The name Cosworth has been synonymous with high performance engines for the best part of three decades and has been closely associated with Wellingborough throughout that time. Building on this success, Cosworth Technology has now opened a brand new facility dedicated to the production of non road-going engines - such as off road - and, as befits its reputation, has focused on manufacturing processes of the highest quality.
Central to this new operation are four individual component cleaning stations installed by MecWash Systems. The company's environmentally efficient aqueous-based stand-alone units are now in full operation and are dedicated initially to the production of cylinder heads and blocks for new four litre, four cylinder diesel engines for JCB. With over a hundred units per day targeted, the throughput of products is set to be on-going 24 hours a day and benefits from the MecWash cleaning equipment at key stages in a production line that is split between cylinder heads and cylinder blocks.
Receiving raw castings, Cosworth Technology undertakes a range of machining activities on both production lines. The cylinder heads, for example, undergo processes that include casting pick up and seat pocket machining before proceeding to the first wash station where a MecWash Midi is sited. The unit receives individual cylinder heads via a sliding table mechanism - also, as with all the adjacent handling equipment, installed by MecWash - before running a rotational high volume spray wash and high velocity air drying programme designed to remove swarf and oil, particularly from the seat insert pockets. Importantly here, the wash programme, in common with all others on the site, is conducted within six minutes - coinciding with the 6 minute 30 second takt-time around which the new Cosworth Technology plant is based.
Because individual components exit the programme with surface temperatures of 65°C, they are automatically moved through a MecWash cooler unit. Controlled by a sensor which registers temperature before allowing a new component to enter, this reduces the head to a maximum temperature of ambient + 8° - sufficiently low for handling on to the adjacent operation of seat insertion. Further machining including seat cutting then follows before a second MecWash Midi is used - again for the removal of swarf and oil. Significantly, this unit features integral jetting which enables the process to be directed at specific areas of each component - a key element in the MecWash 'Ultimate Wash' concept.
This procedure is mirrored on the cylinder block line where, again, a MecWash Midi is used for the initial wash with, this time, a Maxi installed for the final cleaning of the block and combined bedplate. Once again cooling stations are featured with the Maxi also benefiting from dedicated jetting on all six faces, targeting specifically the water jacket, oil ways and bedplate tapped holes on each cylinder block.
Significantly, the unit also features vacuum drying which follows the final block and bedplate wash. This guarantees the removal of water from the 'joint face' - between the block and bedplate - and was developed by MecWash specifically for this operation. Its use saves handling time for Cosworth Technology because it does not require the two parts to be separated before washing and then re-assembled afterwards - a procedure envisaged with the original plan - to ensure the dryness of the joint face is maximised.
This final MecWash station, which follows specific crank assembly and machining processes that include crank and cam bores and honing, also utilises a large volume water tank designed to reflect the size of the component and the amount of water used in the process. This final wash process is followed by sub-assembly and pressure testing before onward despatch to JCB for the final engineering and assembly stages that match each engine to the specific vehicle for which it is destined.
"Clearly with such a project, the highest levels of cleanliness are paramount to its success," comments Production Engineer Phil Knightley. "No more than 200 mgs in units weighing 170 kgs is targeted and, to date, we have achieved very favourable results - a reflection, we believe, both of our handling and machining processes and, indeed, the capability of the MecWash units."
Apart from the high level of performance being achieved by the Wash plant, the benefits it offers from an environmental perspective are also significant. Because it utilises aqueous technology, none of the problems that can be associated with alternatives - such as solvent-based systems - are present.
"Disposal requirements are negligible," comments MecWash Managing Director Paul Young, "with the oil-separator, for example, not yet having to be emptied. This is in marked contrast to other cleaning methods and represents direct benefits both for the operators at Cosworth Technology and for the broader environment as a whole."