CASE STUDIES - Release Date : September 2004

MecWash component cleaning replaces solvents and helps to deliver formula one performance!

There are few more demanding environments in the automotive industry than Formula One racing. The leading edge performance that this entails, in turn, calls for precise, high quality manufacturing procedures that not only meet today's specifications but which can also match ever more stringent needs in the future.

That is the context within which a Millennium aqueous-based component cleaning station from MecWash Systems is now well proven. At the heart of the Cosworth Racing operation in Northampton, engine components passing through the installation come direct from three teams on the Formula One circuit. The requirement to re-engineer each unit to a perfect 'as new' condition, despite the presence of oil, road dust and carbon deposits, calls for an unequalled level of washing and drying quality and consistency. Furthermore, this has to be done with full regard to the high level of environmental commitment demanded by Cosworth Racing. The organisation is owned by the Ford Motor Company who have stringent environmental policies and, indeed, have led the way in the health and safety arena - including solvent replacement. Clearly an important consideration, it is fundamentally addressed by the aqueous-based MecWash technology.

Godfrey Cross is Manufacturing Team Leader at the site and highlights the key role played by the MecWash Millennium -

"Apart from its use during initial manufacture, where cleanliness levels are at the centre of the process, it continually handles engines that are returned following racing," he says. "Each time, they are stripped down before undergoing an initial wash through the Millennium installation with non-destructive testing, re-washing and final build following on.

"The manufacturing area operates two eight hour shifts per day so the Millennium is in constant demand and thus has to perform reliably every time," he adds. "To date this need has been fully met but we also took advantage of specifying a direct diagnostic link allowing it to report back via a telephone line to the MecWash factory in Tewkesbury. If a problem did arise, therefore, an assessment could be conducted and solution identified without the need for MecWash staff to even visit the site."

As with the majority of MecWash component cleaning machines, the Millennium is based around the company's acclaimed rotational washing technology which features a single drum within which components are located. At Cosworth, a typical engine is stripped down into five separate components each of which is delivered via an automatic load/unload conveyor to the front loading door in tailor-designed jigs.

Each jig design features a 'flag' which enables the unit to identify automatically the component being carried and then select the optimum programme for the wash process. Additional components, which are also processed through the machine at regular intervals at the site, are held in baskets that are loaded three at a time into the drum. The Millennium thus provides both a high degree of operational versatility and excellent speed of throughput and, because minimal input by Cosworth staff is required, significant savings arise compared to the previous manually-intensive cleaning methods that were used.

Automatic wash and rinse procedures, the latter including a de-ionised solution specifically to address the characteristics of the hard water area within which the factory is located, are carried out ahead of hot air and vacuum drying to ensure that no wash solution remains in any of the complex engine structures. Significantly, each jig connects to a feed at the back of the drum to enable wash solution to be delivered through a manifold built into the jig design. This internal jetting feature provides a focused wash and drying process which accurately matches both the complexity of the components and also the high cleaning standards that need to be achieved. The process is further enhanced by two high power ultrasonic transducers that are used to remove not only the heavy greases that are applied to the engines during assembly, but also other contamination that may become adhered to the surface of the components.

From an environmental perspective, the aqueous operation offers clear cut gains compared to a solvent-based operation. At Cosworth, however, these are benefits that are further enhanced by a MecWash Aqua-Save wash water recycling system which is also built in to the frame of the Millennium unit.

Although the Millennium is a key point of focus for the engine refitting and build operations at the site, the suitability of MecWash technology to the needs of Cosworth Racing is also in evidence in other key areas. Two MecWash Midi's and one Solo are important elements in three separate manufacturing cells - each providing inter-stage cleaning that, again, replaces trike-based predecessors. With the Solo used for cleaning pistons and the two Midi's for a range of products including cams, cranks, gears, heads and blocks - with in-built Aqua-Save units again featuring - each unit makes a direct impact on the high quality associated with the stringently controlled production process and delivers the same environmental advantages as the Millennium.

"All three of these machines receive components loaded into baskets that feature individual nylon dividers," explains Godfrey Cross. "Because of the diversity of component sizes and types, we concluded that this was the most economical approach as it provides maximum versatility." He points out that MecWash has also trained key Cosworth Racing staff to enable them to develop and manufacture their own jigging and fixtures - thereby providing the optimum degree of control and flexibility.

In a performance critical environment, such as at Cosworth Racing, manufacturing processes have to adhere to pressures of quality, speed and environmental care - and in every respect, the MecWash machines deliver excellent results. The achievement of the highly respected position with which the name of Cosworth Racing is associated, is evidence of the company's commitment to staying at the leading edge of this highly competitive industry. It is a belief that filters through to every aspect of the manufacturing process and which therefore reflects equal credit on the design and performance of the equipment from MecWash Systems - themselves proud to be associated with a name that has a world-wide reputation for quality.

MecWash Systems Limited

64 Hundred Severn Drive
Tewkesbury Business Park
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
GL20 8SF
Tel: +44 (0) 1684 271600
  • ISO 9001
  • MTA (Manufacturing Technologies Association)
  • EEF Member