Even if you’re a big fan of high-performance cars and motorsport, chances are you have never heard of wheel manufacturer and Haas customer 2Elle Engineering, based a stone’s throw from Venice, Italy.
“Our customers are big name companies,” says 2Elle founder and owner Luigi Lucaora. “For example: BMW, Mercedes, Audi, German tuning house Brabus, and several race teams in different categories, from F1 to Paris Dakar. But, you won’t see the ‘two L’ name on any of our products. We like to keep our brand below the radar, so we can work for all the big marques without compromise. We supply some of the best high-performance wheels in the world, and almost no one except the customer knows they come from here.”
Mr. Lucaora is at pains to stress that despite its low profile, 2Elle is much more than a busy CNC machine shop. “I spent eighteen years as an engineer in the industry,” he says, “so first and foremost, we develop new materials, new technology – such as hybrids, and lighter, stronger wheel designs for the fastest cars in the world.”
Before the company moved to its current premises in 2008, 2Elle didn’t make anything in-house. “We only did the engineering, development, and quality control,” explains Mr. Lucaora. “We subcontracted machining for 2 years, and then, when we invested in our first CNC machine tools, we decided immediately to start up with Haas CNC machines. Our subcontractor already used them and we’d heard many good things. We bought three Haas CNC lathes – two ST 40s, an ST-30, and a Haas vertical machining center, a VM-6.”
So, choice of machine tools aside, how does a company like 2Elle – an engineering start-up in a very competitive global niche – get a foothold and thrive in the midst of one of the most severe financial and economic crises in history?
“It was one particular order that really kick-started the company,” Mr. Lucaora reveals. “An important German tuning company offered me a large contract if I promised to meet certain delivery criteria. I went to the bank with their letter of intent, and that was enough of a business plan for them to lend us the money to move to this new factory. Since then, we have grown at least twenty percent each year. Last year, we managed forty percent! In just 7 years, we’ve come from nothing to a turnover of around five million Euros!”
The 2Elle factory may appear cavernous, but the empty space soon will be filled, as deliveries of blank wheels arrive from the company’s forging supplier in the U.S. “We receive three or four shipping containers every month. In total, we currently produce between 1000 and 1200 finished units a month.”
When it comes to developing new designs and new materials, Mr. Lucaora’s technical background and experience enables the company to compete with the very best wheel manufacturers. “We do a lot of laboratory tests and comparison tests,” he says. “We also look at how much the tyre and wheel can be distressed when we do finite element analysis, and we also fit tyres to the wheels and do practical tests to understand better how the wheel will behave in real-life.”
The company’s Haas VM-6 operates for at least two and a half shifts a day, mostly manned. “During the day, we load the machine with just one wheel at a time,” says Mr. Lucaora. “But, at 10 p.m., we load two wheels and set the machine working overnight, ’til 4 a.m. The next shift comes in & unloads the parts at 6 a.m.”
The Haas VM-6 is a 40-taper mould-making machine with 12,000-rpm spindle and travels of 1626 x 813 x 762 mm. The Haas-built 12,000-rpm inline direct-drive spindle, combined with the Haas high-speed control with full look-ahead, provides the accuracy and fine surface finishes mould makers and other high-precision industries demand.
“The shapes we’re machining are similar to moulds, so the VM-6’s high-speed spindle and feeds are perfect,” says Mr Lucaora. “The table is T-slotted in X and Y, which makes it easy to secure our parts. We’re also buying a smaller Haas VM-3 mould-making machine, for some new hybrid wheel projects we’re working on. These wheels will be made using alloy hubs coupled to carbon fibre rims, so the engineering and machining challenges will be interesting.”
With his growing fleet, Mr. Lucaora has also noticed a few other advantages that come with investing in Haas CNC machine tools. “The machines are very easy for the operators to programme and use,” he says. “This is important. They have to work on different machines, so they need to be comfortable with the control.
“Not only are the Haas machines easy to use, but we have also noticed that, in comparison with other machines – and we have several types in our factory – the service and support are far superior. The Haas Factory Outlet in Milan, operated by Celeada, supplies the machines, and both the commercial and also the technical service are extremely quick and efficient. I can’t afford for any of the machines to stop for any reason. We have a full order book for the next year, so if I stop one or two machines for a month, it is a nightmare!”
Mr. Lucaora makes regular trips to the company’s forgings supplier, in the U.S. “I was there on a visit when it was Haas’ 30-year anniversary celebration,” he says, “so I dropped by the factory and had a guided tour of the facility. I was very impressed with the company’s organisation and quality. They use hundreds of their own machines to make new Haas machines, in a very high-volume production environment.”
If your plan is to supply the world’s best high-performance automotive companies, knowing your CNC machine tools are up to the job is essential. “I think the fact that Haas use their own machines says a lot about their belief in the product.”
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