Raising the quality bar…
When we see, touch or read something that holds our attention, makes us think about the styling, complexity or the beauty of the subject in question, we think and very often publically state “quality.” Because we here at Evotech Performance pride ourselves on producing quality accessories, ‘quality’ is a word we often hear in feedback from our customers. However, as engineers and motorcyclists, we constantly strive to go that little further to raise even our quality bar. This can be in our manufacturing processes, from design through to fabrication, or even the methods of despatching our EP Accessory products, through to the way our cardboard waste is crushed for recycling.
Our latest “quality-seeking mission” came while the Evotech Performance team was munching their pack-up lunches in the staff canteen. Bandying ideas, as engineers do, led to the question: why not produce our own bolts for, say, EP Crash Protectors? Ok, so there are many suppliers of fasteners, which Evotech Performance has always used, but supplied bolts could always be better… quality!
One reason why we should and could manufacture our own bolts is that there are a lot of times we require a specific length of bolt to ensure perfect fit of the EP products. As an example, nobody wants an M12 bolt that exits the thread area to sit within millimetres of another main component – it doesn’t look good; problems could arise in the event of a hard shunt and, mainly, it wouldn’t be the quality we strive to deliver.
Getting the correct size and type of bolt isn’t that easy because they have to be special order, which is costly. Other reasons include the actual fastener coating, which in terms of quality the bright zinc coating can vary dramatically, as can the consistency of the thread (especially if the coating treatment isn’t 100% what it should be can lead to very inconsistent thread quality). There’s also the matter of the fastener’s flanged or socket heads not always being to the required tolerance; ever wondered why some sockets fit well on some bolt heads and not on others, or why an Allen key may or may not fit easily against the internal drive walls?
Several mugs of Yorkshire Tea were consumed while we researched fastener production, specifically mass production; while we already use the latest in CAD and CAM technology, a CNC machine dedicated to bolt or screw fastener production was priority. Fast forward two months and many more mugs of tea.
Evotech Performance is pleased to announce in-house fastener production is well and truly underway since the purchase, supply and install of a new Cincom L32 (v8+) sliding head automatic CNC lathe manufactured by Citizen Machinery Co, Ltd. So what is it about this machine that makes us smile every time we see it?
In a normal lathe-type machine, where the part to be machined is held in a chuck and rotated, the bar-type workpiece can be subject to deflection (bending) when the various cutting tools are applied and machining accuracy can go out of the window. To overcome this, a tailstock is required to hold the opposing end of the workpiece to minimise deflection. There are various drawbacks to this process mainly being the ends of the workpiece are difficult to work on and requires further time-consuming work.
With the new range of floating head CNC lathe machines, the workpiece is fed through a rigid guide bushing and into the tooling area by an automatic chucking collet. A large range of tools can now automatically be programmed to work along X, Y and Z axes as the workpiece enters or is drawn backwards by a barfeed machine. A sub-spindle also allows work to be done to the tail section of the workpiece. The Cincom L32 allows many forms of machining to be carried out including turning, ream, saw, profiling, thread – we opt to use rolled thread because the threads are considerably stronger because they are less prone to failure. Used in conjunction with a new Iemca Boss 338-HD Superfast barfeed machine – can handle bar from 3mm up to 38mm diameter and in lengths from 1 to 3 metre lengths – the production rate of bolts or screw bolts of various socket head design is… erm, rapid. The one slightly annoying thing about the new fastener producing system is it so damn hypnotic to watch a simple piece of stainless steel bar turn into a magnificent bolt. And yes, we have timed how long it takes to produce an M12 x 110mm (1.25mm pitch) Allen Socket Head bolt in 316 stainless steel: far quicker than it takes to make a brew!
If all the above isn’t enough, the fasteners we produce will all carry the EP logo – machined in place, of course, by the Cincom L32. There’s even more good news. In our long-serving quest to be environmentally efficient to further reduce our manufacturing carbon footprint, the swarf produced in the machining process is managed by HFT (High Frequency Turning), which essentially breaks swarf into chippings (chip particles). This ensures there is no chance of swarf build-up (bird nesting) in the tool area and a lower retention rate of cutting oil, which is reused. It also means the stainless chippings are far more manageable for recycling.
Now that we are producing our own “quality” bolts, nearly every EP Crash Protector kit will feature EP replacement main engine/chassis mounting bolts made from graded stainless steel. These bolts will all feature Allen-type socket heads because experience dictates that even the heaviest contact with tarmac the heads also offer some protection and yet retain even internal wall profile to allow an Allen key to be used.