10/17/2008 | 3 MINUTE READ

Cutting Tool OEM Races To Supply Productivity Gains

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As the owner and president of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, he oversees teams on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series as well as the Indy Racing League and Automobile Racing Club of America circuits. Throughout Mr. Ganassi’s entire career as an owner, he has continued to raise the innovation bar with a constant search for a better way to do things.

 

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What is Chip Ganassi’s real first name? If you know the answer, you also probably know that the Pittsburgh native and Duquesne University graduate has racing in his blood, having raced motocross, Champ cars and Indy cars, competing in the Indianapolis 500 five times. As the owner and president of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, he oversees teams on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series as well as the Indy Racing League and Automobile Racing Club of America circuits.

Throughout Mr. Ganassi’s entire career as an owner, he has continued to raise the innovation bar with a constant search for a better way to do things.

A trip through his Concord, N.C., garage and some words with the team behind the driving teams—his machinists and machine shop support crew—confirm how important the latest tooling and equipment are to the racing effort.

Tom Warga, CNC machinist II, works on an Okuma MC-V4020 vertical machining center making firebottle brackets from 7075 aluminum barstock. These parts are critical to each car’s fire suppression system. "There are 50 cars on the Ganassi floor, and each one has to have a bracket," Mr. Warga says. And the entire fire suppression system must be replaced, brackets and all, in the case of a wreck, so parts must be produced quickly and on hand constantly.

Part of Mr. Warga’s tooling arsenal from Kennametal is the Hanita VariMill I end mill, square-end HEC end mills for slotting and finishing, and half-inch sculptured edge (SE) drills for high-speed holemaking. "7075 aluminum is strong, and the goal is to produce the lightest, strongest bracket possible," Mr. Warga says. "Turnaround time is less than 3 days on all parts we produce, so chip removal is key— it’s critical to get the chips out of the slot quickly. The performance and quality we get from our Kennametal tools play a vital role on all of our components."

Lead CNC Machinist Dale Lambeth makes sets of rear sway bars out of mild steel one at a time with 24-hour turnaround constraints. "Most of our CNC machines keep a standard package of milling and drilling tools, as more than half the parts we produce require those operations," he says. Mr. Lambeth calls Kennametal RPF face mills "do-all tools" that, along with HEC end mills, SE drills, and others, can be pushed to new limits with the company’s new machine tools.

CNC Machinist II Kevin Greene makes wheel sensor assemblies out of 7075 aluminum. Since time is critical during testing, these assemblies have multiple lead threads so sensors can be removed and reinstalled with a single twist. Mr. Greene relies on Kennametal KM25 toolholders with indexable KC5410 inserts and Top Notch ID groove inserts for the turning, grooving, holemaking, threading and other operations necessary to produce these parts.

Kennametal’s ToolBoss automated tool management system keeps the shop’s focus on the machining without having to search for the necessary tools. "We can be asked to make or modify anything at any time," says Ben Johnson, machine shop group leader. "Just maintaining and restocking tools could take an entire day. The tool management system does it automatically. This means we can stage the tool assembly for every job. As machinists come on, the job is set, and when they get the next job, they can see the tools used in the past. Not only does this ensure uniformity, but tools are inspected and run the night before for quality control. We focus on making the parts, not tool management."

Not only that, Mr. Johnson can manage Chip Ganassi Racing’s tool needs directly from his PC to the tool management system. "We don’t keep a large number of any one item, but always have a large variety of tools to choose from, because our guys are always tinkering to make our cars go faster. As our CNC machinists make their programs, each guy has access to current inventory levels with the new tool management system. And we always have the right tooling in stock because ordering and restocking is automatic."

This is an approach "Chip" (originally named Floyd, after his father) Ganassi would recognize. 

 

 

 

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