Albins Off Road Gear

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

When it comes to drivetrain components for off road vehicles such as gears all the way to complete sequential shift transmissions, high performance and reliability under the most demanding conditions is crucial. As the largest high performance gear manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere, Albins Off Road Gear Pty Ltd remains a specialist in the engineering and production of driveline components made for extreme duty applications.

In business for over a quarter of a century, Albins Off Road Gear’s passion for perfection has seen the company grow and diversify from off road racing into other sectors, including military, industrial, and various kinds of racing. “The military work we’re doing is component manufacture for military vehicles,” says Tim Possingham, Marketing Manager at Albins Off Road Gear. “We are subcontracted by another company to manufacture these items, and it is ultra heavy-duty military vehicle drive train manufacture, and component manufacture.”

When the company was created by Ivan Albins, it was with a goal to design and create a range of off road drivetrain components, which today includes individual gears, axles, drive flanges, ring and pinions and more. From designs created using the latest 3-D software and CAE design aids to high-grade steel and manufacturing on the latest Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machinery, all products are subjected to strict tests as part of the company’s ISO 9001:2008 quality program. It is this attention to detail and creation of precise and highly durable drivetrain components that has enabled Albins Off Road Gear to create products as replacement parts for many makes, including Lamborgini, Volkswagon, Honda, Ford, Toyota, Porsche, Holden Ferrari and BMW, to name just a few.

Being one of the best in the business of driveline components doesn’t mean standing still. You need to keep innovating and coming up with better designs and innovative manufacturing technologies that keep you ahead of the rest. The team at Albins Off Road Gear realises the need to stay competitive, and has significant points of difference from its competitors when it comes to factors like design, precision manufacturing, and the strength of its products, all of which contribute to greater reliability and lower maintenance costs in the long run.

“It all relates to how the gearbox shifts, and how it feels to the driver,” says Possingham. “That’s the foundation of what we’ve built the business on: designing and creating a product that exceeds limitations and expectations for the customer.”

To maintain its reputation for excellence, the company has identified certain markets where it can come in with a solution to existing products, pinpoint problems in a market, or to fill in a gap where needed. When Albins enters a market, it is already with a product or products that have significant points of difference. “Our products are made with factors such as operating noise as well as strength in mind. In domestic applications some competitor products suffer from operational noise, which just doesn’t cut it when fitted to a new $160,000 sports car.”

Creating quality gears and components used in the Dakar Rally, Baja 1000, European and Australasian Rally Championships, industrial and military purposes, and Australian V8 Supercars starts with precision and cutting-edge designs under the auspices of six full-time design engineers and an electronics engineer. To maintain its competitive edge, Albins Off Road Gear sources and invests in the latest technology and machinery. Using sophisticated software tools, products are manufactured to exacting specifications on state of the art CNC mills and lathes and Gear Cutting Equipment to create tough yet precise manufactured componentry.

A firm believer that quality products are only created by using the best possible materials, the company sources high-grade steel from around the world, and stores an ample supply in its own large warehouse at all times. Prior to manufacturing, every batch of stock is subjected to rigorous metallurgical tests to ensure it meets the discerning standards set down by the company and the various sectors it serves. Along with ISO 9001 accreditation, Albins Off Road Gear has Supplier Continuous Improvement Program accreditation, or SCIP for short. A leader in supply chain management being delivered by the nation’s Defence Industry Innovation Centre, SCIP is being adopted worldwide for its continuous improvement framework for supply chain performance. This boosts the competitiveness of Defence supply chains across Australia, allowing for more modern supply chain relationships, improved business communications, greater efficiency and simplification, and increased innovation.

“Military companies, in particular, like dealing with other companies that have SCIP accreditation,” says Possingham. “There are certain standards and procedures that we have to meet.” With a highly skilled staff of around 40, the latest technology and software, and a large production facility, Albins is able to take on virtually any size of project.

An important part of the company’s quality program includes computer operated gear profile checking machines, along with 5 Axis CNC Co-Ordinate Measuring Machine. This sophisticated equipment allows the company’s engineers to check dimensions of components and reverse engineer them into the digital domain where they can be checked against original CAD models. The reason, says Possingham, is so natural changes that occur in the metal after heat treatment can be modified to the original design to compensate for these changes.

“Some of our competitors manufacture using a different process and their gears (just like ours) are heat-treated,” comments Possingham. “As a result they suffer natural distortion at times – although minute in most cases, they are not quite perfect. With our gear profile grinding machine, we can make the gear, heat treat it, and still have scope to re-grind it, so that any heat treatment distortion is taken out of it, and it is absolutely as we intended – as perfect as the CAD model on the computer says it is. That has helped us tremendously to be competitive in the market.” To maintain accurate inventory of all products, the company recently introduced a new software-based product inventory system which is tied in to production and allows tracking of products from start to finish.

Another reason for Albins’ superior quality results is its isotropic polishing process, which removes any unwanted surface roughness or defects. This extremely fine polishing helps to reduce friction and heat between gears, which can degrade horsepower transfer to the wheels. As a result, products produced by Albins can result in lower transmission temperatures and improved performance, and less wear and tear on gears and other components.

“We build extra strength into our products, and special treatments like isotropic polishing and our gear profile grinding machine give us that ability to create a beautiful, quiet running gear, and a perfect tooth contact ratio,” says Possingham. “When the teeth of each gear mesh, they mesh absolutely perfectly.” At Albins products undergo additional shot peening, which greatly increases the fatigue life of components. This process provides Albins products with a distinctive, bronze-coloured finish, and results in gears and drivetrain components that are one step closer to perfection.

One of the most exciting recent developments for Albins Off Road Gear is the company being chosen to create a new 6 speed sequential transaxle as the transmission for V8 Supercars Australia’s new car platform, known as The Car of The Future. Expertly designed and precision engineered specifically for Australian V8 Supercar Racing, the transmission’s numerous benefits include reduced mass (under 65kg), low friction, long service life, ease of maintenance, and superior weight distribution and vehicle fitment.

“We have won the tender to supply the transmission for the V8 Supercars’ Car of the Future,” says Possingham. “It is the new platform that they are replacing the current cars with in 2013.” Teams will perform testing throughout 2012, and all cars will use the new technology as of the first race in 2013. Needless to say, the tests of the Albins products have been rigorous. “It’s not just about making the product and putting it in the car,” comments Possingham. “There is a long endurance testing program that the whole car, including the transaxle, has to go through.”

Along with supreme engineering, the new transmission will offer significant financial benefits to racing teams. Durable and lightweight, the product is built to endure high-torque loads sustained in endurance races of over 1000km, and is able to be integrated within other vehicle categories and specialist car constructor projects. “Quick changing” of different ratios is possible through the drop gears at the front of the transmission, and all other gears, including the final drive, are fixed for the V8 supercar category.

As a result, this means a significant reduction in the number of spare components the teams requires, and reduced labour changing gears for each track. Other design features include inspection ports located throughout the gear box; removing plugs and fittings from these ports allows teams to inspect the condition of the final drive, forward and reverse gears, and engagement dogs between events – or even between races if necessary – to give greater confidence of the condition of the components without the need for a full disassembly. The unit also contains an internal oil pump and filter, and the integrated cooling system cools and lubricates the critically loaded parts of the transmission. At present, expressions of interest in distributing this unique Albins product are currently being sought globally.

Albins Off Road Gear has come a long way in the past 25 years, expanding from its initial base into industrial, military technologies, and other forms of racing. One thing is certain: for Albins, the race will go on for years to come.

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September 20, 2018, 5:29 AM AEST