Modern Machine Shop

OCT 2017

Modern Machine Shop is focused on all aspects of metalworking technology - Providing the new product technologies; process solutions; supplier listings; business management; networking; and event information that companies need to be competitive.

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Page 88 of 188

86 MMS October 2017 FEATURE events off the strip. As the volume and variety of work have grown, strategies for addressing the resulting pressures have also tracked closely with broader industry trends. These days, the steady hum of carbide on metal emerges from not just three-axis VMCs and lathes, but also five-axis, turn-mill and pallet- fed horizontal machining centers. From clamping to cutting tools to CAM software, processes are designed to ma ximize spindle access to the workpiece and minimize the need for manual intervention during the machining cycle. VERTICAL TO HORIZONTAL Of all the engine components under stress when a dragster rockets away from the "Christmas tree" light fixture that initiates a race, the con- necting rod is among the most critical. The link between piston and crankshaft, these parts were a m o n g th e f ir st ta rg ets of ef fo r ts to c o ntro l production and establish DSR as a supplier to other teams. As such, they were among the first components to influence the shop's CNC tech- nology expansion. Initially, that expansion was largely a matter of adding more spindles, albeit newer, more capa- ble spindles. The first wave of new machiner y included three VMCs that remain dedicated to connecting-rod production to this day, although the process looks very different. "We were open- ing the door of the machine 23 times," Mr. Warga recalls about initial efforts to ramp up connecting- r o d p r o d u c t i o n . W i t h a n o p e r a to r f l i p p i n g DSR has 21 CNC machines, multiple generations of which are visible here (including the very first lathe in the foreground). Between 14 employees in the machine shop and 6 in the separate fabrication, carbon fiber repair and other areas, the company produces more than 400 Top Fuel and "funny car" engine and chassis components for its own eight teams as well as the rest of the NHRA. workpieces for each subsequent operation (face- milling, profiling, drilling, countersinking and marking, not to mention operations on a separate saw and drill press) the shop could produce only about 16 rods per day. Ramping that number up to 40 didn't require significant technology upgrades. It did, however, require thinking differently about how to make the most of the machines' capabilities. As opposed to each machine running its own part, the three VMCs now operate more like an assembly line, with different-stage operations occurring simul- taneously on parts held in multistation, custom fixtures, as pictured on the next page. Most hold 8 parts at a time. Exceptions include one four- station fixture, as well as a 16-station fixture for an operation in which an 0.008-inch-diameter-tip engraving cutter serrates the connecting ends of the two rod segments. The latest evolution of the connecting rod machining process is based on the same thinking: to machine away as much raw material as pos- sible without interruption. The difference, both here and elsewhere in the shop, is that newer

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