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Wheel sculptures for looks and performance
Insights into the Cargraphic light alloy production
Almost every driver enjoys attractive alloy wheels, but few understand the high-tech product that is the “jewel” in the wheel arch. Forging and casting are some of civilisation’s oldest crafts, yet anyone who has experienced the production of a premium light alloy wheel from Cargraphic first-hand has been entranced by the elaborate production. “We are one of the few tuners who can produce our own wheels,” explains Michael Schnarr, who leads the businesses of the sports car tuner Cargraphic together with his brother Thomas. “That gives us maximum control over the manufacturing process.”
When a visitor enters the factory in Rheinland-Pfalz, normally he has a “tin factory” in his mind’s eye, with the wheels tumbling from blank, stamp and mill automatically by the second. The truth is closer to a high-tech artist’s studio, but the sculptures are formed by the huge HELLER milling machine instead of human hands. Absolute precision is the goal, not a fast time, and an 18-28kg billet can spend 90 minutes on the ‘easel’, being pared and caressed into a 5-9kg central star. Step-by-step the spokes of the Cargraphic rim emerge like branches from the shedding metal leaves. Then the HELLER’s enormous belly, which digests just one component at a time, opens and presents its work for the next step in the creative process.
Precision at every stage isn’t just for the look. “To keep the unsprung mass on the car as low as possible, we optimise the build process of the wheel down to the last detail on the computer”, explains Michael Schnarr. “We want to remove any negative influence on the handling and guarantee the highest possible strength at the same time.” The cleverly calculated diet with FEM (stress-resistance) calculation starts even there, where you can’t see it. That’s why you’ll find hidden pockets everywhere in the Cargraphic GTR and many other wheels designs. For the wheel designer it’s an advantage, because with the shape of the star there is hardly any limit to artistic freedom because even the biggest rims can be produced without prohibitive weight. On the next station an enormous drill bit hangs like the Sword of Damocles above the wheel, and it’s here that the destiny of the wheel is decided when the bolt circle is put in place. “As the production is actually in front of our door, we can react and be very flexible, with the range and delivery speed”, says Schnarr proudly. “This guarantees short delivery times even for exotic cars.”
Parallel to the star, the inside and outside rim are cut and prepared for the marriage. All the parts are cleaned of swarf and honed, but they are still on separate paths. Now a gadget is waiting for the components, which looks like the laser device that was once supposed to cut James Bond in half. And it really is a laser. It’s almost disappointing that instead of Auric Goldfinger, works manager Andreas Birkenhauer comes strolling around the corner. And the Zeiss CNC machine cannot lay a finger on a human being or even the alloy itself. It’s there to check the work of the machines that have gone before down to the last fraction of a millimetre. There is nothing random, only control and 100 per cent precision, so no wheel falls outside the strict controls. The parts of the Cargraphic wheel lay on a marble table that resembles an altar. That’s because the stone material has the advantage that it does not move or flex at any temperature, which allows for the most accurate results. No question, Birkenhauer is quite enthusiastic about his youngest “baby” in the machine room and he acts like a proud father with his polishing and buffing set-up, as he does with his employees. “You won’t find this anywhere else,” says Michael Schnarr, emphasising the special polish applied to every one of Cargraphic wheels. The selection of vats that perform the polishing procedure bring to mind a trout farm. But the smell is anything but fishy as the vats contain water and abrasive ceramic granules of varying hardness that come shaped into cones and pyramids. With the push of a button the wheel star plunges into the deep, surfacing shinier than before. The process continues down the line with a finer polish each time. The secret trick is the self-developed recharging system. Once the pyramids and cones have been worn away on the alloy, they automatically slip through a fine filter to the refuse. So the baths must be refilled from time-to-time, but the used stones simply slip out of the way. At the end the wheel star surfaces with a shine that belongs to the Venus de Milo, after one last gentle caress from a worker doing the final polishing.
In the meantime the other components have started to shine and soon they will walk together down the aisle. But first it’s off to the paint shop to look their best for their big moment. Almost any colour can be achieved, and a popular choice right now is the Casino Royale-finish for Aston Martin wheels. Today it’s got to be quick, a customer has ordered a special drilling and tone and can’t wait to get the wheels on his car. So Cargraphic’s VW Van has to act as the wedding car and Michael brings the components to the headquarters himself, where a special fitting table is used to perform the final ceremony. “First the star, then the stainless steel outer rim and the inside bed are put together on the table, and the Menage a Trois is ready”, explains Michael with a smile. But forget the romance for a moment, there’s a practical test to make sure the whole process has gone without mistakes. The machine on which the finished wheel is mounted rotates to take one last measurement. Everything fits, everything is perfect. It’s ready for the road.
And after a short, intimate honeymoon in a parcel, a life of fulfilment on the side of an attractive sportscar, and the next romantic chapter is waiting for the freshly baked light alloy wheel that has become the Cargraphic GTR.
Contact: Cargraphic GmbH; Michael Schnarr; Wieslauterstr. 20; D-76829 Landau
Phone:+49-6341/88-088; Fax: +496341/88-200 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Press-Contact: IKmedia GmbH; Oliver Schielein; Manfred Prescher; Hansastr. 4a; D-91126 Schwabach
Phone: +49-9122/985-242; Fax: +49-9122/985-255; Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.ikmedia.de