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29th Jun 2017

The friction guides have been designed in-house by Accuride’s product engineering group.

David Brooks is one of Accuride’s product design engineers based in the Northampton office responsible for this range of guides.

We asked him what started him off on the design process for the friction guides and how he went about specifying the materials used in production.

David, Accuride is well known as a manufacturer of ball bearing slides and guides. Why did you decide to research plain bearing guides?

Plain bearing guides are a natural progression for Accuride. Expanding on Accuride’s already established product ranges of partial or full extension ball guides, linear plain bearings seemed to compliment this range, while also adding something new.

The sliding surface is very important in friction guides. Instead of ball bearings these guides have sliding surfaces with very specific requirements. Can you explain?

Plain bearings have a range of important factors. The polymer bearing needs to have a low frictional force against its counter surface and to maintain a low rate of wear. This is helped by having a hard counter surface; in this case hard anodised aluminium.

Which other unique design features have you included in this range?

Accuride’s new linear friction guide range benefits from many unique design features. The track design has an extruded cavity which runs through the internal length to help reduce weight and material usage and ultimately also reduces the end cost for customers. The guides also benefit from having equal wear capabilities when they are either top, under mount or side loaded. This means that no matter which way up you use these guides, their life span is always the same.

How did you decide which materials to use? What criteria were you looking for?

We conducted a vast amount of testing to narrow down our search for the perfect materials to use in our friction guide range. Once the top performing polymers had been selected, they then went under further, more specific environmental wear testing.

Explain some of the testing methods used for these friction guides. We have in-house testing facilities, but did you have to build something new for this?

Our in house testing facility is great for our standard product ranges, but the new linear guides required a high degree of testing.

New test machines had to be designed and built so that we could test the product to the limits in terms of speed, wear and temperature. The new plain bearing guides can also last many millions of metres while in operation, so full and over length cycle testing had to take place.

We know that on-going testing is part of the Accuride design and quality process. Does this affect how you start the next design project?

Yes, at Accuride we constantly test the limits of any new and existing designs so that we can offer customers constantly improved products that can withstand higher loads and perform for longer. Any knowledge gained from testing is always incredibly useful to put back into the design and concept process.

The Accuride product design engineers work on their projects from conception to launch. This means that they are uniquely qualified to give technical support. If you have any questions you want to put to David, please email him here.

Helle Kinning

Is the natural world influencing the design of the next generation of electric vehicles?

Author: Helle Kinning, Marketing and distribution support specialist

12th May 2017

In the last 10 years, electric cars have come a long way; they were once only thought of as transport for those who rejected practicality for the status of owning a fully electric car.

Back in 2007, electric car pioneers, Tesla Motors hadn’t yet released a car and most electric vehicles available were either milk floats, golf carts or the G-Wiz.

The heavily critiqued G-Wiz had a range of just 50 miles with a charge time of eight hours, making it very impractical for the majority of the population. In 2010, just 138 electric cars were sold in the UK. Compare that to the second half of 2016 when more than 66,000 plug-in electric vehicles were registered. World-wide the 2016 figure is estimated at 1.3m cars.

Why has there been a surge in electric cars?

As technological breakthroughs increase, the practicality of electric vehicles has become a much better alternative to the traditional combustion engine. So much so, that German politicians have called on their Government and the EU to ban the combustion engine in vehicles by the year 2030.

Every major manufacturer of cars around the world is developing or has developed a fully electric car – with even non-automobile manufacturers such as Google and Apple entering the market.
Luxury electric vehicle manufacturer, Tesla, has been a market leader since 2010 with the introduction of the Model S. It has corporate styling with heavy lines and a minimalist interior that wouldn’t look out of place in a high-rise office reception.

But in the last year, there has been a boom in the plug-in electric car market with big announcements from Jaguar and Lucid Motors, a Chinese backed auto start-up. These latest cars can give us a glimpse at what the future of electric looks like.

What does the future of electric cars hold?

