which is thicker than traditional CVD coatings to provide an enhanced thermal and abrasive barrier when machining composite components.
Another cutting tool supplier, ITC (stand E639, 01827 304500), will use Autosport as a platform to introduce a number of PCD and carbide tooling innovations specifically for the motorsport industry. For the machining of graphite, metal matrix, composites, Kevlar and carbon fibre, ITC will show its Cyber 2151 series, which is an extension of the 2111 series high performance two-flute PCD end mill, with a solid carbide shank and necking for extra reach.
For aluminium machining, ITC offers the Hanita AluSurf solid carbide cutters, which utilise innovative flute geometry to generate efficient chip evacuation without chatter.
Image: Hanita AluSurf solid carbide cutters, from ITC
Helping to optimise cutter toolpaths, CAM specialist Delcam (stand E933, 0121 683 1000) will launch the 2011 version of its PowerMill CAM system for 5-axis and high speed machining.
Delcam says that this release will make the programming of fast, but safe, toolpaths easier than ever, thanks to new stock-model-engagement options that protect both the cutting tool and the machine from excessive loading. The options to optimise tool loading will help overcome a constant conflict for CAM programmers: on the one hand, the need to maximise productivity by setting feed-rates as fast as their machines will allow; on the other hand, the requirement to ensure safe speeds that will not break the tool.
Image: Fast programming, courtesy of Delcam's PowerMill
From a workholding perspective, the complex features of motorsport parts often demand 5-axis vices and jaws, the latest offerings of which will be displayed by Roemheld (stand E1210G, 0121 453 1414). The KC100 5-axis vice system offers a universal clamping solution for 5-axis machines and reduces material wastage with its ability to grip on only 3 mm, with a clamping force of up to 25 kN.
Manufacturing motorsport parts is one thing; measuring them presents an entirely new set of challenges. One recent trend in motorsport is the increasing use of industrial CT (computed tomography) scanning, a process that uses x-ray technology to produce 3D representations of components externally and internally.
With this in mind, Wenzel (stand E926, 01452 728298) will launch a desktop version of the exaCT workstation at Autosport. It is compact in design and pitched at the volume measurement of small parts up to 60 mm in diameter and 40 mm in height. The system is complemented with Wenzel control and analysis software, as well as Wenzel Metrosoft Quartis dimensional control software. For more conventional measuring tasks, modern applications are moving towards portable, rather than fixed-bed, CMM technology. Here, Faro (stand E929, 02476 217690) will be hoping to continue this trend by enticing production engineers to consider its range of portable solutions, which at Autosport will include: the FaroArm Quantum, Platinum and Fusion; the Faro Laser ScanArm; the Faro Gage, Gage Plus and PowerGage; the Faro Laser Scanner Focus; and Faro CAM2 Q software. Benchtop vision-based systems are also proving cost effective and flexible alternatives to conventional CMMs, and Baty International (stand E946, 01444 235621) is hoping to exploit this by promoting its recently introduced Venture QC3 with 300 by 300 mm stage and 165 mm motorised Z-axis with automatic focus.
With traceability issues riding high on the list of quality priorities in motorsport, a number of laser marking systems will be present at the show, including those offered by Laser Lines (stand E449, 01295 672500). Systems such as the Ulyxe laser marking unit facilitate the permanent, direct part marking of almost all metals, plastics and composite materials.
Another supplier of laser marking technology, Electrox (stand E527, 01462 472400), will also be keen to promote its latest innovations. Among them is a new system for high accuracy marking of small items loaded in a jig. Titanium fasteners, such as those used commonly in motorsport, are among the target applications.
Geared up for victory
A newly installed Höfler Helix 400K gear grinding machine has completed the production capability for high performance gears at Stockport-based Mini Gears/Components Worldwide (stand E227, 0161 432 0222). Up until the mid-90s, when high insurance premiums curtailed the production of fast road cars, Mini Gears had been very successful in dealing with such companies as Lotus Cars, Cosworth, Rolls-Royce, McLaren and TVR.
Image: The Höfler Helix 400K gear grinding machine supports the production of high performance gears at Mini Gears
"We are approximately eight times bigger than when we originally did this work and, over the past three years, we have invested heavily in more specialised CNC equipment, including three Mazak Integrex 5-axis multi-tasking centres, to deal with lower volume batch production," explains chairman Paul Darwent.
To complete its production capability, the company has recently installed a Höfler Helix 400K with full CNC control for specialised gear grinding operations.
First published in Machinery, December 2010