Racing to success

Uploaded 15 Jun @ 14:14pm

As a subcontract motorsport machine shop, Silverstone-based Alitech Precision is a company that is rapidly evolving and this is credit to its aggressive investment programme, enthusiasm and love for all things motorsport.

Since its inception little over three years ago, the company has purchased three Haas machining centres, Open Mind CAM software, a simultaneous 5-axis Spinner machining centre and cutting tools from Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC). Like any subcontract business in its infancy, the team at Alitech Precision has acquired its machine tools and peripheral equipment based on expert advice, trial and error, conferring with customers and competitors alike, as well as personal experiences.

It is these factors among others that led the Northamptonshire business to implement hyperMILL CAM software, the Spinner U-620 5-axis machine and solid carbide cutting tools from ITC. While the ‘design to manufacture’ subcontractor uses cutting tools from a variety of suppliers, it is ITC that has stood out for special tools and end mills for machining steel components.

The relationship between Alitech and ITC started just over 18 months ago when the Alitech team encountered tool life and performance issues with an existing tooling vendor when machining steel. The Alitech engineers were exercising a ‘trial and error’ process that was proving fruitless.

Despite the company name being a major clue to the fact that Alitech primarily machines aluminium, the company frequently produces towing eyes for race cars and bonding brackets for CFRP from EN24 steel. Commenting on the intervention of ITC, Alitech Precision Senior 5-axis Programmer, Charlie Watts, says: “The ITC engineer came in and trialled the four-flute 4081 Cyber Series of solid carbide end mills. The results were remarkable. After undertaking so many trials with a multitude of cutting tool suppliers, we were always going to be a little sceptical of any tooling engineer that came through the door. However, ITC offered a level of expertise and advice that included intuitively optimising the speed and feed parameters of the 4081 Series. This delivered really impressive results.”

Since the initial trial success, Alitech has now widely implemented the ITC 4081 Series for steel jobs and titanium parts, purchasing 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16 and 20 mm diameter end mills. The 4081 Series is an AlTiN coated four-flute solid carbide end mill with a harmonic flute geometry that provides excellent swarf evacuation. This is credit to the radical unequal spacing on right-hand helix flutes that deliver exceptional stability and metal removal rates. While the flute spacing of the 4081 Series significantly reduces machining noise by eliminating the harmonic effect, it is the small corner radius, innovative geometry design and sub-micron grade carbide composition that makes the 4081 Series a market leading tool for the efficient machine of difficult to cut steels and titanium alloys.

With regard to machining performance on aluminium, Alitech is more than happy with its existing vendors. However, when it came to the profile machining of deep port pockets, it was ITC that stepped up to the challenge with its lollipop cutters. The majority of projects undertaken by Alitech involve the complex simultaneous 5-axis machining of parts such as billet inlet manifolds, valve seats, inlet port heads, billet turbo manifolds and much more. Reaching deep into ports is a complex challenge for the machine tool kinematics, the CAM software, the cutting tools and toolholding. At the sharp edge is the ITC 4101 Series of lollipop end mills that permit Alitech to reach surfaces around corners and deep inside manifold ports.

About these daily challenges Managing Director, Darren Cudd, says: “We recently machined a billet turbo manifold for a motorsport customer that required two 40 mm diameter oval shaped port holes with a curved machining depth beyond 200 mm. We used an 8 mm diameter ITC lollipop cutter necked to 5 mm that was protruding 70 mm out of a slim 80 mm heat-shrink toolholder extension with a 75 mm long back-end configuration. The first concern is the collision detection when machining inside deep bores. The second issue on this job was whether we would achieve the desired surface finish with such a long tool protrusion. However, the rigidity and geometry of the ITC lollipop tools ensure we attain an exceptional surface finish while machining at extremely productive speed and feed parameters.”

Further reading: www.itc-ltd.co.uk

 

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