Although it is still at the concept stage, the interior of Jaguar’s I-Pace is reminiscent of a chic lobby with neutral sandy tones covering the dashboard and seats plus rustic wooden inserts in the centre console and across the dashboard.

It’s no coincidence that Jaguar’s promotional video is set in a desert environment; they want the outside world to flow inside the car and break down the barrier between the two. The roof features a large glass panel that floods the interior with light during the day and allows the passengers to gaze at the stars at night.

Auto manufacturers bring their customers and passengers closer to nature with innovative methods that enhance the experience. Even futuristic Tesla feature an extended windscreen that stretches over the head of the driver to give panoramic views.

Lucid Motors, a start-up motor company in California, has recently released their latest car, the Lucid Air, which looks very different from today’s motors. The back seats resemble something closer to the rear of a luxury wooden powerboat with finishes in wood and leather to give the feeling that you are floating on the French Riviera.

As concerns for the wellbeing and sustainability of the environment grow, so too has the interest in electric vehicles and the financial commitment from manufacturers. It is only fitting that those who have a connection to the environment by going electric are made to feel closer to nature through the interior design.

Check out how our telescopic slides are transforming the automotive industry and see how each feature of electric cars can be improved with ball bearing slides.

With billions of pounds being invested in electric vehicles and concept cars being launched on a monthly basis, how long will it be before these plug-in cars dominate our roads?

Sue Witkowski

Rising oil prices and climate change drive efficient aircraft design

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager

24th Mar 2017

The aviation industry has enjoyed a boom in growth over the last three years as fuel prices have steadily dropped. This has meant that passengers have been enjoying low fares to their favourite destinations.

However, OPEC, the organisation for oil producing nations, has announced that it is cutting production of oil. This has already resulted in a jump in the prices of oil to its highest since July 2015 and it won’t be long before passengers will feel the effects of this as seat prices are set to rise.

What has this meant for aircraft manufacturers?

When Airbus launched the A380 in 2005, the titanic plane aimed to transport the most amount of people in the most efficient way possible. It came with a multitude of innovations to increase cabin space while reducing weight and increasing savings for the airlines. Boeing replied with the smaller 787 Dreamliner to cater for fewer passenger numbers, but providing more cabin space and an improved experience for short to medium flights at a high efficiency.

As the manufacturers of planes produce bigger aircraft, passengers demand more space and, for business and first class passengers, this desire for more space is being satisfied.

Airbus will re-release the A330 under the name A330neo, promising 14 per cent better fuel economy per seat. Lighter composite materials and better interior design has meant that manufacturers and airlines can capitalise more on business and first class passengers who want an improved flying experience.

As operating costs increase for airlines, it is up to manufacturers to build and supply more efficient planes with better equipped cabins for all passengers.

So what about the aircraft?

Airbus’ latest A330neo features similar features as its competitor, the 787. Even in economy, it has 18-inch wide seats, more legroom and 66 per cent more room in overhead storage plus Wi-Fi for all passengers. Premium fare passengers get even more toys with bigger screens and the next generation of on-board entertainment systems.

But it has been in first class, across all fleets, where the most innovative solutions have been developed - creating the most amount of space where it is in high demand for customers willing to pay for it.

Emirates and Etihad Airways aim to create a similar look and experience to that of an ultra-luxurious car. Only available on the spacious A380, Etihad offer their hotel in the clouds with The Residence. Featuring three rooms including a bedroom with an en-suite shower room, the interior is more like a boutique London hotel than a traditional aircraft.

What can premium passengers expect?

In the first class suites of Emirates and Etihad space in the cabin comes at a premium. Aircraft interior designers have come up with many innovative ways to create space for their most important passengers.
The common theme of the Gulf aircraft is luxury. Both offer fully reclining seats with complete privacy using motorised sliding doors. Rotating televisions and motorised sliding refreshment bars are just some of the luxury features that are available at the touch of a button. French polished woods and cream leather seats adorn the first class suites to give passengers a taste of what it’s like to fly in a private jet.

