Assembly Switzerland: Pole position in the factory

Author / Editor: Marco Casile / Lina Klass

Reduce weight, maximise stability, speed up processes: This «squaring of a circle» is a daily matter for Sauber Motorsport AG. Here, the Swiss racing firm relies on assembly solutions from Walter Meier.

To remain in the world lead, each component is continuously improved at Sauber Motorsport.
To remain in the world lead, each component is continuously improved at Sauber Motorsport.
(Source: Sauber Motorsport)

Apart from the powerful corporations that dominate Formula 1, Sauber Motorsport AG is one of the few private teams that can permanently assert themselves in the royal class. So much the greater are the challenges in the manufacture of spare parts: The extreme stresses on the race track demand highest-precision processing with minimal tolerance for measurements, materials and surfaces. But in the struggle for tenths of a second, each component must be as light as possible. Complex geometries and special substances are the rule, not the exception. Added to this are increasingly stringent FiA rules governing the construction and safety of cars.

Best assembly solutions in prototype and parts production

Mechanical assembly at the Sauber plant in Hinwil runs at full steam throughout the year. Not only do parts, designed for short operating periods, need to be replaced; a modified car waits on the starting line at each race. Moreover, each part is continually improved. As if that were not enough, development for the next season takes place at the same time. Correspondingly tight is the timeframe for prototype and parts production, made additionally difficult by the logistical issues of the global racing calendar. To handle all this, the engineers must be able to rely on the best assembly solutions. Sauber Motorsport AG has closely cooperated with Walter Meier in this area for 20 years. In order to raise the already high level of performance even higher, a new generation of CNC machines went into service in October 2017. They will be used to process critical parts made from titanium, aluminium and composite materials, such as wheel carriers, engine mounts or wing end pieces.

Heavyweights with a delicate touch

The catalogue of duties in the Sauber plant – low numbers of units, higher pressure of time, great variety of parts – will be fulfilled in the most efficient way with two 5-axle Litz LU-800 processing centres with Heidenhain steering and torque motor direct drive. Their trump card is universal application and top precision and stability. The latter is vital in Formula 1. The more precise and stable the components, the better the manoeuvring space for constructors to reduce weight. A key factor for top precision and silent operation is the robustness of the Litz LU-800, which weighs about four times as much the previous machines. Just as important is the perfect coordination of machines, tools and accessories.

In planning assembly, Sauber Motorsport AG and Walter Meier have attached particular importance to this «Teamwork». Each link in the assembly process was critically examined and in many cases, reinforced with individual solutions. For example, the AMF clamping devices and the zero-point system were developed especially for Sauber production. The 70 bar coolant system and the chip conveyors are also tailor-made solutions. An alternative drying system with chip removal was also checked, but the advantages of wet production outweigh the advantage of the time saved by not drying. With tools, too, the solution exceeds the standards by far. A quick-change system cuts the conversion time by up to 70% and ensures that there is always a replacement for an active tool. Also a speciality is the laser monitoring developed by Walter Meier, which measures tool wear in real time and identifies breakages immediately.


More power and tempo with components

Thanks to the know-how of Walter Meier and the smooth cooperation with Sauber Motorsport AG, the technological change of generations has gone smoothly. The new machines were fitted punctually in just one day, and the start-up also went according to schedule. In mechanical assembly, the Sauber is starting from a very good position in the 2018 racing season. The new infrastructure is attaining a new level of quality with regard to the geometry, precision and weight of car parts, but is also saving time as well: More efficient machines, tools and measurement systems reduce assembly times and the needed for monitoring. Even large and complex construction parts can be produced overnight, saving the developers in Hinwil a couple of night shifts.

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