Page 27 - MetalForming March 2011
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  This isn’t a car magazine, so I don’t get to test-drive the flashy new models that lit up the stage at the Detroit auto show—models like the recently intro- duced Camaro convertible. So rather than being part of the media frenzy surrounding that particular car, and typing up flashy prose describing its teeth-rattling performance and wind- in-your-hair exuberance, I decided to trace some of the behind-the-scenes manufacturing excellence that has made this dream car a reality.
My Camaro-manufacturing journey took me to a metal stamper known pri- marily for providing fineblanked throttle plates, lock hardware and similar parts which, virtually overnight, morphed into becoming the sole manufacturer of com- pletely assembled hardware systems for the convertible top on the new Camaro.
“As the Tier Two supplier to Magna for the convertible-top’s steel sub- structure, we’re busy running 28 new dies and assembling 41 parts in all, including bushing insertion, riveting, welding and tapping,” says Principal Manufacturing toolroom manager John Brazzale. I managed to hit the plant’s production floor (in Broadview, IL) dur- ing launch week for the Camaro con- vertible project, so it’s newly outfitted assembly room, where all of the stamp- ings, fasteners et al come together, was teeming with activity. What I missed, of course, was the flurry of toolroom activ- ity over the last several months that brought the company to this point.
Toolroom Runs Flat Out to Make Fixtures, Gauges
“Our toolroom designed and built all of the assembly fixturing for riveting and welding,” says Brazzale, “a huge project that included gauging and restraining fixtures for our coordinate- measuring machines. Also on the books for this project were design and build of four new fineblanking dies (the rest of the stamped parts are made on conven-
A Fadal vertical-machining center makes quick work machining a die block in the Principal Mfg. toolroom.
tional progressive tooling that Principal outsourced to other die shops). Our tool- room load more than doubled.”
Long before the Camaro convert- ible hit the streets in February 2011, it created quite a stir on the auto-show circuit. Among its numerous selling points: refinement of the car’s top, which had designers seeking a solu- tion to the ever-present rib lines that have plagued every convertible-top designer for decades...until now. Thanks in part to the work of Principal Mfg., the top, wrote one car reviewer, has a “smooth, taut appearance that retains the vehicle’s sleek roofline.”
The Camaro project now has the pressroom and assembly room at Prin- cipal Mfg. turning out 1100 complete units/week—by anyone’s calculations, that’s a lot of stampings and assembly time. Success on a project of this scope only came thanks to the company’s continuous improvements made in its toolroom over recent years—to its die- build procedures, as well as the addi- tion of new CNC wire-EDM machines.
“We invested in new wire-EDM tech-
nology (a pair of Mitsubishi FA-20S machines) to increase capacity,” shares Brazzale. Comparing the new technol- ogy to old, he says that “we achieve the same surface finish on our die blocks and other machined components, but we get there 15 percent faster than we used to. For example, cutting a die block that once required five passes now takes only three. Our throughput has increased greatly, and hence so has our speed to market with new projects.”
State-of-the-Art EDM Pays Off
The Mitsubishi FA-20S offers x-y-z axis travel of 19.7 by 13.8 by 11.8 in., and maximum size of 41.3 by 31.5 by 11.6 in. Features include 16-step pro- grammable flushing control, 3D graph- ical programming, a digital 500-W AC servo-drive system and the ability to make large tapers—45 deg. per side when using special guides, flush cups and Mitsubishi’s Angle Master option.
More from Mitsubishi promotional material:
“Generator power and flushing pres- sure are automatically adapted for the processing conditions, optimizing the cutting speed and minimizing the risk of wire break at the same time. This
Toolroom Technology
Machining Moves Made to Quicken Speed to Market
    Wire-EDM work on the firm’s newest machines from Mitsubishi has become at least 15 percent more efficient thanks to state-of-the-art technology.
MetalForming/March 2011

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