Obsolescence in auto racing is costly, so the faster Toyota Racing Development U.S.A. Inc. (TRD) can manufacture, the less chance its highly engineered race engine components will become obsolete. Speed in part production gives the race engine builder’s engineering group more time to develop new components, test multiple iterations of them, and achieve higher performance on the track.

This need for speed drove TRD to revamp its Costa Mesa, California-based manufacturing facility and incorporate a highly advanced, fully automated machining cell. Besides speed, the cell gives TRD part-processing flexibility, consistency, and precision while increasing overall output.

For flexibility, TRD’s automation allows it to pull a machine offline from the cell as needed. The shop can then use it independently from regular production operations for part development or to run occasional parts that require manual loading.

Greg Ozmai, group vice president of operations at TRD, says the main benefit of the cell is it “has increased our level of component precision while also increasing our output capacity to provide maximum time for component engineering.”

With the automated cell, TRD gained greater lights-out capability compared to its previous manufacturing structure.

In-house capabilities

In its support of Toyota’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series program, TRD is responsible for all aspects of the race engine – from design concept to manufacture, assembly, development, testing, and failure analysis. It has all the in-house abilities to design a customized racing engine from a clean sheet of paper and build it to achieve a set of performance goals.

“We benchmark every one of our engines and test them for performance and durability,” Ozmai says. “We have a full failure-analysis lab on the premises equipped with a scanning electron microscope and several other pieces of spectrometer-type devices. If there are any developmental improvements we can make along the way, we are well equipped to do so.”

For the 2016 NASCAR Spring Cup Series, TRD supplied five Toyota Racing Camrys with engines – four from Joe Gibbs Racing and one from Furniture Row Racing. TRD manufactures all the core components of its engines, and with the recent addition of high-speed, high-precision Mikron machining centers from GF Machining Solutions and automation from System 3R, TRD’s manufacturing is in a prime position for future increases in demand.

“We have the ability to produce more than 400 racing engines per year,” Ozmai says. “That production includes engines for race and team test events, as well as those for internal TRD research and development. The dynamic development environment paired with a 40-hour-plus-week schedule create an ever-changing demand for precision manufactured components in the shortest possible lead time. The added flexibility and precision of the Mikron machining centers within an automated manufacturing cell allow us to keep pace in a dynamic manufacturing environment.”

Machining centers

Within TRD’s automated manufacturing cell, one rail-guided robot works from 100 open pallet positions to serve nine 5-axis Mikron milling machines – HPM 450U, HPM 800U HD, and HPM 1350U machines.

  • HPM 450U – A high-performance machine processes smaller engine components; rotary/tilt table for unencumbered, interference-free machining for automated production
  • HPM 800U HD (high dynamics) – Delivers 1g acceleration; mostly for milling engine cylinder heads
  • HPM 1350U – In final stages of TRD qualification for heavy-duty machining of cylinder blocks; 3,306.9 lb max. load capacity; 43.42" diameter rotary table; 50hp, 142.35 lb-ft spindle
  • Part machining cycle times at TRD can range from a few minutes to as long as 15 hours. Average part sizes run between 1" and up around 20" in any one dimension, with tolerances of 5µm or less. Many parts require full simultaneous 5-axis machining of contoured surfaces, while for others, 5-axis motion simply provides better part accessibility and fixturing.

    The kinematics of the 5-axis machines allows for the use of shorter tooling, eliminating long overhang tooling and reducing vibration to ensure smooth surface finishes.

    Aluminum and cast iron are the dominant materials at TRD. Cylinder blocks are cast iron and cylinder heads are aluminum, both per NASCAR regulations. Ozmai says the Mikrons can process just about any of TRD’s milled components, making the shop’s parts potential candidates for manufacture through the automated cell.

    Automated cell

    GF Machining Solutions and System 3R provided TRD’s automation integration. The cell’s robot loads/unloads parts and fixtures at four load/unload stations where finished work exits and raw part material enters. Previously, TRD had eight individual machines operating independently of one another, each with its own pallet system.

    TRD’s engineering group dictates the workflow of the cell through the release of new or revised component designs. The manufacturing engineering and manufacturing production groups manage how the work is processed and what operations are to be used. The information is entered into GF Machining Solutions/System 3R WorkShop Manager software, providing process security, simplifying job preparation, and controlling complex processes.

    The expandable software system initiates workflow according to TRD’s priorities, and if changes are necessary, the software allows TRD to shuffle on the fly.

    Prior to the GF Machining Solutions/Systems 3R automated cell, TRD would generate a workflow schedule for each machine and post hard copies at each machine; operators handle the part loading and unloading.

    “This individual machine-based operation was extremely challenging,” Ozmai comments. “We are always shuffling parts and priorities. This meant we had to frequently rework and repost workflow schedules, and each time we did so we lost time and increased the potential for error. We now have one source and one place to go to manage our entire workflow schedule.”

    Improved productivity

    Perhaps the most significant difference between TRD’s current operations and those of two years ago – outside of growth and technology – is increased productivity with the same amount of capital equipment.

    “With automation and 5-axis machining, we have gained flexibility and confidence – due to the accuracy and performance consistency of the Mikrons – to produce any of our parts on any of our machines. Our goal is to have all our spindles running 24/7 and improve upon our precision, quality, and efficiency. With advanced machine tool technology and exceptional support from GF Machining Solutions, we are well on our way in achieving a level of production to stay ahead of the competition,” Ozmai says.

    Toyota Racing Development U.S.A. Inc. (TRD)


    GF Machining Solutions