Drawing a parallel

Nov 06 in News

Reflecting back on the partnership between KYOCERA SGS Precision Tools (formerly SGS Tools Europe) and the Bloodhound SSC (Super Sonic Car) has seen both grow in parallel. The solid carbide cutting tool specialist has an established and enviable reputation for the development and manufacture of a range of high performance solid carbide cutting tools for challenging machiningapplications. From the initial ‘get-go’ the company could see high speed performance parallels with the concept behind the challenges that the Bloodhound team faced.

As Bloodhound’s official high-performance tooling supplier and product sponsor the tooling company committed to providing cutting tools and machining strategy expertise to the various UK precision engineering businesses producing the structural, drive train and ancillary components required during its development. ‘Exceeding Limits: Breaking Boundaries’ is the moto coined by the company to encapsulate this.

Changing up a gear

When SME project sponsor, Newburgh Engineering, received the CAD model for the gearbox from the Bloodhound SSC engineering team, the South Yorkshire-based precision machining company approached KYOCERA SGS for the appropriate high performance cutting tool solution.

Fully machined from solid aluminium billets the gearbox casing for the Bloodhound SSC is at the heart of the vehicle, transmitting power from the 800bhp Cosworth CA2010 engine to the fuel pump, which provides HTP (High Test Peroxide) fuel to the hybrid rocket system.

The family-owned business employs 130 people and has certainly never seen a fuel pump like this. As the Bloodhound is powered by a jet engine and a hybrid rocket, which together develop over

47,000 lbs thrust, designed to propel it to 1,000 mph, the rocket has a voracious appetite for fuel, and will consume one ton of HTP in its burn time of around 20 seconds when on the record runs in South Africa.

From the CAD model, Newburgh created the NC program required to machine the parts on its Unisign Univers 4000 vertical machining centre. High performance long-reach cutting tools were required to machine the deep pockets and KYOCERA SGS specified its S-Carb range of milling tools as most appropriate for the task.

KYOCERA SGS supplied 100 mm long-reach, 12 mm diameter S-Carb cutters with a 3 mm radius to efficiently machine out the pocket and finish it with a 3 mm radius in the bottom. The pocket was machined at 10,000 rpm, the maximum spindle speed on the machine, with flood coolant, at a feedrate of 0.18 mm per tooth. The S-Carb cutter was plunged to a depth of 1 x diameter and the pocket was interpolated before the tool was plunged down again. This was repeated until the required pocket depth was achieved.

On the tail

Thanks to S-Carb APR high performance roughing tools from KYOCERA SGS, Manufax Engineering has dramatically reduced the machining cycle time for the tailfin shear plate the company has produced for the Bloodhound SSC. A complex, freeform aluminium component, the shear plate will form the interface between the tailfin structure and the body of the world land speed record attempting vehicle.

Based in Stockport, Manufax is a major supplier to the commercial, civil and defence aerospace, automotive, nuclear and agricultural industries, as well as supporting general precision engineering businesses. With several decades of experience, the company provides specialist tooling design and manufacture across all disciplines, including airframe assembly jigs and fixtures, airframe detail tooling, mould tooling, automotive tooling and components for the nuclear power generation sector.

A dedicated and multi-disciplined workforce has been trained to adapt to the unique and challenging projects they work on at Manufax. Both these criteria can certainly be applied to the Bloodhound SSC. It has a slender body 13.47 m long, with two front wheels within the body and two rear wheels mounted externally within wheel fairings. It weighs over 7,000 kg and the combined engines produce more than 135,000 horsepower. The car is a mix of automotive and aerospace technology, with the front half being a carbon fibre monocoque like a racing car and the back half being a metallic framework, with panels like an aircraft.

KYOCERA SGS suggested Manufax use a 20 mm diameter S-Carb APR three-flute roughing end mill in a single roughing operation. The tool is ideally suited to machining aircraft grade aluminium, as well as non-ferrous and non-metallic materials. For most applications, an S-Carb APR tool will halve existing roughing cycle times, and a 25 mm diameter KYOCERA SGS cutter can match or exceed the material removal rates of a 50 mm diameter indexable router at 5,000 cc/min. Applying the new cutting parameters to the Delcam program resulted in significant cycle time savings of over 40 per cent.

Understandably, the company was a little sceptical at first, as the cutting data being suggested for the S-Carb APR cutting tool was providing phenomenal results on the CAD/CAM system. A trial cut with a sample of the same grade aluminium was set up on the machining centre, and the speeds, feeds and depths of cut suggested by KYOCERA SGS were applied.

