The ATR Group, one of Europe's leaders in the design, development and manufacture of carbon fibre-reinforced composites, has added Delcam's Power Solution software for the production of prototypes, patterns and tooling. The Delcam software is also used for the development of two-dimensional design of prepreg fibre shapes from three-dimensional CAD models of parts.
ATR was founded by Umberto Pierantozzi in 1982. Pierantozzi wanted to introduce the unidirectional carbon fibre composite materials used in the aerospace industry into motor sport. He believed that the combination of the unidirectional reinforcement and high-performance epoxy resins would give the rigidity and stiffness required, while also enabling big weight advantages. By 1985, the first motorbike chassis had been created, while in 1986 ATR produced the world's first composite monocoque chassis for the Minardi 187.
Over the following years, ATR grew so that it now employs more than 1000 people in four factories. Although the autosport industry is still a key part of the company's business, it also manufactures components for road cars and motorbikes. Other applications of the company's composites include Colnago bicycles, Louis Vuitton luggage and components for the European Space Station.
Motor GP front and rear wheels
Giulio Strambi, technical department manager at ATR, explained that it was the move into higher volume production that prompted the first investment in Delcam software. "For many years, we used composite tooling but this is only suitable for a maximum of 100 or 200 parts," he says. "When we began to produce some of our motorcycle components in higher volumes, we decided to introduce aluminium tooling and so started looking for the best software to machine the material. We undertook tests on a number of systems and the results indicated that PowerMILL's more efficient machining strategies would give us higher productivity."
Following this initial success, additional PowerMILL seats were acquired to replace the system previously used for the machining of prototypes and patterns for the composite tooling. "Five-axis machining of our patterns is more efficient with PowerMILL," comments Lupi, machine programming manager. "The software is also very easy to use for a five-axis package. Only a few days of training are needed so the extra seats could be implemented very quickly."
ATR is a supplier for some of the world's most luxurious cars, including the Ferrari Enzo, the Lamborghini Diablo and the Porsche Carrera GT so high quality is an absolute priority. "In all our applications, PowerMILL is very robust and stable so we can trust the results," says Lupi. "We only need minimal hand finishing of patterns to get a class A finish."
Another area where the Delcam software has proved invaluable is in the development of 2D patterns from 3D models of the parts. ATR buys prepreg materials in large rolls from which it has to cut shapes required for laminating. Initially, the company used Delcam technology developed for the footwear market to create patterns for cutting leather shapes from shoe designs.
"The first results were good but not ideal since the software had been developed for a completely different application," remembers Strambi. "Since then, Delcam has come up with several new versions, which have incorporated our ideas, and these are getting better and better. Now we can reduce our development times by undertaking concurrent development of both the pattern and prepreg shapes. We have also been able to reduce waste by using the Delcam software to give more efficient nesting of the shapes within the roll of material."
"This collaboration has been typical of the excellent support that has been an important part of our growing relationship with Delcam Italia. The staff is always ready to visit whenever we need help. We are now working with Delcam on programming of the special six-axis machines we use for cutting laminates of carbon fibre with either foam or honeycomb interiors."