Switzerland - Reduce weight, maximise stability and speed up processes: This “squaring of a circle” is a daily matter for Sauber Motorsport AG. Here, the Swiss racing firm relies on assembly solutions from Walter Meier.
Apart from the powerful corporations that dominate Formula 1, Sauber Motorsport AG is one of the few private teams that can permanently assert themselves in the royal class. So much the greater are the challenges in the manufacture of spare parts. The extreme stresses on the race track demand highest-precision processing, with minimal tolerance for measurements, materials and surfaces. But in the struggle for tenths of a second, each component must be as light as possible. Complex geometries and special substances are the rule, not the exception. Added to this are increasingly stringent FiA rules governing the construction and safety of cars.
Best assembly solutions in prototype and parts production
Mechanical assembly at the Sauber plant in Hinwil runs at full steam throughout the year. Not only do parts, designed for short operating periods, need replacing, a modified car waits at the starting line at each race. Moreover, each part is continually improved. As if that were not enough, development for the next season takes place at the same time. The time frame for prototype and parts production are really tight, made additionally difficult by the logistical issues of the global racing calendar. To handle all this, the engineers must be able to rely on the best assembly solutions. Sauber has been co-operating closely with Walter Meier in this area for 20 years. And, to raise the already high level of performance even higher, a new generation of CNC machines went into service in October 2017. They are used to process critical parts made of titanium, aluminium and composite materials, such as wheel carriers, engine mounts or wing end pieces.
Heavyweights with a delicate touch
The duties checklist in the Sauber plant – low number of units, high time pressure, huge variety of parts – is to be performed in the most efficient way with two 5-axis Litz LU-800 processing centres with Heidenhain steering and torque motor direct drive. Their trump card is the universal application, top precision and stability. The latter is vital in Formula 1. The more precise and stable the components, the better the manoeuvring space for constructors to reduce weight. A key factor for top precision and silent operation is the robustness of the Litz LU-800, which weighs about four times as much as the previous machines. Equally important is the perfect co-ordination of machines, tools and accessories.
In the planning assembly, Sauber and Walter Meier have attached particular importance to this “Teamwork”. Each link in the assembly process has been critically examined and in many cases, reinforced with individual solutions. For example, the AMF clamping devices and the zero-point system were developed especially for production at Sauber. The 70-bar coolant system and the chip conveyors are also tailor-made solutions. An alternative drying system with chip removal was also checked, but the advantages of wet production outweigh the advantage of the time saved by not drying. With tools, too, the solution exceeds standards by far. A quick-change system cuts the conversion time by up to 70% and ensures that there is always a replacement for an active tool. Also, a speciality is laser monitoring developed by Walter Meier, which measures tool wear in real time and identifies breakages immediately.
More power and tempo with components
Thanks to Walter Meier's know-how and the smooth co-operation with Sauber, the technological change of generations has gone smoothly. The new machines were fitted punctually in just one day, and the start-up also went according to schedule. In mechanical assembly, Sauber is starting from a very good position in the 2018 racing season. The new infrastructure is attaining a new level of quality with regard to the geometry, precision and weight of car parts, and saving time as well. More efficient machines, tools and measurement systems reduce assembly times and the need for monitoring. Even large and complex construction parts can be produced overnight, saving the developers in Hinwil a couple of night shifts.
This article first appeared on www.maschinenmarkt.international.