The six new MIKRON HPM 450U milling centres, which have been fitted at the Lotus F1 Team headquarters in Enstone, England, are at the heart of a comprehensive modernisation of the production facilities belonging to the British Formula 1 team. Half a year later, Thomas Mayer, COO, Lotus F1 Team Chief Operating Officer, is thoroughly satisfied: “we made the strategic decision to extend our milling capacities to five axis, and in this respect we chose a system that allows us to machine workpieces in a single set-up process. This decision has enabled us to increase productivity considerably, improve the utilisation of our machine tools, achieve a higher and more uniform parts precision and lower the unit costs.”
Before investing in the MIKRON HPM 450U, Lotus F1 Team mainly relied on three axis milling machines to produce high-precision, complex parts. Although these delivered good results, they left something to be desired in terms of productivity. A key drawback was the considerable amount of time spent setting up the machinery. “We were not as efficient and effective as we wanted to be,” Mayer explains. “With the old three axis machines, too much time was wasted on setting up the machinery and on the planning and design of individual add-on devices for milling. On top of that, the frequent interruptions in the production process not only had negative effects on productivity, but also, in view of the necessary manual handling of workpieces, on the precision of the parts. We knew that five axis machines would be the ideal solution for our production requirements; for the production of high-precision, complex parts in low quantities, and that considerable output increases would be possible if we could machine workpieces in one work step.” Lotus F1 Team decided to replace its three axis machines with six new five axis machines.
The choice of machine
“As we wanted to standardise production with the new five axis machines, the machines all had to be identical,” says Mayer. These aims to standardise production not only required identical machines, but also corresponding tools, clamping devices, etc. Thomas Mayer: “we wanted maximum flexibility and one hundred per cent compatibility. If one of the machines breaks down, we have to be able to switch to another one quickly and seamlessly. This uniform approach also allows our programming and operating staff to become familiar with all the new machines in no time at all.”
Once the decision to switch had been taken, Lotus F1 Team set about finding the most suitable model and, for this purpose, made a list with the most important requirements. These include size (floor space), capacity, performance features (with particular emphasis on integrated automation), availability and costs of the machine as well as the amount of servicing required. Last but not least, the quality and speed of the GF Machining Solutions customer services department in England was a key reason to buy for Lotus F1 Team. “The HPM 450U machines fulfilled our high expectations right from the start,” summarises Thomas Mayer. “As a result, by machining workpieces with just one set-up process, we have increased our productivity and quality considerably.”
MIKRON HPM 450U
The MIKRON HPM 450U from GF Machining Solutions fulfilled all Lotus’s requirements. The high-performance, compact and cost-effective five axis milling machine is equipped with a direct-drive rotary tilting table and enables normal milling and drilling processes through to three-plus-two positioning and five axis simultaneous machining. The high-performance spindles (30 kW, 20,000 rpm) and the integrated automation (pallet changer with seven stations and tool changer with 120 positions) ensure an even better machining performance. Other strengths are a number of available SMART technology software modules, which ensure maximum productivity in round-the-clock operations, and a high degree of flexibility in production and reliability during the milling process. Thanks to its versatility, the MIKRON HPM 450U is ideal for machining a wide range of materials, from aluminium, steel and stainless steel through to particularly hard materials that are difficult to machine.
Lotus F1 Team
The 2014 Formula 1 season is in the starting blocks; it is just a few more days until the start of the season. The season comprises 19 races in total. It all starts on 16 March in Melbourne. The last race, the season’s finale, takes place on 23 November in Abu Dhabi. Lotus F1 Team unveiled its Formula 1 line-up for this season last month. The nose of the Lotus E22 is divided in two and deliberately asymmetric. With this new design, the E22 sets itself apart from the racing cars presented by the competition so far. The two drivers, Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, will take their places in the cockpit of the Lotus E22.
Source GF Machining Solutions