The launch of the new Triumph Rocket III motorcycle has set new standards in terms of performance and engine size - at almost 2.3 litres, it is the most powerful production bike in the world. Its introduction is a reflection of the commitment by the company to achieving the highest levels of manufacturing quality - and, now at the heart of that objective, are aqueous-based component cleaning systems from specialist manufacturer, MecWash Systems Ltd.
The Tewkesbury-based organisation has installed four stand-alone cleaning stations and two mobile Aqua-Save wash solution recycling systems at Triumph's new dedicated production facility in Hinckley. Using specially developed fixtures to hold components in position, also designed and manufactured by MecWash, the units are located on lines dedicated to cylinder head and crank case production. By helping to achieve cleanliness standards of, for example, a maximum of 200 microns particle size and 1 mg total weight per cylinder head, the units play a key role in minimising the risk of machine oil and swarf contamination - the removal of which is vital for the reliable and long life performance of all engines, not least the high power units of the Rocket III.
Russ Daleman, Machine Shop Supervisor at the Hinckley site, highlights the role played by each MecWash unit -
"The cylinder heads are sand-cast aluminium, and the crank cases produced from high pressure aluminium die-castings which, after delivery in a raw state, are chemically treated, and powder coated before moving on to the machining lines within which the MecWash units are located," he says.
"On the cylinder head line, three machining operations are followed by a deburring station before the units are cleaned in the first MecWash Midi. From here they proceed through an oven, and a Valve-seat and Guide press, before undergoing cooling and further machining and pressure testing. Final machining and deburring then precede the second MecWash Midi installation before leaving the line for final assembly." He points out that the fixtures that are used in this second unit incorporate integral wash jets to direct the wash solution at specific parts of each component, including the oil ways, water jacket and blind threaded holes.
"Throughout the process the various machining operations inevitably leave considerable amounts of swarf and oil which the MecWash units eradicate to extremely high tolerances," continues Russ Daleman who says that this is also the key benefit that arises from the use of the company's equipment on the crank case line. "Here, each unit comprises two sections - upper and lower half - which, after the first machining operation, are washed as a pair in a MecWash Solo ahead of assembling together for further machining and inspection," he adds. "The units are then separated again for deburring before final cleaning in the second Solo unit ahead of pressure testing and onward movement for assembly."
Each MecWash unit is centred around a rotating drum within which the components are held securely and then subjected to washing and drying processes. The oscillating movement of the drum throughout the programme - typically, the units at Triumph operate on an eight minute cycle - coupled with the quality of the washing and drying stages means that the full profile of the components can be thoroughly cleaned to meet the most exacting standards. This is achieved irrespective of the complexity of their design or even the presence of blind holes. Components exit each unit sufficiently cooled for onward manual handling which at Triumph - in common with the vast majority of MecWash installations - contributes to the smooth and efficient throughput of work.
The quality of the cleaning process, however, is only one of the key advantages associated with the MecWash technology. Paul Young, Director at the company's Tewkesbury premises, places equal emphasis on the economics of operation and the environmental benefits arising directly from the use of the company's equipment.
"Because each of our units is aqueous-based," he explains, "none of the difficulties associated with solvent cleaning are present. This has a clear and direct impact on both the working area and disposal requirements which, apart from the environmental advantages, can translate into significant cost savings for the user.
"The same efficiency benefits also arise from the minimal disposal requirements associated with the MecWash units," he continues. "The in-built filtration systems ensure that the quality of wash solution is maintained to a very high standard, helping to extend its life. This is enhanced further still by the use of the Aqua-Save wash water recycling units which can either be built-in or mobile - as with those at Triumph - allowing the company to benefit from keeping consumable costs and disposal expenditure to an absolute minimum."
MecWash undertook detailed wash tests for the Triumph components at its Tewkesbury facility in order to identify both the optimum configuration of the cleaning stations as well as development of the dedicated fixtures. The ability and willingness of MecWash to adapt its equipment to meet specific requirements was demonstrated during this process as the company incorporated specially extended drums into each of the Solo units to accommodate the length of the fixtured crank case components. The design also includes an automatic chemical dosing facility and steam condensers which remove the need to provide ducting to outside the building.
Developed and built by a company that is synonymous with motorcycling quality, the Rocket III is seen as not just breaking new ground in the marketplace but also as building on the heritage of one of the leading names in the industry. The commitment to production quality and manufacturing processes of the highest standards is clearly central to this reputation and Triumph's belief in using the latest and most capable technology throughout its Hinckley factory will go a long way towards growing the 8% share of the UK market which the company currently enjoys. For MecWash Systems, the company is not only delighted to have won the business but is also proud to be associated with such a prestigious installation.