I joined MRacing because my dad was actually on the first Formula SAE team to ever exist. He went to the University of Texas and often tells me about the useful lessons he learned while being on the team. He also explained that the most useful engineers had hands-on experience. Since the moment I stepped on campus, I couldn't wait to join the team. --Austin Glover, Controls and Composites
Being on a design team has been so beneficial to my education because it allows me to apply what I have learned in the classroom to a real world application. It is amazing how much extra you learn when you have to work to build something substantial like a racecar, where the design of every component is crucial to the success of the team as a whole. --Hubbard Velie, Exhaust and Composites
My favorite experience was watching MR14 run for the first time last year. Even after dedicating countless hours towards manufacturing and assembling the car, I wasn't prepared for the exhilarating roar of all our hard work paying off. Watching the car pull around tight turns and maneuvering through slaloms, I knew that we had put together something truly remarkable. --Jason Ye, Suspension
All members of our team go through safety and machine training before being allowed to use the shop. This allows all new members to immediately start machining parts for our car. Once our team members have an understanding of the machines and machining processes, they start to understand designing for manufacturability which is a huge part of our competition. When anyone on our team is designing, the questions always is, "How can I take what I drew on the computer and make it?" --Keenan Temin, Oiling and Fueling
Due to the high quality we're looking for in our parts, we really don't settle for anything less than the finishes that WIDIA tools provide. Our partnership with WIDIA is valuable because their tools don't just make our parts... they make them well and ultimately help to alleviate pressure, frustration, time and money. --Peter Karkos, Suspension
With this year's King of the Hammers -- aka "The Ultimate Desert Race" -- right around the corner, Ultra4 fans are gearing up for a bumpy ride!
We stole time with King of the Hammers competitor and driver of the WIDIA Rock Racer, David Buchberger, for a quick interview in hopes of capturing the excitement that goes along with race prep. Here's what David had to say about his relationship with 4x4 racing (and the WIDIA Rock Racer), his past KOH experiences, and his thoughts going into this year's competition.
Q: David, tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been involved in racing?
Well, I'm 36 and I've been wheeling since I was 16, so I've been off-roading more than half my life. All that time, I've been involved in building my own rigs. When you don't have a lot of money, that's how you get started. Growing up, I was welding, grinding, and rebuilding whatever I could to get out there. Racing is a relatively recent development -- within the last five or six years now. The support from WIDIA really took it to the next level.
Q: Good for you. How did you get hooked up with WIDIA?
Hi-Speed Corporation, where I've worked for nearly 12 years now, is the WIDIA representative on the West Coast. My dad was a distributor and I met Jonathan Saada, Hi Speed's owner and founder through him. Jonathan's one of the smartest people I've ever met -- and not just in machining knowledge but how to assess situations and solve problems. Give him a challenge and he'll come back at you with more options than you thought possible.
I had competed in two King of the Hammers Races and was in the process of building a new race car when Bernie McConnell (VP, WIDIA Products Group and Services) called. We were talking about how he had heard about KOH and what I would think of WIDIA sponsoring the car. Considering my first one took seven years to build and I had already come to grips with sitting out at least the next two seasons to get my next one built, the word that came to mind was "unbelievable." I wouldn't have to miss the next season and the car would be incredibly competitive.
Q: King of the Hammers is right around the corner. Can you tell us what it's all about?
The hammer trails in Johnson Valley, CA, are definitely some of the wildest around. King of the Hammers started with 13 teams (the OG13) racing for a case of beer. This year, it's 215 miles of desert-floor racing with stops for rock-climbing without. Competitors start side-by-side, two vehicles every thirty seconds, and must complete the course in less than 14 hours. Each team must pass through seven checkpoints while staying wihtin one hundred feet of the centerline of the course. KOH is a no-chase-team race; repairs can only be done on the track by the racers or in the pit area. It's the fastest-growing motor sport today, bar none -- the wildest to watch and that much wilder to compete in. There were 13 teams in 2007 and more than 300 last year.
Q: And it spawned its own class of racing, referred to as Ultra4, right?
Right. Ultra4's only requirement is that the race car is capable of 4-wheel drive and strict but fair safety requirements. Beyond that, the class in unlimited, meaning all cars are custom-fabricated and come in all shapes and sizes. To win, you have to be capable fo speeds over 100 MPH and have gear ratios low enough for rock crawling.
4x4 Pre-Running, Nito Tire National Championship, Reno NV. Photo Courtesy: Ultra4 Racing
Q: There's no sugar-coating it, this course chews up race cars as well. How has yours changed over the years?
It's a progression. The design is 100% mine front to back. My first effort was good, but not competitive. When WIDIA got on board for the 2012 race, that all changed.
Q: How did that change?
Well, I mentioned my first race car took seven years to design and build, and I was prepared to sit out a season to add all the things I wanted before WIDIA got involved. Take trusses for example; they stiffen the axles and support the upper suspension. Most fabricators weld different thicknesses of plate together because you need the perfect balance between light weight and high strength. I was able to take bars of cold-rolled 1818 steel, a grade known for a good balance of strength and ductility, and mill truss components down to 0.040-inch honeycomb for a very strong, yet light component. This kind of work can really eat up hours, but with the new WIDIA-Hanita VariMill II End Mills, we were able to ramp into the material at 40 inches per minute, roughing it with a half-inch mill and finishing the pockets and carving the edges with a three-sixteenths mill.
