QUALITY IN THE MAKING (Pt 3) – WE AREN’T THE ROBOTS
Night-time is a quieter time in our lives. The same can be said of the Evotech Performance factory. At the dead of night, the workshop floor is devoid of staff and the only productive able-bodied creatures are Fred the spider and his family and friends, plus a Ginger Tom cat on the prowl around the industrial estate. But even when the last PIR operated LED lamp within the factory has silently clicked-off for the final time that day, production of Evotech Performance EP motorcycle accessories carries on for a few hours more.
Evotech Performance is no stranger to autonomous production. A perfect example is the Cincom L32 (v8+) sliding head automatic CNC lathe manufactured by Citizen Machinery Co, Ltd. Bought initially to produce our own EP stainless steel socket cap bolts, this machine is automatically fed blank stainless rods to enable it to work efficiently and quickly without human involvement for a good few hours.
The Cincom is nigh on silent, ruthlessly efficient in running costs and very precise in what it produces. It is just one of our fleet of CNC machines to accurately produce component parts that go some way to uphold our reputation for fabricating quality EP accessories.
Internal investment of new machinery is costly but wholeheartedly supported by Evotech Performance. The advantages of new technology are many: accuracy, precision and increased production speed especially through multi-facet tasking. For these reasons alone we spend some time investigating new machinery specifications.
Two other valid reasons are 1) we get to drink copious amount of Yorkshire Tea in silence and, more importantly, 2) we are dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint. If a new machine uses less electricity, we are really interested. Other boxes to be ticked that lead to the opening of the corporate wallet are production waste reduction, advanced recycling of machining fluid to enhance longevity and minimal downtime, to name but a few.
For all the aforementioned and a few more technical-based reasons, Evotech Performance has recently splashed out on a new machining cell. Say hello to our new Speedio M140X2, manufactured by Brother of Japan. And what a tool it is. Or rather, what two major tools it is.
In simple terms, the Speedio M140X2 is a mill-turn centre, which means it is not only a high-tech five-axis (CNC) machine but can also machine ‘turn’ in the same way a lathe is employed. All of this from a very compact but powerful machine is exactly what we were looking for. The fact it can auto tool change in 0.9-sec from a 22-position magazine, to give 1.4-sec chip-to-chip time is, well, awesome.
As you might expect, we were well worked-up when it arrived crated up on the back of a lorry. You can probably guess our state of euphoria when it came to the M140X2 being commissioned for use so we could all witness the functioning of a 16,000 rpm, face-and-taper contact spindle and the 2,000 rpm turning table, powered by a 55 Nm direct-drive motor. There was, that day, many cups of Yorkshire Tea raised in celebration.
There is obviously a swathe of additional impressive tech features that would bore most non-engineering folk, but to engineering geeks, like us, in short, the M140X2 is like getting the most hi-tech Christmas toy you can get but on your birthday! The excitement (for us) didn’t stop there.
For such an efficient production machine, it made sense to purchase an add-on system to make the most of its high productivity capability – you wouldn’t buy a gaming machine to play F1 games without the aid of steering and pedal controls etc. Would you?
A Brother Feedio system sits alongside the M140X2. This is an automated two-tier conveyer system that literally feeds the M140X2 with raw work pieces, such as billet aluminium, steel bar and more. To ably place these work pieces into the hydraulic chuck is a 6-axis ABB robotic arm, itself controlled by an onboard computer that utilises a photographic vision software system along the lines of photo recognition. The software recognises the pre-set dimensions of the work piece and activates the robotic arm to feed the M140X2 and remove finished parts from the worktable chuck onto the bottom tier of the conveyer. Clever stuff indeed and the reason why raw work pieces do not have to be precisely stacked or uniformly placed on the conveyer unit.
Because of the reduced human input, work production efficiency will in most cases (component dependent) approximately double. It can be left to its own devices overnight and, of course, during the daytime. It also means our standalone lathe centre can be used more efficiently.
So, what type of work is the M140X2 employed to produce? The list is growing weekly, but as a reference point, it is already rapidly creating the main body parts of the latest EP Tail Tidies for the Ducati Panigale V4 and KTM 1290 Super Duke R – complicated components that feature two body halves, both of which require a lot of machining work to deliver the quality product our customers expect from us. We love our new Brother Speedio M140X2 and accompanying Feedio system: its so very Evotech Performance.