For the future of aviation, airlines are introducing weight saving measures and trying to increase the amount of personal space for passengers in all areas of the cabin. For each 10kg weight reduction, about 10 tons of CO2 can be avoided in one year.* Therefore, the planes of the future need to be built to improve fuel efficiency and yet still consider passengers’ comfort – a design challenge for all involved.

*IATA Factsheet Nov 2016.

Helle Kinning

New challenges

Author: Helle Kinning, Marketing and distribution support specialist

13th Feb 2017

The start of the year often brings changes and new (year) resolutions with one door closing, while another one is opening.

After 40 years of loyal service, our Distribution Engineering Manager, John Whittlesea, decided to “hang up his boots” (or slides shall we say? ) and take a well-deserved rest.

This change challenged a new person to fill this interesting and demanding role to support our European Distribution network.

Let’s hear what Stefan Herchenreder has to say…

HK: A big welcome to the Distribution Team, Stef! But you are not completely new to Accuride, are you?

SH: No, I’ve been with Accuride for almost 13 years now.

I was recruited when Accuride started making inroads into the field of Automotive projects.

My previous life had been spent working within the Automotive industry - both for an OEM and for full-service suppliers. That gave me plenty of experience for my Design and Project Engineering role within Accuride.

HK: What areas are you looking forward to in this role?

SH: Personally, I’d say that I’m looking forward to the variety of the challenge. Facing technical queries from Customers and Distributors - discovering the wide range of applications where our slides have been put to use.

Also, I now have a great team to work with - designing, developing and testing new products for our Distribution Division.

HK: In your previous role, you have actually designed products that are already in our Quick Ship programme – 0116RC and the Locking Handle Kit. Where do you get the inspiration?

SH: Oh I can’t take the credit for that! These things usually start with a customer or a colleague saying something like “I wish we could get a …”, or “Wouldn’t it be great to have a …”.

That gets the creative juices flowing… from there, design processes, customer input and feedback take over… and the new product evolves.

For example, the 0116RC started as my “hobby project” to create a super heavy duty recirculating ball slide - something I’d work on between other projects.

When AXIS Automatic Entrance Systems came to us and asked for a very low effort system that they could use for hospital doors at the new Alder Hay Children’s Hospital, the hobby project was quickly adapted to suit this application. With a few additional modifications, it was put into the Distribution range.

HK: If you had the crystal ball, what new trends would you predict?

SH: I would predict that trends are leading increasingly towards more re-circulating type of slides. These types of slides have the benefit of being more versatile with regard to length.

Unlike traditional slides with a fixed length and travel set by the slide member lengths and ball bearing cages, the travel of a re-circulating type slide is restricted only by the length of the track it is fitted into… and individual tracks can be butted end-to-end to create any length required.

On a wider note (and at the risk of sounding old) I’d also predict that over the next few years we’ll also see a lot more interaction between… well… just about everything!

The whole “Internet Of Things” appears to be snowballing. Smartphones and now smart watches, mean that people have the internet at their fingertips 24-7. Technology that started as a thousand dollar plus watch can now be purchased at a petrol station for literally pocket-money prices. As these devices get cheaper and smarter, they become more accessible. More people have them, leading to more ideas and ever greater demands on what these gizmos can do.

Just a few years ago, the internet was a cable connected to your home computer and used for emailing and looking things up. Now, via WiFi, it provides the content to your TV, controls the thermostat in your home and even switches on the coffee machine as you make your way home. You can see where there are empty parking spaces in a city-centre, provide your doctor with live-feed health data, track your cat and your fridge can do on-line shopping!

Hmmm… I wonder if I can connect a ball-bearing slide to the internet?

HK: Well…maybe that can be your next new invention! We wish Stef good luck and look forward to new and exciting developments from his team!

Accuride – always moving forward…

10th Jan 2017

3D printing technology looks likely to revolutionise manufacturing and move industries into a new age of efficiency.

