Reading, ’Riting and Racing Education Part Three
By Jim Walbolt
Our final discussion of getting educated in performance machining will take us somewhere all of you are familiar with – your own shop! Perhaps the best place to get some education when you are getting into performance has been staring you in the face every day – the machining equipment and tools as well as the parts and supplies you use.
The equipment you buy and use is a fairly large investment, but remember that you’re not paying for just the equipment, you’re also buying the manufacturer’s expertise in the design and operation of that equipment. Most manufacturers will have a very knowledgeable tech staff that can not only provide training, but can also answer most of your questions when performing certain operations. Although all machine manufacturers provide machine setup and on-site training when you get a new machine in your shop, many also offer ongoing training and periodic seminars.
Don’t think you’re the only one who needs to learn more about your equipment. Rottler Manufacturing, Kent, WA, recently provided an education to the Hendrick Motorsports engine building teams. Using a new Rottler resurfacer, the engine builders were achieving surface finishes much finer than they had ever experienced.
At first they thought the finish was too smooth. Rottler experts explained how much better a seal they would get with the smoother finish.
Haas CNC offers free training to Haas machine owners at its factory in Oxnard, CA. These are 3-day Control and Programming courses for the lathes and mills. Haas also publishes "CNC Machining Magazine" that can also help keep you abreast of the latest news, tips and tricks.
Sunnen maintains a complete Technical Service Center to develop procedures and solutions to customer problems. The technical center is also used to train Sunnen representatives. Sunnen trained experts are also just a phone call away, as are all other machine manufacturers, don’t be afraid to take advantage of their expertise.
Don’t overlook your part suppliers and manufacturers as sources of high performance information. The manufacturer of each component that goes into a high performance engine, or any engine for that matter, can give you the specifications you need for any particular application.
RMC offers three types of training programs depending on what type of work you’re doing – high performance, heavy-duty and standard automotive machining. For its high performance programs, it includes complete engine blueprinting (except for cylinder heads) and extensive training on its CNC machines as well (including cylinder heads). RMC training sessions are held at its facilities in Saginaw, MI, or at your shop.
Manufacturers will also be able to guide you in building complete engines, even going so far as already having complete guidelines and build lists for certain applications.
In performance work, many manufacturers work with race teams to develop products and specifications. The education they get through their "on-track" R&D will quickly trickle down to their customers. Unless they are under some type of non-disclosure agreement with the race team, most manufacturers will incorporate all the advances they find into the product or product specs.
A machine manufacturer that works with some of the top NASCAR and NHRA race teams will eventually build new features into their machines that some of these teams have asked for. Many of these top teams have their own engine shops where they not only build their own team engines, but some also build engines for other teams.
The R&D that these teams do will eventually work their way into the machines and engine parts that many manufacturers produce. And, not only will they find their way into high performance applications, they will also trickle down into the everyday car that you or I drive to work, something that has been going on for many years.
Some manufacturers such as Dana Corp., have a complete "Technical Resource Park" where they can do all types of R&D work. Although mostly for vehicle component testing, Dana University Technical School is also part of the "Technical Resource Park." In addition, Dana also hosts nationwide clinics and seminars and also has a large ASE certified sales staff ready to help you with your needs.
Like Dana, Federal-Mogul also has a "Technical Education Center" where you can take courses in many automotive subjects including "High Performance Engine Service." Most of these courses will run from 2-4 days and take place at the Federal-Mogul TEC in St. Louis, MO. They also offer Field Seminars at the same location. In addition, Federal-Mogul also has a technical call center and a "Fax-Back Program." that features many high performance related tech sheets and procedures.
It’s worth saying again: the key to being successful in high performance is to be very good at it. The best way to be very good, is to stay on top of all the latest breakthroughs and available products and procedures. The best way to do this is through education.
To succeed at anything requires you to continually learn. In high performance work, education is a must. If you build something with last year’s technology, your customers won’t win and high performance customers that find their way into the winner’s circle regularly are your key to building a successful high performance business.