CAM software increases efficiency at brake company

Posted on 20 Feb 2019 and read 946 times
CAM software increases efficiency at brake companyEstablished in 1983 by engineer and sports car racer John Moore, Alcon Components Ltd initially made brakes for Audi Sport’s Group B Quattro rally cars.

Today, the Tamworth-based company provides braking solutions — such as discs, callipers, cylinders, valves, balance bars, pedal boxes and clutches — for the ‘top echelons’ of motor-sport and specialist automotive markets.

Indeed, it supplies some of the world’s most prestigious brands, including Audi, Bentley, Brabus and Jaguar Land Rover — and it makes extensive use of Open Mind Technologies’ HyperMill CAM software (

Alcon’s’ products can be found on some particularly noteworthy vehicles, such as the 900bhp per tonne Ariel Atom 500 and the 225mph Noble M600, as well as military vehicles and armoured SUVs.

To cope with the need to produce up to 500 discs a week, Alcon recently invested in three new Doosan vertical turning lathes for its disc-machining line, which is now achieving a 30-40% cycle time improvement.

These new machines follow a considerable investment in machining centres, including a Doosan Mynx 6500/50, a DMG Mori NHX 4000 and a Hermle C32U.

When it comes to machining brake callipers, an aluminium billet will go through a variety of five-axis machining cycles, comprising four individual operations.

Alcon’s Brian Cutler said: “The first operation comprises a lot of roughing on a VMC programmed using HyperMill. We then fixture the callipers on their side and machine all the internal features on a five-axis machine.

"Then, we flip the parts over again to finish the top faces before turning them once more for the final operation of machining the piston bores; and while many callipers are bespoke and produced in small volumes, we also produce over 100 callipers a week for a manufacturer of high-end sports cars.

Software stability

Referring to the company’s investment in Open Mind Technologies CAM system, Alcon’s Adam Saweczko said: “The reason we moved from another CAM system to HyperMill was the stability of the software, along with the significant improvement in performance and calculation times.

"It calculates tool-paths much faster — and it is more reliable than our previous system, which would ‘crash’ up to six times a day.

“This crashing was due to the complexity of the parts and the associated data requirements. However, HyperMill
is very flexible, allowing us to copy proven methods from one program to another, which saves us considerable time.

"Moreover, we can work with a number of windows open at the same time, which also reduces our programming times.”

Referring to the HyperMill tool library, Mr Saweczko said: “This tool library allows us to store more detail than ever before. We can now store all the cutting data, details of the tooling suppliers — and even the product codes. Indeed, it is now the ‘one stop’ solution for our tool management data.”

Commenting on the five-axis capabilities of HyperMill, Mr Saweczko said: “We find the five-axis features of the system very easy to use, and we no longer have to go into hundreds of different settings to get the job done.

"The parts we are making are quite complex, but HyperMill has given us the ability to take existing programs and copy them over, allowing existing and pro-ven cycles to be applied to the current part.”

Programming times

Alcon manufactures its automotive brakes in sets of left- and right-hand parts. Mr Saweczko said: “Typically, you can say that HyperMill can save 50% on programming times where we have parts that are symmetrical to other parts we machine.

"We save a lot of time by programming one half and just mirroring that part, with the program for the next part produced automatically. The cutting conditions are also respected, meaning that if the one half is ‘climb’ cutting, then the mirrored half will also be climb-cut.”

Mr Cutler added: “In terms of improvements with HyperMill, we have made some pretty big savings in programming times. I would say that a complex five-axis calliper used to take upwards of four weeks to program with our previous CAM system; with HyperMill, this is now less than two weeks.”

Mr Saweczko says the feature recognition package in HyperMill has also been a major benefit: “This package looks at the features of a part and automatically recognises them. For example, if we are producing an M4 hole, we need a tapping cycle comprising a drilling and countersink operation prior to tapping. HyperMill’s feature recognition automatically recognises the task and applies the correct tools and machining procedures.

“Moving to HyperMill from another CAM system has not only improved the product quality and surface finishes we achieve but also improved the working environment, because our staff are not as frustrated as before, thanks to the software being more reliable and easier to work with.”

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