A significant reduction in prices for 3D printers and materials has opened up the technology to many smaller businesses, when once only large corporations could afford the technology. Wohlers Report in 2014 predicted a rise from $3.07 billion in revenue from 2013 to $12.8 billion in 2018 (and according to their 2016 report hit over $5 billion in 2015).

A cost saving initiative

Initially touted for prototyping and design projects, advancements in technology are now allowing structurally secure items to be created by additive manufacturing -permitting companies to rely on 3D printing for much more than design and with the advantage of dramatic cost savings.

Paul Doe, chief designer at motorsport designers Prodrive, stated whilst speaking to Computer, “We’re able to build shapes that you can’t mould cast or forge – pieces you can’t make in any other way but through additive manufacturing. This allows us to avoid fixed costs and it means we don’t have to carry stock because we can manufacture parts on demand.” One car project in particular saw a cost saving of £80,000 thanks to 3D printing.

More specialised industries, above all, have benefitted from faster production. Where one off complicated parts may have previously been on lead times of weeks, or even months, they can now be produced in-house within a matter of hours.

Accuride’s use of 3D printing for product design

For Accuride’s design engineers 3D printing has made a huge difference to their approach to product development. The relatively low cost of getting prototype parts manufactured has allowed them to experiment more and test their ideas before settling on a final design. Arguably this has a positive effect on the end product and, of course, for the customer who benefits from the best possible solution.

Opening opportunities with new materials

New filaments are increasing the opportunities for additive manufacturing, with recent developments allowing even lower range 3D printers to produce metal models.

Metallic filaments containing plastic provide exciting capabilities to smaller companies. Brass and copper versions are readily available with the future possibility to produce commercially available nickel, ceramic and even glass models from 3D printing.

Recently 3M filed a patent for a new type of 3D printing technology that could lead to the manufacturing of fluorocarbon-based plastics, also known as fluoropolymers, which are used in everything from aerospace and defence applications to non-stick cooking surfaces.

The future of manufacturing

Low volume manufacturing has already embraced additive manufacturing, with it yet to break the seriously high volumes and regular manufacturing markets. Where companies are reaping the rewards is in the building of subassemblies, tools or jigs to reduce costs and long lead times.

However, some cutting edge firms are embracing 3D printing and new technology, with construction firms using additive manufacturing to produce modular construction components and even drones for site inspection and monitoring. Size had previously been a limiting factor, but now Stratasys has unveiled a machine that prints on a vertical plane enabling practically unlimited part size in the build direction, the company claims.

Worldwide, companies and factories are pushing the additive manufacturing industry to the next level. Sheffield University’s Factory 2050 was built with the key objective of developing high value manufacturing production over short run cycles with limited downtime.

2050 and similar factories are also benefitting from new standards supporting and allowing growth within the industry; most recently ASTM International describing chemical and mechanical requirements for 3D printing of stainless steel alloys.

It is interesting to note how major OEMs, especially those in the automotive market, are taking the lead in experimenting and investing in this technology.

3D printing start-up Carbon has brought in GE, BMW and Nikon as strategic investors and BMW has already produced some 10,000 parts with Carbon’s machines so far, mainly for its Minis in Germany.
Peugeot has announced a partnership with Divergent 3D, a U.S. company that last year showed off a supercar built of 3D printed structural components. The French car maker said it would start by using Divergent’s technology to make prototypes and then later explore on how to extend the same into mainstream production.

Honda has used a 3D printer to manufacture the outer panels for its ‘MC-Β’ compact electric vehicle (EV) and Ford has said that one of the immediate applications it is exploring is tooling.

With forward-thinkers leading an industry where the sky is the limit, does additive manufacturing have the ability to replace manufacturing as we know it? At the moment this seems improbable due to the length of time each part takes to print. But with the speed of advancements in this technology we can’t discount its potential impact.

Additional material from Nikkei Technolog, EPPM, Financial Times

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