EdgeCAM helps keep Triple Eight racing on the right track

Triple Eight Race Engineering Australia has been the driving force behind this year’s historic victory for Ford in the Bathurst 1000 motor race. In 2004 888 installed EdgeCAM Solid Machinist from Pathtrace as a key element in the expansion and improvement

14 December 2006 – In the super-competitive world of motor sport, producing quality car parts on demand can mean the difference between losing or winning a race.

Nowhere is this more true than in the cut-and-thrust of the Australian V8 Supercar series where Triple Eight Race Engineering Australia (888) has been the driving force behind this year’s historic victory for Ford in the Bathurst 1000 motor race.

In 2004, 888 installed EdgeCAM Solid Machinist from Pathtrace as a key element in the expansion and improvement of its in-house machine shop. The team had previously outsourced its machining jobs and was looking to increase productivity in order to be able to respond faster to requirements for components for its Ford Falcon race cars.

“We decided to offset the cost by using it to produce affordable race parts for other Ford teams,” explains commercial manager Peter Jamieson. “To do this, we needed to increase productivity both in the generation of machine tool programmes and in the efficiency of manufacture. There is another very good reason for having the best possible design and production facilities in-house: 888 just cannot afford the risk of failing to meet critical deadlines, which is more likely when the work is
subcontracted out.”

Senior machinist Neil Prior (formerly with Williams F1) investigated the market to find the best combination of CAD/CAM software and CNC machine tools. Two systems reached his shortlist and EdgeCAM was selected to operate with the HAAS lathes and mills in the machine shop.

“Being a leading player in the competitive world of motor sport, it is imperative that we are able to work efficiently and effectively due to the tight deadlines and constant

changes that are made to the design of components,” explains Prior. “After looking at several systems we chose EdgeCAM because it met all of our requirements for mill/turn, providing a wide range of machining features and ease of solid model transfer with our CAD system.

“In the almost two years since we started using EdgeCAM we have not come across a part that cannot be produced using the various operations and methods available with the system.

“A recent investment was a fourth axis attachment which we fitted to our HAAS VF3 to produce our components in fewer processes. We have also reprogrammed a part for the fourth axis that originally took seven operations. Using EdgeCAM this was quickly and easily reduced to two – and the ability to run the machine unattended came as a welcome bonus. The system has also enabled us to tap into the full potential of our HAAS SL30 CNC lathe and its live tooling capability.

“Utilising the EdgeCAM Job Manager, the system has moved up to the next level. We have employed a setter operator to run our HAAS VF3 and can document the part to be machined in a clear and concise way that greatly reduces the chance of set-up error.

“With the technical support of m2c (EdgeCAM master distributor based in Victoria, Australia) we have developed the post processors over a period of time to a standard that gives us complete confidence that what we see on the computer screen is what we will produce on the machine.

“EdgeCAM Solid Machinist met our requirements better than any other solution we looked at and it also was easier to learn and use.”

The software integrates seamlessly with all leading CAD packages including Autodesk Inventor which 888 was already using. All machining is completed in house and with

stringent design criteria of function, form and weight, component designs – and their associated CNC programs – are invariably complex.

“As a team we pride ourselves on the thoroughness of our approach and try to look at all the problems so as to make the part right first time,” says Jamieson. “However, this is the real world and even with all of our experience, rapid design changes may become necessary. EdgeCAM’s capability to handle this has proved to be of great value. Testing can often mean subtle changes to a car component, so it’s a case of ‘back to the drawing board’ – or in this case, back to the CAD model. Thanks to EdgeCAM’s associativity, changes to complex components can be made in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional methods or using non-associative software. The toolpaths are associative to any changes made to the 3D model, so that if the model is changed, so are the toolpaths – automatically.”

Satisfaction with the EdgeCAM system and its ability to deliver, is evident throughout
the team.

“We make changes to the design, manufacture the part and can have it running on the car within a few hours,” says chief mechanic Steve Robertson. “That’s quick.”

It’s also the kind of capability that underpinned 888’s success in breaking the stranglehold its rivals had held over the Bathurst event since 1998. As race winner Craig Lowndes freely acknowledged to the team: “It is amazing what you are capable of when you have the support behind you…we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for people like you.”

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