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EDM and (five-axis) milling machine tool technologies from GF Agie Charmilles will be used to manufacture a diverse range of high-performance, high-precision, complex F1 car parts.

Over the coming months, 10 machines will be installed at the Renault F1 Team’s production facility in Enstone, UK.

The EDM machines (seven wire EDM machines and two die-sink machines) will upgrade the Renault F1 Team’s EDM capabilities and replace previous GF Agie Charmilles EDM technology.

The new wire EDM machines are all from GF Agie Charmilles Cleancut range and consist of three FI 240CCS, three FI 440CCS and one FI 640CCS.

As well as being equipped with high-speed Cleancut generators, all machines deliver accuracy, fast cutting speeds (500mm2/min) and super-fine surface finishes (0.1 micron Ra).

They also feature Automatic Wire Thread and Integrated Collision Protection capabilities.

The two die-sink machines are FO 350SP models.

The machines deliver surface finishes of 0.1 micron Ra and are equipped with GF Agie Charmilles IQ (Zero Wear) technology, which can increase the life and performance of electrodes.

By contrast, the Mikron HPM 600U five-axis machine is the first GF Agie Charmilles machining centre in which the Renault F1 Team has invested.

Since 1996, EDM technology has become increasingly important to the Renault F1 Team and is considered to be a ‘core’ technology alongside other, more conventional machining methods.

‘There are approximately 12,000 different parts in a Renault F1 car and EDM technology, either completely or partially, is involved in the manufacture of about five per cent to eight per cent of them,’ said John Mardle, operations director at Renault F1 Team.

‘It’s likely that the proportion of parts manufactured using EDM technology will grow exponentially in the future.

‘Components such as suspension uprights, which in the past were manufactured from steel and involved a considerable amount of fabrication, have been completely redesigned and transformed in recent years.

‘Today they are wire-profiled from solid pre-moulded MMC-derivative blanks,’ he added.

An upright is the component that links the suspension wishbones to the axle and the wheel.

Owing to the multitude of functions the upright has to accommodate, it is subject to enormous stresses.

This is particularly the case under braking when the upright must withstand the loads from downforce, the braking event and also suspension movement.

‘There are obvious advantages to using EDM technology in this application and other similar applications,’ said Mardle.

‘EDM is a non-contact process, therefore no stresses are created in the workpiece material, which in turn helps maintain part integrity.

‘The previous fabrication of uprights was prone to failure – with cracking, especially on the welding joints, being a specific problem.

‘As the parts are able to be machined from solid blanks, they are more reliable, are stiffer and have a higher load bearing.

‘High accuracies within a few microns and exceptional surface finishes are the hallmarks of EDM technology and can be achieved on one machine in a single set-up.

‘Intricate and delicate parts and features can only be manufactured to the exacting standards we demand on an EDM machine,’ he added.

Even the ‘potential’ downsides to EDM, namely its ‘slow’ cutting speeds and longer cutting times, have been overcome by the Renault F1 Team’s choice of the most advanced EDM machines.

‘The integrated automation on our GF Agie Charmilles EDM machines, which includes features such as the fast Automatic Wire Thread capability, plus the ability to run unattended extends our manufacturing capacity and helps us control costs,’ said Mardle.

‘The EDM machines have excellent cutting speeds and removal rate capabilities,’ he added.

It was on the strength of the performance of GF Agie Charmilles EDM technology and the reputation of its Mikron five-axis machining centres that convinced the Renault F1 Team to choose a GF Agie Charmilles HPM 600U five-axis machine.

The decision to invest in this machine is set against the organisation’s determination to increase its ability to manufacture parts in ‘one-hit’.

‘The HPM 600U was not purchased to machine a specific part or family of parts,’ said Mardle.

‘Instead we could see from the outset that the machine had a huge potential and could be used to machine a diverse range of components immediately and well into the future.

‘The power, machining capability, accuracy, inherent flexibility and process reliability of the machine, and its ability to help us machine parts faster, better and more economically, were the key drivers behind our choice,’ he added.

The HPM 600U machine is equipped with a 20,000rev/min (HSK – A63) advanced motor spindle, direct-drive rotary table technology and Smart Technology software.

The machine can handle everything from heavy-duty roughing right through to fine finishing operations.

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