Meeting the Need for Speed with CAM Software
Article From: November 2020 Manufacturing Engineering, Quick Drive LLC
Auto racing is a global business and Quick Drive LLC is a key part of the supply chain. The Parker, Colo.-based company manufactures a proprietary line of high-performance drivetrain components for auto racing. Its parts are designed, engineered, prototyped, and manufactured in-house. That’s no small feat for a company that serves customers around the world. “We have clients on every continent with a racetrack, from the U.S. to South Africa and beyond,” said Brock Graves, Quick Drive’s owner/operator.
Quick Drive has produced, tested and verified some of the most unique drivetrain configurations in the world for racing vehicles. The company has produced products from Rotary Mazda to Top Alcohol Funny cars to monster trucks, and for vehicles racing on dirt, strip, and water courses. According to the company, its Quick Drive automatic torque converter has the most tuneability and versatility in the industry. It can mate to a number of different transmissions and the company offers both non-lockup and lockup drive variations.
Graves and his team get it done using milling, turning, and mill-turn processes on a number of machines. On the Quick Drive shop floor you’ll encounter both a Haas VF-2SS and a VF-4 vertical machining center, a Haas UMC-750 five-axis machining center, a Haas ST-20Y live tool lathe, a Takisawa EX-100 lathe, and a Mazak INTEGREX 200sy.
Originally, Quick Drive relied on a third-party company to develop its programming. But working with an outside agency began to present challenges as the company grew and production increased. “As we started to ramp up our development, prototyping and constant part changes posed a big issue with achieving quick turnaround times. In 2017, we made the decision to bring programming in-house,” said Graves.
But shifting to internal programming meant choosing a CAM software to keep up with the shop’s brisk pace. “After shopping many of the CAM options available, we decided to go with ESPRIT,” Graves said. What was the deciding factor? “ESPRIT could offer us proven post processors generated by their team of experts to work directly with our specific machines. And the simulation capabilities were like nothing else existing in the industry,” Graves said. ESPRIT is developed by DP Technology Corp., Camarillo, Calif.
The sheer breadth of components manufactured by Quick Drive is one element of its success. “We build drive units, torque converters, and specialty pneumatic products for drag racing, monster trucks, tractor pullers, drag boats, land speed vehicles, and various high-end custom vehicles,” said Graves. “Our drive unit is composed of more than 20 individual components. The most complex part is a full-billet aluminum case that starts life as a 113-lb [51.26-kg] cube. It gets machined down to around 11 lb [4.99 kg] over the course of about 27 hours of five-axis machine time. Our converters are made from 6061 aluminum and use a combination of ProfitMilling, trochoidal channel roughing, and the five-axis impeller strategy to complete,” Graves said.
Other complex parts include converter impellers and converter stators, both of which are five-axis parts. The converter pieces require uniquely shaped tools and advanced machining methods to complete.
The team at Quick Drive kicked off its ESPRIT license with the shop’s five-axis Haas UMC. For Graves’s team, ESPRIT’s extensive, custom support helped offset the challenges of learning a new software—and that support continued as the business grew. “As we added new machines, ESPRIT upgraded our software to cover the complex parts we needed to produce on new equipment we brought in,” said Graves. “Post-processing support, the digital machine package, and assistance was there again to help us through the growth curve very quickly. We like knowing that the posts are created by ESPRIT for ESPRIT. We don’t have to work with a third party to have the posts created or modified for our equipment.”
ESPRIT significantly eased Quick Drive’s transition to in-house programming. “For the most part, the software has been almost plug-and-play for us. When we do encounter a unique situation, ESPRIT has been able to generate a solution for us in less than 24 hours,” said Graves.
Once the Quick Drive team got over the hump of training on ESPRIT, it began to chip away at reprogramming existing parts in its library. The improvement was substantial. “We recently revisited a part that took 27 minutes to produce. Using the ProfitMilling feature in ESPRIT, we were able to produce the part in 15 minutes,” Graves said. “Conservatively, we’ve also extended our tool life between 30 and 40 percent. Needless to say, we’ll be reprogramming most, if not all, of our parts in the new software.”
In manufacturing, “time is money” is more than a catchy phrase. Graves is optimistic that ESPRIT will help his team keep up with the constantly evolving demands and innovations of the racing industry. “Our customers are continuously striving to break speed records, week in and week out. We don’t have the option of saying something we developed works well, job complete,” said Graves.
Instead, Quick Drive’s product development and improvement efforts are never-ending—the goalposts are constantly moving. “We spend more time developing our product offering than we do building it. With partners like ESPRIT, we can get things done faster, more efficiently, and more accurately on the first try,” he said. With reduced manufacturing times, the Quick Drive team has more time to develop, plan, and stay a few steps ahead of the competition.
“The racing industry is gaining market share around the world, and the technology in these vehicles is improving exponentially. We see an incredible growth potential in this industry, and we’re grateful to have the tools and resources to keep up with it,” said Graves.