Multi-Axis Control Helps Supplier Stay Out In Front In Ported Cylinder Heads

This company was founded in 1997 and currently operates full CAD/CAM programming, CNC machining, bench/dyno testing for cylinder head and engine performance, and in-house welding and finishing departments. It uses a variety of multi-axis machining centers that have rotary tables for five-axis part articulation.

Case Study From: 12/15/2003 Modern Machine Shop

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Full-service shop

M2 Racing Systems operates a full-service shop, producing big and small block cylinder heads, plus custom work for head designers, engine builders and racing teams.

CNC ported cylinder heads

CNC ported cylinder heads are produced on multi-axis machining centers using the Siemens Sinumerik 840D controller.

M2 Race Systems (Farmingdale, New Jersey) is a niche player in a very fast-paced industry. As a supplier to cylinder head designers and manufacturers, primarily in the racing business, this shop produces CNC ported cylinder heads.

M2 Race Systems was founded in 1997 and currently operates full CAD/CAM programming, CNC machining, bench/dyno testing for cylinder head and engine performance, and in-house welding and finishing departments. M2 uses a variety of multi-axis machining centers that have rotary tables for five-axis part articulation.

As president Ron Mielbrecht explains, “Most of our customers are race engine builders, racing teams or the drivers themselves. We do have some OEM contracts, as well as production and aftermarket work, but we’re specialists in a highly specialized industry. This means the responsiveness and technical skill levels of our suppliers must be absolutely first-class.”

The majority of the work done at M2 involves aluminum and cast iron five-axis machining. A port shape is digitized on a Renishaw Cyclone, and then it is fed through the Windows NT-based shop network system to one of four CNCs. M2’s spotlight machine tool is a five-axis Fadal 4525 with a Sinumerik 840D controller from Siemens (Alpharetta, Georgia) and Nikken rotary tables. The Siemens control features that company’s ShopMill software, which is designed to allow operators to quickly monitor actual cutting conditions through on-screen graphic imaging of the workpiece and tool path.

“All of our porting work requires simultaneous five-axis machining,” Mr. Mielbrecht explains. “This was the reason we selected the more advanced controller on our latest CNC machine. Occasionally, we manufacture billet throttle bodies and, for such jobs, the speed of the machine and the ability to use the rotary as a live fourth axis make part production much better and faster. Integrating these additional functions on the Siemens controller was simple.

“Typically at M2, all our part programs are in the 15 to 25 megabyte range, so we drip feed everything” he continues. The PC architecture on the machine controls makes integration with the other equipment in this shop much easier as well. The control allows us to run the program directly from the hard drive. The machine is connected directly to the shop network, so accessing a program becomes a routine cut-and-paste operation.”

“Furthermore,” he explains, “the Siemens 840D allows us to tune in the machining parameters, thus creating better machining transitions and quicker run times. It processes information at lightning-fast speed, much better than others we’ve investigated. Though very powerful, it can be run by our operators with only a modest amount of training.”

On the machining center, the control manipulates all aspects of operation, including spindle orientation, five-axis movement, tool changes, table motion and so forth. The data are stored in both the memory of the control and the hard drive of the PC. M2 typically uses one main operating program and calls up several external programs (not sub-routines) that would be much too large to fit into conventional memory.

M2 often runs single parts requiring up to 8 hours of unattended machining. Therefore, setup is critical. A part can finish at the end of a day shift, with minimal changeover, another part can be machined overnight. This scenario occurs almost daily, according to the company. Once again, the machine tool control becomes vital to this procedure. As Mr. Mielbrecht reports, “The ability of the control to store so much data locally makes it easy to change the fixture plate and load the next program in 15 minutes or less. The machine carousel holds sufficient tools to do each job, so we don’t need to be concerned. Our older CNC machines could hold only about six tools typically, because the movement of the fixture would contact them in the carousel.”

M2 places particular emphasis on the need for five-axis simultaneous machining, because this method of cutting ports enables all the machining lines to follow the contours of the port shape. This philosophy is also critical to the optimization of airflow for increased horsepower and torque, which is the basis for any head porter’s reputation.

This shop currently supplies CNC ported heads for big and small block Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler and various import engines. In addition, M2 scan-and-machine services work from port designs at concept stages for custom racing and other applications.

In commenting on the service received from his control supplier, Mr. Mielbrecht observed, “They [Siemens representatives] have been very helpful in getting the machine [Fadal 4525] up and running for us. Any assistance needed has been provided for only the cost of the service contract. It’s great to know they have the desire to help us get the most out of the machine.” He also notes that the control’s Windows-based software is easy to use and helps keep M2’s CNC up-to-speed.

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