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Wire frame challenge is tackled in record time

14 June 2011

When an international tier one supplier of automotive interior products wanted rapid supply of 150 prototype rear seat wire-frames for a UK-built, leading-brand hatchback, only one company was able to answer the call

The production of bent wire forms is an essential part of William Hughes’ business and the company is used to responding quickly and expertly to what, for some, might at first appear impossible customer demands. Such was the challenge set recently by a tier one automotive supplier who needed 150 prototype rear seat wire-frames – from receipt of 3D CAD model to delivery of finished assemblies - in just two weeks.

The size of the frame was challenge enough – approximately 1,300mm across by 500mm wide by 120mm deep, but the product’s complexity (more than 20 metal active gas welds and many different bend angles) demanded all the specialist experience and know-how that this Dorset based specialist has accrued over many years. Any 2D or 3D wire form that involves twists, turns, spirals, protrusions, indentations – or just plain bends – can be created by the William Hughes team.

The customer supplied 3D modelling software, from which William Hughes was able to produce tooling for the bending machines, the fixtures for welding and the profile gauges. All the necessary CNC machine programs – including that for the prototype tooling - were created in-house using the 3D mode as a basis.

Made from 4mm diameter steel, the individual wire components were manufactured using CNC wire bending machinery, an area in which William Hughes has recently invested substantial sums. These machines can comfortably produce 200 to 1,000 parts per hour depending upon part complexity.

While spot welding is common for this type of wire frame, William Hughes decided to use the metal active gas welding technique for the job, the welding fixture enabling the production of around 15 prototype rear seat frames per hour. In full production situations, the company is able to deploy a fully automated, six-axis robotic welding machine to achieve far higher throughput rates.

By any measure, this was a fast-track project, and while William Hughes generally takes these challenges in its stride, the company regards this particular job as something of a record breaker.

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