Let me add how important truss strength is. Last year, another guy hit me so hard it shoved my axle over about eight inches. I went end over end, seven times. There was a quarter-inch plate on the car that peeled away like a pop can, but the truss was perfect. In fact, none of the millwork failed. I wish I could mill the whole car.
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Q. How do you feel about the latest iteration of the WIDIA Rock Racer?
I feel really good about it this year. Racing like this is raw awesome, but it takes an incredible amount of time and resources. This year, there's a whole new front end, whole new upper cage, and a whole new fuel-delivery system for starters. It's a cab-forward, mid-engine, manual transmission design with all-wheel drive (AWD) -- the only Ultra4 car to my knowledge with AWD.
Q. And that meant more custom parts?
Parts never seen before. For example, we built a custom adapter between the transfer case and the transmission out of 6061 T6 Aluminum. This adapter is commonplace, but re-splining the 8620 case-hardened output shaft on a mill-turn machine was very challenging. The milled 32-spline output shaft from the transmission was then fit in an input gear on the t-case that was custom EDM'ed. Milling and heat-treating the steel for maximum hardness and toughness gave us the ability to use the only AWD transfer case in Ultra4 currently.
Milling splines is not a particularly easy operation. We adapted a two-flute WIDIA-Hanita™ solid-carbide end mill to act as a spline cutter for the output shaft. Our parts have some of the tightest tolerances out there.
King of the Hammers Throwback -- February 2014
Q. How would you describe your progression in Ultra4 Racing?
The learning curve is nothing short of immense. When I started, I was in the mindset of designing and building everything myself. You own your own concept, but it's a misconception to think you can be the expert in everything. It's a kind of arrogance that failure does a great job stripping away.
The most valuable lesson I've learned is you need to give your car away to people in the field you trust to deliver the best of what they do. For example, my skill set is building suspensions. This year's car has input from a pro chassis builder, a pro transmission tuner, a custom fuel-delivery system, and so on. In fact, I'd like to recognize my co-driver this year, Scott Lewis, the owner of Sterling Autosport out of Murietta, California. Scott is a pro mechanic and runs his own shop building supercars. He's done a lot in a lot of areas to make the car competitive this year. The result is I truly feel like I'm co-driving a great car for 2015.
Q. The race is February 6. What are you doing running up to this event?
Right now the car is spread out over the garage floor for cleaning and rebuilding. Hammertown opens on Sunday, February 1, and that's when race week begins. King of the Hammers takes place on public land in Johnson Valley and an enitre tent city springs on the desert floor every year. There's upwards of 300 teams, more than 35,000 spectators, and hundreds of thousands tuning in online. It's absolutely wild.
One race I'll be watching on February 1 is King of the Motos, where dirt bikes are doing the same thing our Ultra4 racers will be doing on Friday. It's awe-inspiring, given that 70 racers took off last year and 3 finished. The rest of the week will be spent qualifying and adjusting the car.
Past KOH WIDIA Rock Racer
Q. We've talked about WIDIA tools, but what about WIDIA know-how? Did NOVO figure in to this year's car?
Absolutely. NOVO isn't just an electric catalog for finding a tool, it's process knowledge that helps you fine-tune how you want to get things done. For example, if I'm looking for a solid-carbide end mill, NOVO takes my requirements and comes back with a ranking of tools, not just the latest and greatest. I can compare the speeds and feeds of what the newest tools bring to the equation, but I can also find there's a choice I already have that should do just fine. That equation can totally shift if we're in a hurry or having to turn out a number of components as opposed to just one, but the software's very intuitive at supplying what we want in order to improve.
Q. Didn't your team supply participation plaques to all of the race teams last year? Are you doing that again?
Yes, we did. 2014 was the first time the plaques were machined and milled out of aluminum using WIDIA tooling. I'm not going to talk about what we're doing this year, except to say it'll be way cooler.
Q. What are your thoughts going in to the race this year?
This is the toughest one-day off-road race on the planet. I'm very excited and I'm really proud of the car, but to be honest I'm incredibly humbled by the support from my family, friends, and WIDIA.
It means having a car that only get more competitive every year with the components we were only able to dream of before.
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If you live in a part of the country where the seasons visibly change, going from the end-of-summer slump into the bright colors and cool breezes of fall seems to stir a need for change within ourselves as much as it changes the landscape.
For many, fall is the time of year to try something new, or do something familiar in a different way. It’s the time of year we consider turning over a new leaf.
Change It Up
If you’re ready to change it up, take a close look at your shop and the tools in it. Is your turning production in a downturn?
It might be time to switch to new tools to improve productivity … think of it as a new leaf for turning.
Are you using the same carbide insert styles that you’ve used for years, simply because you’ve used them for years?
When did you last assess the type of inserts you use, how long you’ve used them, and why you use those styles?
Is the trend in turning productivity in your shop increasing? decreasing? staying flat?
When was the last time you switched tool styles to improve results?
Advancements in metalworking technology are moving as fast as your lathe’s spindle. Each of these breakthroughs offers a new opportunity for you to turn faster or bore deeper
Use this time of year to bring a season of change to your shop. Make the commitment to assess your turning operations and take action to turn things around. Be open to trying new tools and machining approaches in the name of improved production.
Need help? Try our new WIDIA Victory carbide inserts for turning. Try the inserts for free, and receive a free hat (for a limited time). See the WIDIA Victory Carbide Insert Offer.