Since the 1970’s Yoshimura has been one of the best known names in motorcycle racing. Their philosophy is racing and winning. They view racing as the harshest environment to develop and test their products and at the heart of that development is their R&D department. The R&D guys at Yoshimura are self described gear heads with a single mission: make the best parts possible, and never compromise. They have their own building with the best tools to make just about anything. When these guys started looking for a carbon fiber cutter, we were floored at the opportunity to build a plotter/cutter that would help design and manufacture the newest, best exhaust systems in the world.
Talking to their carbon fiber specialist, Mike Biere, about their current and future plans for in-house carbon cutting, we decided to produce a new industrial version of our Pro model PT-72, called the PTi. The PTi would have more power, a stiffer frame, and a larger and more rigid cutter. This robust model would ensure they could keep up with their growing demand for carbon fiber parts.
Before we tell the story of the PTi install, let’s skip to the end with a quick glamour shot — pretty awesome right?
Now on to the install — the table and cutter arrive separately. Setting up the plotter/cutter takes an entire work day.
Securing your carbon fiber prepreg during cutting is a big deal. This can be a difficult for several reasons. First, your prepreg has been rolled up in a freezer and while it’s still cold it does not want to lay very flat. Next, thicker prepreg is a sticky, hard to cut material, which means you need to put a good amount of pressure on your drag blade to get a complete cut. This pressure can drag your prepreg if not properly secured. Finally, carbon is expensive, so you will try to nest parts as close together as possible to ensure maximum material yield. You will lose material hold as you make more and more cuts — if you vacuum is undersized, this can cause tightly nested parts to shift or drag.
For thinner carbon fiber K3, fiberglass breather, and very sticky prepreg we were able to use a single 5HP radial vacuum blower (pictured above).
Unfortunately the heavier carbon fiber prepreg k12 had a tendency to shift. To resolve, we replaced their single 5HP radial blower with two 4.5HP regenerative blowers. These are lower volume, but have 7X the pressure. They did the trick, allowing for tight nesting without any material shift.
If large vacuum blowers are not available, 3M makes a reusable semi-adhesive tacky spray you can use to glue your material down during cutting.
It’s time to setup your software. The new 2012 Plotmaster USB software — PMU — will run on any Windows PC. We can provide a Windows7 PC, preloaded and tested or you can provide your own. If you use your own computer, we recommend making it a dedicated machine — this means leave Itunes and AOL at home! We also recommend you connect your PMU computer to the internet for the latest updates, purchasing consumables online, virtual help and training sessions, and checking out blogs like this one.
You can draw patterns using almost any CAD program or manually create patterns using our T-Bar Digitizer. The T-Bar is ideal for tracing existing patterns or manual prototyping where unusual shapes might be very difficult to draw on the computer. Yoshimura’s R&D department has CAD designers and a T-Bar. The T-Bar lets the plotter/cutter operator, Dustin, digitize jobs without any assistance from the CAD draftsmen. They also had a large collection of physical patterns that are now stored digitally.
If you are curious about that picture, here’s the video of that run: https://vimeo.com/40120697
With the cutter in-house, Yoshimura R&D is now setup to cut hundreds of sets a muffler parts each week. They can also prototype new styles, new carbon fiber types like the yellow kevlar weave featured above, and test cut lots of other parts they may want to start making out of carbon fiber.
Big thanks to Mike, Dustin, and the rest of the Yoshimura team for making this a great install. We look forward to seeing what incredible carbon fiber motorcycle parts you all produce in the coming years.