The automotive industry is renowned for its track record in innovation and its investment in research and development in order to improve functionality, reliability and safety. But one area that is often overlooked is the development which goes into bespoke machinery and tooling, which still remains a major part of this industry. Aran Harper of Garrandale explains.
There have been many landmark moments for the automotive industry, which include the introduction of the assembly line and the use of robots for vehicle production. These innovations revolutionised the industry and were the subject of many newspaper headlines at the time. But this is really only part of the story because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other bespoke manufacturing solutions that are just as important.
Long before the production line springs into life, the component parts for every vehicle must be precision manufactured and rigorously tested to meet the highest specifications. Most people wouldn’t buy a new car without test driving it first and the same goes for companies who manufacture parts for the latest cars, because testing is just as important as product development and it is here that a bespoke solution is often the most cost effective option.
This was certainly the case for UYS Ltd who manufactures the exhaust systems for the vehicles that come off the Honda production line in Swindon.
You only have to hear a car with a damaged silencer to realise what a huge difference it makes to the reduction in noise levels – but, perhaps more important, is the fact that a leaking exhaust can lead to toxic fumes entering the passenger compartment. It is therefore imperative that the testing procedure has no margin for error.
A commonly used leak test solution is air decay leak testing, which is an economical and quantifiable method of testing whether a product passes the specified leak limit. There are a number of suitable machines on the market but they are very expensive – particularly if you need to test a variety of different sized products.
Working in conjunction with UYS Ltd, our team of engineers developed a bespoke air decay test machine, which is used by UYS at their manufacturing facility in Oxford to test the integrity of the weld on all of the exhaust systems manufactured by UYS.
Whilst this is a common type of machine that carries out an industry recognised test, the need for a bespoke solution came from the fact that UYS are required to test a number of exhaust systems for different vehicles. As a result, our solution incorporated a range of interchangeable tooling modules which utilise a quick release system. In the short term this allows the modules to be changed quickly and easily for each different exhaust system, saving valuable time in the testing procedure. However, it also provides a long term solution as any future changes to the vehicle model or component can be accommodated through new tooling rather than having to buy a brand new machine.
We have now supplied eight air decay test machines to UYS, together with three additional air underwater test machines which are used for the detection of zero leaks on the integrity of the welded parts. As a complete solution the benefits are extensive as they provide a thorough test solution which eliminates the margin for error. This gives additional benefit of quicker turnaround times for the operator and the resultant reduction in the cost of the testing procedure are also proving to be significant.
The use of specialist machinery and bespoke tooling can play a key part in improving the overall performance of any business –perhaps even more so in the automotive industry where the opportunity for innovation is vast.
So while the challenges it faces of promoting growth and reducing costs are no different to any other industry, it also has a number of unique requirements and this is one such example, which proves that a ‘one size fits all’ solution is not always the best option.
Perhaps more importantly, this is evidence that a solution does not need to grab the headlines in order to be effective. Special purpose machinery such as the air decay test machine may not be as cutting edge as the introduction of robots to the production line, but for UYS it has proved to be invaluable. In fact, it has provided them with a bespoke, long term solution at a fraction of the cost of a standard machine allowing them to continue to ensure the safety and integrity of every product which leaves their factory.
Derby DE21 4AP
Tel: (01332) 291100
Fax: (01332) 222200