December 11, 2007
Hype Manufacturing invested in a horizontal machining center, two lathes, two vertical machining centers, a universal milling machine, tube bending equipment, a press brake, a laser cutting system, and a waterjet to support its racing effort.
Clay Andrews is a speed enthusiast. He simply wants to do things faster whenever possible. That led Andrews to open Hype Manufacturing, Corona, Calif., in 2005 and to start Clay Andrews Racing (CAR)—which included a garage and an engine development facility in North Carolina—the same year. Hype would support CAR as the team of NASCAR® veterans looked to compete in the Busch Series without benefit of a major corporate sponsor. The CAR portfolio included two North Carolina facilities as well.
Andrews, who helped to build one of the most successful Internet payment service provider companies in the world, Paycom, wanted to do it his way. He wanted to avoid relying on others for his car engines and replacement parts.
"Our idea was to manufacture any product—no matter how complex—better, faster, and cheaper than anyone,"Andrews said.
The company invested in new equipment to meet that goal. Hype purchased a horizontal machining center, two lathes, two vertical machining centers, and a universal milling machine. It also bought bending equipment, including an Eaton Leonard HP 200 and an Ercolina CE40, both capable of working with tube up to 2 inches OD, and a 60-ton Accurpress 7606 press brake.
For metal cutting, Hype jumped into waterjet and laser cutting at the same time. The company installed a Bystronic Byjet waterjet with two cutting heads, rotary axis, and a pallet changer in December 2005 and a 4.4-kW Bystar 3015 laser cutting system with rotary axis in January 2006.
"Truthfully,"Andrews said, "the Bystronic waterjet and laser cutting systems have helped us reach our goals."
Andrews achieved another one of their goals in 2006 when CAR driver David Gilliland, a 30-year-old rookie driver at the time, unexpectedly won a Busch Series event at the Meijer 300 at the Kentucky Speedway on June 17. It marked one of the rare times when a driver who was not also running a full-time racing schedule in the top NASCAR division, the Nextel® Cup, won a Busch Series race. NASCAR announcer Hermie Sadler called the victory "the biggest upset in Busch Series history."
In the meantime, Andrews continued to concentrate on his metal fabricating business.
From the start, Hype Manufacturing not only developed and fabricated its own product lines for racing, but also for the minimotocross and utility vehicle markets. Products included items such as gas caps, chain guides, and oil pan covers for minimotocross bikes and racks, bumpers, and under armor kits for the utility vehicles.
Hype Manufacturing Production Manager Scott King credited much of the company's early business success to Andrews' decision to purchase both laser and waterjet cutting systems.
"It is amazing,"King said. "From a scheduling perspective alone, it gives me so many options. If I cannot cut a job on the laser, I will cut it on the waterjet."
He added that the cut quality is virtually the same with both the waterjet and the laser cutting systems. Seemingly, the laser cutting machine should be able to cut faster than the waterjet, but the waterjet's two cutting heads can compete with the laser's speed when jobs require the same shapes to be cut repeatedly.
King, a 25-year veteran of manufacturing, said he was surprised to see the amount of business for nonstandard metals—such as titanium, bronze, and copper, as well as fiberglass and glass—Hype Manufacturing has attracted since the company's doors opened.
"The more people learn that we have both a waterjet and a laser, the more business that is generated. Between the two systems, we can cut just about anything,"he said.
For example, a customer asked Hype Manufacturing earlier this year to create drain holes in the center of a wall-mounted crystal soap dish. Of course, the challenge was not to break the dish while making the holes.
The Hype team manufactured a jig, placed a dish on the waterjet, and held their breath, according to King. With a bit of light abrasive, the waterjet cleanly cut drain holes in the center of each dish without breaking one piece of crystal.
In another recent example, a customer needed gasket material (thin carbon paper material less than 0.030 in. thick) cut.
"At first it was a challenge just getting the gasket material [which comes off of a roll] to lay flat on the laser cutting bed,"King explained. "So we placed the paper onto a serrated eggcrate made out of honeycomb, light-gauge aluminum to keep it flat. The Bystar processed the gasket material just perfectly and gave it a terrific, clean edge. We got the order out to the customer before deadline, and they were very pleased."
Hype Manufacturing also receives quite a bit of prototype work from OEMs. With the programming software that came with the metal cutting machines, Hype part designers can turn engineered concepts and prints into a metal part in less than a day.
Accuracy during the creation of a prototype is of utmost importance, King said. Many large manufacturers have strict standards that need to be upheld, and each finished product and part needs to be approved and certified by the OEM.
This is especially true in the aerospace industry, where tighter tolerances are mandatory in subcontracted parts.
"With our laser, we can hold tolerances to within a couple of thousandths of an inch throughout the entire run. We have tremendous accuracy and repeatability, and this has been a huge advantage for us and our customers,"King said.
In one recent job, Hype Manufacturing had to hold tolerance within 0.002 in. on every cut made on a sheet of titanium plate, which the customer supplied. It was exceptionally challenging as the application was very intricate, with lots of contour cutting throughout the entire sheet. In the end, the customer used a coordinate measuring machine to check the accuracy of every titanium part.
"There are a lot of waterjets out there. There are a lot of laser cutting systems out there,"King said. "However, many companies that I have spoken to will openly admit to not being able to hold the tolerances that are really needed in some critical industries today."
Hype Manufacturing and Andrews remain involved in racing today, even if it isn't the Busch Series. The company is now the official manufacturer of truck chassis for the ASA Speed Truck Challenge, which also is the current home of Andrews' 15-year-old racing protégée, Randel King.
The company fabricates five or six chassis per year for teams located throughout the U.S.. The rotary axes on both the waterjet and laser cutting systems have offered the company many advantages, as chassis are typically coped and tube-notched by hand. The cutting systems have facilitated the coping process by offering faster setup and greater precision
"As we cope a tube on the laser, we will laser-mark the part with an x. This way, when it is placed in the tube bending machine, we have the correct positioning and are able to get within a tenth of a degree of repeatability,"King said. "This enables us to produce chassis that are as similar in form to one another as possible, thereby giving every team the same advantage."
Downstream advantages exist as well. A race car—which contains as much as 25 feet of tubing in its chassis—flexes when traveling at high speeds. If all of the tubing is welded together, the car becomes more inflexible—a factor that can ultimately be detrimental to safety and performance. Because the weld material is not actually a part of the tube, it creates a stress. In effect, the more fill weld that is used, the weaker the chassis becomes.
In using either the waterjet or the laser cutting system to cut drawn-over-mandrel (DOM) mild steel or chrome-moly tubing with 0.125-in. or 0.095-in. thick wall, Hype Manufacturing has achieved coped edges that are clean and precise. Shop personnel don't have to worry about gaps that often result when coping by hand.
"For us, it's a fun, exciting adventure every day. We are like kids in a candy store,"said King, reflecting on the shop's tools and daily challenges.
Andrews is equally excited. When asked of his plans for the future, he refused to place limitations on anything.
"To go to the moon,"he answered with a smile.
Let the race begin.
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