As a complex, freeform component the shear plate contains very demanding geometric forms produced from a single billet of aluminium. Manufax could not afford to scrap the raw material, using a test piece proved that the S-Carb APR would perform as predicted. The tool performed remarkably well, and the cutting action also reduced any deflection of the thin walls of the rough machined part.

It is not uncommon for precision machining companies to be unsure of the performance levels offered by the company’s cutting tool range. However, the machining sample set up by Manufax was cut so smoothly that the operator and the engineers were immediately convinced.

Growing together

On the 22nd January 2013, more than 130 visitors attended the official inauguration of the new KYOCERA SGS European Technology Hub in Wokingham, Berkshire. In front of all the guests a ceremonial plaque marking the occasion was officially unveiled by former land speed record holder and Bloodhound SSC Project Director, Richard Noble, OBE.

Representing an investment of over £6 million in facilities and new CNC tool and cutter grinding machines, the 25,000 ft2 manufacturing and logistics supply centre formed the hub of the company’s European operations supporting customers in the aerospace, defence, motorsport, medical, power generation, oil & gas, as well as precision general engineering sectors.

These are, of course, the most technically demanding industry sectors and customers often require bespoke solutions for their machining tasks. As one of the most advanced high performance cutting tooling manufacturers, KYOCERA SGS is well aware that it has to provide specific solutions to address the machining challenges faced by industry. New ferrous and non-ferrous alloys and advanced composite materials are creating many opportunities, and the investment in the new facility will allow customers to directly access the cutting tool technology available from KYOCERA SGS.

SGS opened its first UK office in 1986 and began manufacturing tools here in 2005. Today the UK operation employs over 40 staff supporting and supplying customers in the automotive, aerospace, medical and high precision engineering sectors. Demand for its range across Europe has risen to the point where it had to increase production and stock levels as well as enhance its focus on Research & Development.

A separate section has also been set up where advanced hard coatings, including Super Nitride, can be applied. In-house design capabilities allow new tool geometries to be developed for specials ordered by customers. As the European headquarters the new site also holds more than 150,000 tools, valued at £3 million, ready for next day delivery to customers across Europe.

One of the greatest strengths is its ability to test tools and machining strategies for customers in the Technical Centre. Equipped with a 5-axis machine tool as well as state-of-the-art tool holding and work holding, with advanced coolants, it provides customers with an overview of what can be achieved on their shopfloor. Customer can see exactly how they can address their manufacturing challenges, and as leading companies in the aerospace and automotive industries produce new materials to test, the company can deliver new cutting tools and develop more efficient geometries. It is a proactive approach that has improved and increased the company’s portfolio of products by organically evolving tools.

International travel

Europe’s largest machine tool and manufacturing technologies exhibition, EMO, is held every other year and alternates between Hanover in Germany and Milan, Italy. At EMO 2013, held in Hanover, the company occupied its largest exhibition stand ever. As well as the company’s industry leading cutting tool technology, the stand featured the official full-size model of the Bloodhound SSC. This was the first time the Bloodhound SSC had been exhibited outside the UK, and as both product and project sponsors KYOCERA SGS was very excited about showing the Bloodhound at an international event that focuses on engineering. Visitors appreciated the technical challenges involved with taking a hybrid jet/rocket powered wheeled vehicle up to and beyond 1,000 mph.

Held bi-annually at McCormick Place, Chicago, USA, IMTS is one of the largest manufacturing technology shows in the world. Visitors to the stand in 2014 were treated to a photo opportunity with the official Bloodhound SSC full scale model and the ultimate racing experience in the Bloodhound SSC Simulator.

Machining demonstrations for stainless steel, composite materials, titanium and aluminium with an impressive line-up of new and featured tools were also highlighted. These included the Series 33 for stainless steel applications; diamond coated end mills, drills, routers for composites; T-Carb for titanium machining; and, S-Carb APR for high efficiency aluminium machining.

Attendees at international aerospace events have also been shown the technical engineering focus of the Bloodhound SSC, with the KYOCERA SGS model car (normally exhibited in the UK Technical Centre) being displayed at both the Paris Air Show and at Farnborough International Air Show.

At almost every event attended by KYOCERA SGS the company presents its holographic display which features 3D animation sequences of Bloodhound SSC parts being machined. Further proof, if needed, that the company relates the challenges of this impressive project to its own business goals at every possible step.

Future challenges

When a complex high performance project such as the Bloodhound is ‘Exceeding Limits: Breaking Boundaries’ it is a given that not every challenge faced by those involved will be predicted at the outset. Thankfully KYOCERA SGS is here to apply its wealth of cutting edge technologies to any challenges thrown up by the exceptional performance goals set by the Bloodhound SSC project – both today and going forward as it steps up to exceed the 1,000 mph target.


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