5 Axis Milling technology takes the chequered flag as Formula 1 Team Lotus install 5 new HPU 450U machines at their workshop in Enstone, Oxfordshire. Team Lotus are one of the latest companies to give in to the promise and potential that the 5 axis milling process holds; a process that leading high precision machining specialists PRV-Engineering were quick to recognize the advantages of.They wre one of the first companies in the UK to invest in this latest state of the art engineering discipline.
One Machine Replaces Many
The essence of 5 axis machining is being able to do so many different operations on one machine. The forerunner to this new technology was 3 axis machining. When launched, it, in itself was a revelation when it hit the engineering scene. But the machining of complex components, like those used in the engines of today’s advanced F1 racing cars, meant that several different 3 axis machines had to be used to achieve the finished component. The problem was that each of the machines had to be set up and programmed individually. The process was time consuming and therefore expensive. But 5 axis milling technology changes all that.
Virtually all of the operations can be handled by one 5 axis machine. The set up is a little more complex, but the built in software helps to simplify the process. One set up, on one machine, and in one location, is far faster than having to set up 3 or 4 separate machines. However it’s not just the improvement in set-up times.
New Breed of Thoroughbreds
The new breed of 5 axis milling machines comprise of real high precision thoroughbreds. They enable machining to tighter tolerances than ever before, a facility that is essential in helping Team Lotus to produce top performance components to keep their cars in pole position. It helps to keep them challenging for honours on the F1 circuit. Another huge benefit of the latest 5 axis machinery is its built-in ability to be able to hold and present the components for machining at precisely the right position and angle.
Cost Savings Maximised
In the past, with the old 3 axis machines, this would have necessitated the design and manufacture of special fittings. Not only does this slow the manufacturing process down, it increases lead times, and requires skilled labour to design the fittings and create the programs to manufacture them. So the cost savings that the new 5 axis milling machines offer by doing away with this extra work, are magnified even further.
Team Lotus is finding out something else that PRV Engineering discovered when they expanded their 5 axis machining capability – the benefits of increased efficiency and productivity. The fact that so much time had to be spent in designing and manufacturing special fittings meant that each operation was virtually bespoke. It created a sort of small, one-off job mentality, and process. The new methodology allows a much more streamlined approach, boosting output significantly.
Staying at the Cutting Edge
The high precision engineering machining marketplace is a very competitive one. Investment in new breakthrough technologies like 5 axis milling is essential in order to stay at the cutting edge.