Just over 18 months ago TDM Solutions shipped three fixtures to a prestigious, high-end automotive OEM based in the north of England. The three fixtures were to be used for the CNC manufacture of interior trim and pressed aluminium for the rear door capping (waist rail) and left and right door pads on an extended wheel base limousine that the OEM manufactures.
The contract was won as a result of an informal cluster between Tool Die and Mould (TDM) Solutions – the design company, a local machine shop and a freight forwarding and logistics service provider.
The success and on time delivery of the fixtures has led to TDM Solutions winning a further order to design and manufacture a further seven fixtures locally that will also be used by companies operating in the automotive industry in the UK and supplying OEMs.
One of the seven new fixtures that TDM Solutions has designed and manufactured locally and is exporting to a client in the UK
“Fixturing is an expensive yet critical step in high-volume, close-tolerance production of components, especially in the automotive industry. When holding a component in place, a fixture must be custom fitted for each component, making changeovers slow and expensive,” said Jim Plester of TDM Solutions. Plester has been working in the automotive and aerospace industry for over 25 years as a designer within the manufacturing processes, both locally and internationally. His last position in the UK before immigrating to South Africa in 2005 was Planning Manager at Bentley Motors Ltd, which at the time produced Rolls-Royce and Bentley branded cars, where he spent eight years.
“Machine tools are in a constant state of evolution as controls get smarter and spindle speeds and traverse rates get faster. In the automotive supply chain this demands regular investment in the latest technologies, and not just at OEM plants.”
“Machining is only one of many production stages prior to assembly for most automotive components. A number of secondary processes, including cleaning for example, are required before assembly can ensue. Improper part cleaning can adversely affect downstream processes such as heat treating and plating. It can also lead to powertrain failures if debris is released into an engine, transmission, fuel delivery system or steering assembly.”
“My past experience with Bentley allowed me to anticipate the vagaries that are encountered when CNC machining of OEM components takes place, and I incorporated these into the fixtures at the design stage.”
“There are 100s of various fixtures and jigs that are used for manufacturing automotive components and they all have some sort of special requirement. Additionally the fixtures or jigs do not last forever so the potential for us to compete, both locally and internationally, is huge.”
Jim Plester of TDM Solutions with Andrew Petersen of Cliff’s Way Engineering
“The seven fixtures have been designed and manufactured for a new client in the UK who is a Tier One supplier. One fixture is for a component that they will be machining for an OEM that already has fixtures of ours, and the other six are for machining of components for another OEM. These six fixtures are for a vehicle that has not been launched yet and is not even in the public domain. Launch date is only due for late 2017 so it gives you some idea of how far in advance the OEMs and their suppliers work.”
“The fixtures are holding fixtures for CNC milling of components in the centre console for left and right hand drives. They will be used in the manufacture of interior/decorative trim that has a combination of pressed aluminium and wood veneer with a plastic backing.”
“The project has taken close to five months to complete, which includes design, manufacture and process capability on a 5-axis machine before shipping.”
“We are very proud to say that we have done a redesign on previous fixtures used by our client for similar components and they will now be realising a 96% improvement of machining times etc.”
“The fixtures themselves only took three weeks to manufacture and are made up of aluminium and tool steel, vacuum fixture plates and electrics and there were milling, turning, wire cutting, anodising and of course CMM inspection procedures that were used to manufacture the fixtures.”
“On this occasion we used Cliff’s Way Engineering as our machine shop partner. Cliff’s Way Engineering was established in the early 1980’s and has since become an internationally recognised sub-contractor that specialises in complex precision machining for the rail, power, aerospace, defence, mining, toolmaking and general engineering industries for ferrous and non ferrous materials as well as exotic materials such as Inconel and titanium.”
“Cliff’s Way Engineering has a number of 5-axis machining centers on their shopfloor. It was important that when we did the process capability of the fixtures we could set up a simulated situation of what our client will be using in the machining process. We even imported a few hundred of each of the components that are going to be machined in the UK so as to prove that we can deliver on the accuracies that were a condition of the contract.”
“We believe that locally we have the skills and knowledge to be competitive on the world stage. But to achieve recognition abroad and win orders criteria such as quality should not be emphasised in the equation, it is a must. Price pressure and service delivery are more critical, especially when you are competing against China and India, for example, and industrialised countries that are closer to the client.”
For further details contact TDM Solutions on TEL: 011 234 6019 or visit www.tdmsolutions.co.za