SAIC specifies Delcam PowerMILL software for European Design Centre
SAIC Motor UK has chosen Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software to program a Kolb StudioLine M five-axis milling machine that was installed earlier this year as part of a major expansion of the company’s European Design Centre in Longbridge, Birmingham.
SAIC is one of China’s largest automotive companies, producing around 4.5 million vehicles in 2012. The company operates joint ventures in China with General Motors and Volkswagen, and also produces the Roewe range, one of the few domestic Chinese luxury car brands. SAIC acquired the MG brand in 2007, with both styling and engineering continuing to be developed on the company’s historic Longbridge site.
The European Design Centre, which was a £5 million investment when it was originally established in 2010, is focused primarily on MG vehicles but also provides design input to SAIC’s Roewe models. The Centre added its first machining facilities earlier this year as part of a £1.5 million expansion that doubled its size to make it one of the largest automotive design studios in the UK. The Kolb machine is being used to produce scale and full-size models of new designs, as well as concept vehicles and show cars for international exhibitions. Prior to this investment, all machining of this type was subcontracted to a number of UK suppliers.
The first projects for the Delcam software were part of the final development stages of the MG3, the stylish small car that is the second model range in the new generation of MG vehicles being introduced at the Birmingham factory. Its unique and contemporary styling, which gives the car a touch of flair from every viewing angle, was entirely the work of the SAIC European Design Centre.
As well as ensuring that the exterior appearance would reinforce the fun and sportiness that lies at the heart of the MG brand, the designers and engineers were tasked with producing an exceptional amount of space and versatility in a very compact five-door package. Extensive work from the team resulted in an interior design that will easily accommodate four 6ft individuals, a level of accommodation typically associated with larger cars.
"The main reason for bringing the work in-house was to give us a faster turn-around of new designs,” explained SAIC Design Operations Programme Manager, Darren Redhead. "While computer visualisations have become more realistic, we still need to physically make styling models in clay as part of our design process. We can now produce models in days instead of the weeks that it was taking when we were outsourcing our designs.” With a typical design project requiring four scale models and two full-size models for both the exterior and interior, these savings make a significant contribution to cutting the overall development times.
"We were offered an alternative programming system with the machine by Kolb,” remembered Mr. Redhead. "However, when we spoke to modelling teams in Germany that were using the StudioLine M, they said that they preferred to use the Delcam software. They told us that PowerMILL was more intuitive to use for modellers, as well as being able to take full advantage of the five-axis capabilities of the machine. We wanted to have an experienced user to program the machine but also to train two of our modellers to be able to use the software if he was busy. Ease of use was essential for these part-time users.”
"Strong support was another important factor,” he added. "The Delcam support desk has provided excellent service, especially when the machine was first installed and we needed some modifications to the post-processor for the Fidia control.”
"Overall, we’ve been very happy with the whole investment,” concluded Mr. Redhead. "We’ve been running the machine five days a week since it was installed and have machined hundreds of products with consistently excellent results. With the savings in external costs that we are achieving, I expect to have a payback time of less than eighteen months for the Kolb machine and the Delcam software.”
For further information on Delcam’s PowerMILL software, please visit www.powermill.com.