Brake plant doubles production

A second automated production cell has been installed at the Tamworth factory of Alcon Components to cope with worldwide demand for its monobloc brake calipers. The calipers are machined from aluminium or lithium billet for motorsport race cars and high-performance road cars, as well as from cast iron for military vehicles.

Similar to the original automated system installed in February 2007, the latest configuration is based on a bigger Hermle five-axis vertical machining centre, a model C32U with 650 x 650 x 500 mm axis travels, reflecting the fact that brake calipers have become larger over the past decade. Supplied by Geo Kingsbury, UK agent for the German machine manufacturer, the C32U has been equipped with an Erowa Robot Easy that stores 12, 210 mm diameter pallets, which are transferred to and from the working area by a horizontally travelling load/unload arm.
As on the previous Hermle C20U, the latest five-axis machine is equipped with Blum laser tool-breakage monitoring and length setting, Renishaw part probing, an 18,000 rpm HSK63 spindle, 80-bar through-tool coolant and a 117-position tool magazine. Swarf management has also been provided, consistent with unattended machining of light alloy parts. Designs are produced in SolidWorks, while Open Mind’s HyperMill CAM software is used for creating the cutter paths prior to program transfer to the Heidenhain control.
Brake caliper production is a natural application for five-axis machining, as Alcon discovered 10 years ago. Compared with four-axis metal cutting, it is not only faster but also inherently more accurate, as approach angles can be adjusted to allow shorter and hence more rigid tool holders to access awkward component areas.
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