Tamworth-based, workholding specialist Brown & Holmes has recently supplied 59 fixtures for the high performance engine manufacturer Cosworth’s flagship Advanced Manufacturing Centre, which will officially open in 2015.
This contract, which is one of the largest single orders that Brown & Holmes has ever received, also includes the supply of a further number of inspection fixtures for the new plant based in Northampton. This new manufacturing facility has been designed by Cosworth to house an advanced, flexible manufacturing system for the production of complex automotive components and to help OEMs bring new innovations to the market.
Workholding and sub-contract machining solutions’ provider, Brown & Holmes, first received an enquiry from Cosworth for producing hydraulic fixturing in late Spring 2014. The fixtures were to be stored and managed on a Fastems 72 pallet system which would be located within a fully automated cell. The use of robots to lift the components on and off the fixture during the wash part of the process meant consideration during fixture design had to be given to how the parts would be accessed and gripped during this automated sequence. It was also critical that the fixtures were monitored via air sensing to confirm that the components were correctly positioned and seated following auto loading.
Carl Baker, Joint Managing Director of Brown & Holmes, said: “It was important to collaborate closely not only with Cosworth but also with the other suppliers: Walter, who supplied the tooling, ABB who supplied the robotics, Fastems who designed the pallet systems and Matsura whose machines were being used within the process.”
Although each fixture was designed from scratch, Brown & Holmes has a known pedigree for supplying solutions for many similar automotive components. In this instance, the complexity and size of the project meant that four Brown & Holmes in-house design engineers worked on it full time during the critical development stage. Carl Baker feels that despite the resource needed to deliver this project, Brown & Holmes did have an advantage: “We were able to draw on our years of experience in designing and manufacturing fixtures for the automotive industry. We also have a large in-house design capacity so were able to dedicate almost 50% of our design resource to realise this project. Our experienced team were able to utilise CAD models to good effect so all the parties involved could have as much input as needed before the final design and subsequent manufacturing took place.”
As well as being fully designed and manufactured in-house at Brown & Holmes’ premises in Tamworth, the finished fixtures were also tested, inspected and bought off within the facility. Carl Baker commented: “It is essential as part of any design and manufacture project that all interested parties are able to visit our premises, hopefully with a component to try onto the fixtures. This allows everyone to look at the fine detail of ease of loading, possible swarf traps and cutter access amongst other things. This in turn makes the delivery to the customer so much smoother so that the fixtures perform right first time and deliver over and above customer expectations.” The finished fixtures will be used by Cosworth to machine cylinder heads, chain case covers, sumps and cylinder blocks for three major car and sports car manufacturers.
The fixtures have been delivered on a phased basis since April 2014 and the project is due for completion towards the end of 2015. The inspection fixtures, which have only recently been ordered, will be delivered on an ongoing basis. The project has run to schedule, which Carl Baker attributes to the good working relationship that Brown & Holmes has enjoyed with Cosworth throughout. He explained: “Despite the size of the undertaking it has been a very smooth process with an excellent flow of information from all sides. The Cosworth team has been an absolute pleasure to work with.”