Perfecting form and function

Somerset company is machining parts for an electric super-car that offers ‘outstanding performance’

Posted on 27 Jan 2018 and read 698 times
Perfecting form and functionYeovil-based Talon Engineering is renowned for its OEM after-market sprockets, hubs, wheels, clutch baskets and engine casings for the off-road motorcycle industry.

The company is also becoming a major player in the sub-contract machining sector, producing parts for a wide range of industries, including agriculture, rail, aerospace, marine and high-performance automotive.

With ‘preferred machining supplier’ status from near-neighbour Ariel Motor Co, Talon has already worked on several high-profile projects, such as the Ariel Ace motorcycle.

Now, it is heavily involved with machining a range of parts, as Ariel takes on the ‘super-car’ market with its Hipercar (High Performance Carbon Reduction) — ‘an ultra-high-performance range-extended electric sports car’ with a 750V 42kWhr (or 56kWhr) lithium-ion cooled and heated battery pack, which is charged (when required) by a 35kW micro-turbine range extender.

The Hipercar’s specification lives up to its name, with each wheel (in either two- or four-wheel drive) driven by an individual inboard electric motor via an integral single-speed step-down gearbox.

WNT 2With each motor developing 220kW (295bhp) and 450Nm (332ft-lb) of torque, the four-wheel drive variant has a power output of 880kW (1,180bhp), and similar astounding levels of torque — 9,900Nm (7,301ft-lb) at the wheels in four-wheel-drive trim.

This gives a 0-60mph time of 2.4sec, 0-100mph in 3.8sec and 0-150mph in just 7.8sec — plus a top speed of 160mph.

With this level of power and performance, any mechanical components must be machined to the highest standards, albeit with Ariel’s own idiosyncrasies built in.

Graham Alford, Talon Engineering’s operations director, said: “Following our work on earlier projects with Ariel, including the Ace and a special wheel project, the company has full confidence in our ability to deliver the quality it requires while meeting the time schedules specified.

“Because of the nature of development projects such as the Hipercar, design changes are frequent, and being geographically close to Ariel is a big help in that respect. Also playing an important role are our relationships with our machine and cutting-tool suppliers.”

Focus on tooling


The fast pace of projects such as Hipercar means that Talon needs tools to be available at short notice; by working with Sheffield-based WNT (www.wnt.com) — part of the Ceratizit Group — it has developed a standard list of tooling.

This includes HPC cutters and Type W Alu-line cutters, as well as WNT’s Centro P tool-holding system. Most of the cutting tools are held in WNT vending machines, which can hold up to three-months worth of stock, ensuring round-the-clock availability.

“We make our list of stock tooling available to our customers so that they can design parts around them, knowing that the tools will always be available.

We wouldn’t be without the vending machines now, they are integral to our business. Of course, when we need something not on our standard list, we know we can have it delivered by the following morning.

This makes working on projects straightforward, particularly as we also have the benefit of technical support from WNT’s Ian Tattersall and Vince Whitham.”

The components being machined by Talon for the Ariel Hipercar include wishbones, accelerator and brake pedals and associated assemblies, as well as handbrake and chassis brackets.

All these are quite challenging to machine, as they require a lot of 3-D milling.

WNT 3Furthermore, Ariel specifies visible feed marks as part of the design, and in some cases corner radii that resemble welds; this leads to some complex programming and a challenge for Talon process engineers Sandy Bradley and Sam Chinn.

Mr Bradley said: “Leaving feed marks goes against all normal machining principles. This requirement of Ariel started when we were machining the frame for the company’s Ace motorcycle.

“The experience gained on that project made this one a little easier, but we still needed to calculate the correct step-overs to, in effect, create a non-standard machined finish.”

However, the level of detail and the quality of the machining have been recognised, with Autocar magazine reporting that the suspension-system components produced by Talon “comprise some of the best-looking billet-machined and anodised unequal-length wishbones and uprights you will ever see”.

Machining techniques


As part of this project, and with the support of WNT, Talon has adopted new machining techniques, including a lot of trochoidal milling.

Mr Chinn said: “As this project moves forward into production, trochoidal milling will bring further advantages, as it reduces the stress and pressure on machine spindles.

WNT’s Mr Witham has worked with us on developing machining strategies and has acted as a fresh pair of eyes, seeing opportunities that we may have missed; he also stood by us on the ‘duckboard’ when we were taking first cuts. This level of support has allowed us to step out of our machining comfort zone.”

WNT 4In some respects, the complex work that Talon is producing for Ariel is ideally suited to five-axis machining, but it has taken the decision to use its three-axis vertical machining centres (of which it has 12, overseen by just five operators).

It also has fourth-axis units available when required.

The experience gained with Ariel-type work is transforming Talon’s sub-contract offering, which currently represents 25% of its turnover.

This share is growing rapidly, driven in part by a policy of providing the total management of machined parts: this includes material procurement, machining, assembly, sub-contract plating and painting, as well as CMM inspection — all in accordance with its ISO 9001 and ISO 18001 accreditations.

Business growth is being driven by existing customers, as well as opportunities in other areas, such as nuclear; Talon is currently working towards gaining the appropriate accreditation for this sector.

In conclusion, Mr Alford said: “We have come a long way since we started work on the Ariel Ace, with what we learned on that project being transferred to the machining of Hipercar parts.

“The assistance that we have had from WNT has also been invaluable, allowing us to machine these parts efficiently and cost-effectively.”

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