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Machining a potential record breaker

News International-French

12 Apr 2013

Leading Formula 1 and motorsport supplier Formaplex has been set a very different challenge from the normal pattern and tooling requirements.

Renowned for their carbon composite chassis/composite machining for Formula one and Le Mans teams, their latest chassis was considerably larger than anything that they had attempted before, and was very much a one off.

The chassis was that of the bloodhound SSC, and will be where the legend Andy Green pilots this wheeled missile across the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa on route to a land speed world record of hopefully over 1000mph!

“We have extensive experience in the machining of carbon composites, but the size of the bloodhound chassis that we were faced with was more akin to the military work that we do for troop carriers than that of a single seater race car,” said Composites Manufacturing Manager Rob Carter.

“The inclusion of the air intake on top of the chassis meant that we were not able to machine the chassis as we would have like to, as we didn’t have the height in the Z  on the machine. Instead the chassis was jigged and laid on its side, allowing our 5 axis machine to operate on the side of the chassis with access to both ends.”

The chassis was machined in several set ups over 10 days using specialist tooling to cope with the aggressive nature of the carbon fibre composite.

Composites Director Jon Payne added: “The machining operation on chassis is a high risk business with a lot of time, effort and materials going into the program prior to it seeing the machine bed. It would only take a small error on our part to wreck a lot of people’s hard work. Fortunately for us we have highly skilled and experienced staff that allows me to take on such projects with confidence.

“Few people realise that for highly tolerance accurate work, moulding all the features is not enough. As the composite cures there is always some movement within the composite component.

“Experienced designers such as Stuart Allan are aware of such issues and allow for extra sacrificial plies to be applied to the datum faces. We can then machine these faces and datumise the chassis allowing all the holes and important faces to tie up as the designer intended.

“We are very proud to be involved in such an exciting  program that show cases to the world the high standards of engineering that made this country great and something we can still be very proud of. If it ignites an interest in engineering as it did for me with Thrust 2 some 25 years ago then the project will be a complete success”

A time-lapse video showing the production is available at: