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Diamond cutting Alloy Wheels

Key Benefits:
  • Awarded Runner-up in the Precision Control category 2016 Engineering Impact Awards.
  • A cost-effective solution that provides a high-quality finish at a cheaper price-point for the end user.
  • Quick to operate, easy to use and produces more accurate profiling.
  • The entire process from initial scan to complete cutting takes an average of 30 minutes, thus reducing the time spent by traditional cutting methods by up to 50%.
  • An innovative solution never before seen in the marketplace.
  • The alloy wheel finisher runs on a single phase so is portable and can be used in mobile repair vehicles, thus increasing accessibility for the end user.
  • The creative utilisation of hardware and software allows us to quickly prototype, scale and expand to multi-system builds.

Introduction

Austin Consultants was approached by Diamond Cut Refinishing Limited (DCR); specialists in automotive repair tools and facilities, to assist in designing a software and hardware platform enabling them to profile, analyse and refinish damaged diamond cut alloy wheels. The system needed to be portable, reliable, accurate, and easy to use. We were selected as a partner based on our reputation, high levels of certification and substantial experience in the automotive industry.

DCR came to us with a framework and the mechanics for the machine. Using our engineering and software expertise, together we were able to successfully deliver the finished product.

The control system would form part of DCR’s mobile repair service and needed to be scalable so that once the initial systems were tried and tested, further systems could be rolled out to centres across the World.

DC1 Portable Centres

Background

Diamond cut alloy wheels are a relatively new style of wheel that is very hard to master. The wheel is painted and then cut back using a special diamond coated cutting tip to expose the metal and provide a high-quality finish. When the alloy wheels are scratched, dented or damaged they can be refinished to remove signs of damage and restore their high-quality finish.

Traditionally, there are two main methods for refinishing an alloy wheel:

  1. Having a touch probe which moves over the wheel capturing 10-20 touch points providing a basic overview of the shape and dimensions of the wheel. Although providing an overview, the level of accuracy isn’t detailed enough and DCR wanted 100% accuracy in their new machines.
  2.  Utilising a library system that provides a pre-set specification for wheels based on their make and model. These are either pre-programmed into the system or provided by way of a manual with cutting machinery. This system only provides generic information about the wheel and is not specific to a case so accuracy again is an issue.

New Process

DCR redesigned the process and put together plans for a machine that gives 100% accuracy when scanning the surface of any diamond cut alloy wheel up to 24 inches in size.

Step 1

DC1 Scanning Probe

A scanning probe continually tracks across the wheel’s surface and maps out a precise ‘profile’ of the wheel.

Step 2

DC1 User Interface Cutting Profile

This profile is then analysed and a new ‘cutting profile’ is generated for the diamond-cutting tip.

Step 3

DC1 Diamond Tipped Cutting Tool

The alloy wheel is then cut using a diamond tipped cutting tool. The cutting process is very similar to a CNC lathe, where the wheel spins at high speed and the tool cut then traverses the ‘cutting profile’.

Our Approach

Austin Consultants completed a feasibility study of the project and presented a software and electronics solution to the problem. We then built all the sensors and electronics whilst DCR designed and manufactured the frame and structure of the machine, now known as DC1. The software was developed alongside the electronics and allowed us to test each module of the DC1 at each stage of the process, bringing together each element and ensuring they were faultless before moving onto the next stage of development.

 

The Solution

The solution resulted in a machine that has a great performance to cost ratio. The DC1 has an incredibly fast and accurate scanning ability, much improved over the traditional touch probe scanning options available in today’s marketplace. The versatility of the machine allows the operator to scan a wheel, create a cutting profile and perform the repair within 30 minutes.

This is a very efficient process; traditional methods have taken 1 hour or more to complete, especially if an ‘unknown’ wheel is presented and the manufacturer hasn’t provided a pre-made profile.

In addition to this, a car wheel only needs to be scanned once and all four wheels can be repaired from the same scan thus increasing repair efficiency for the end user.

The machine runs off a single phase allowing it to be fully portable and form part of a mobile repair service.

DC1 Diamond Cut Alloy Wheel Before After

In Summary

Austin Consultants was able to develop a freestanding, portable machine that enables DCR to profile, analyse and refinish damaged diamond cut alloy wheels within 30 minutes. The system meets the objectives outlined by DCR, in particular, the need to be highly cost-effective and efficient. The DC1 incorporates an intuitive and rugged user interface to complement a workshop environment.

Thanks to its scalable design, iterative testing process and utilisation of off-the-shelf hardware the DC1’s design is flexible to quickly accommodate the transition from the prototyping stage to mass production.

The success of this product design was recognised by the 2016 Engineering Impact Awards when it was awarded Runner-up in the Precision Control category.

Austin Consultants worked closely with us throughout the entire process and helped us take the system from an idea to a tangible and innovative product which is a first of its kind in the UK market. We are thrilled with the accuracy and result of the DC1 as well of as the speed of delivery received from Austin Consultants. We look forward to continuing to work with them as we move into phase 2 of our project and supply the world with these machines.

Steve Barrett

Director, Diamond Cut Refinishing Ltd

Interested in purchasing a DC1 machine?