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Custom tool solution slashes Albin’s cycle time by three quarters

A fortuitous meeting at an industry event led to a custom solution that solves a tricky and expensive precision component manufacturing challenge.

Albins Performance Transmissions is the largest high performance driveline manufacturer in the southern hemisphere – and a global leader in components for military vehicles and off-road racing cars. The Ballarat-based company has a 30-year history of specialising in the design, engineering and manufacture of innovative motorsport drivetrains used in races such as the Dakar Rally, Baja 1000, Australian V8 Supercars, European and Australasian Rally Championships.

Albin’s challenge

When members of Albins’ manufacturing team attended the 2021 Haas Melbourne Performance Week, a real-time problem was front of mind. It was taking way too long to manufacture a rack component –a cycle time of up to 120 minutes a pair, with excessive tool wear and breakage during the milling process.

After watching a demonstration of high performance 5-axis machining staged by Sutton Tools and Haas, the Albins team got talking to us about a potential custom solution for their rack componentry.

“Your mission is…”

Albins provided us with drawings of their problematic component, plus some DXF files, so we could design a specialised tapered ball-nose tool that would reduce their manufacturing process cycle time. This enabled us to design a custom tool to help them machine their racks.

With recommended speeds and feeds, Sutton Tools’ initial cutting trials were successful. We were comfortable that results could be further improved by pre-coat polishing, edge preparation and then coating the tools by our Surface Technology Coatings division to achieve adequate tool life. Our trials also provided valuable information and guidelines – giving Albins confidence to roll the tool onto the production floor.

Objective accomplished

The Albins team performed their own machining trials with the two new cutters, to produce 38 racks with very promising results. They were also able to refine the process after the first three pairs were processed.

At that stage, they noticed that the finishing tool was beginning to drag chips back through, welding them to one of the tooth faces. To counter this, they changed their program to run the finish path in both directions through the rack grooves, which resolved this issue.

No changes were required after that, proving that the custom tools Sutton Tools designed were fit for purpose and capable of reducing production cycles by around three quarters. Commercially, this represents a saving of 43.5 minutes per rack and a saving of $87 per unit.

All up, operational savings over a run of 300 units represents over $26,000 in terms of cycle time – with additional savings in terms of tool costs, given the new ball-nose cutters are significantly more resilient than the previous brands used. In fact, our solution offered a completely different machining strategy: Albins was using around four different tools and our solution has brought this down to just two.

Triumph of experience and enthusiasm

Sean Fensling, Albin’s Quality Engineer was highly impressed with the customisation process and its outcome. “The short story is, we have moved from a cycle time (per pair of racks) of approximately 120 minutes to 33 minutes – due to implementation of the tapered ball-nose cutter Sutton Tools designed, manufactured, tested and supplied. Additionally, no tools were broken – rougher or finisher – in the milling of these racks.”

“These initial results really do showcase the benefits which can be realised in manufacturing processes, when supported by experience and enthusiasm such as that from Sutton in this project. Kudos to all!”

As a result of this success, Albins Performance Transmissions will be working with Sutton Tools to achieve more improvements in their machine shop. It’s another great example of how two leading Australian manufacturing businesses can deploy their sovereign capabilities and work together to increase productivity, decrease costs and maintain competitiveness in their respective global markets.

To learn more about Albins Performance Transmissions visit albins.com.au. Read more about our high performance solutions and customisation services here.