COMEC AT A GLANCE
- Comec grinding machines are used in manufacturing brake pads, brake shoes, and truck linings
- The Comec brand is part of AFT, along with the Arga and Fabes brands
- AFT has about 50 employees
- AFT is located in Piacenza, Italy, about 50 miles southeast of Milan
Comec grinders are a common sight across the brake industry. The grinders are used to refine the shape of brake friction after it is initially formed, including slotting and chamfers in pads.
The Italian company took off during the 1980s, when it introduced machines that quickly made it the market leader.
Paolo Frati, Sales and Marketing Manager for Comec, explains that “the big surprise when Comec jumped into the market was the flexibility and productivity of our machines.” The first generation of Comec grinders were “designed to minimize or cancel totally the necessity to have dedicated tooling,” he says, making them much simpler to operate. They were also fast, able to produce 2,400 parts per hour, “which was incredible at that time.”
Trends and New Products
The story of Comec since then has been one of producing a wider variety of tools and reaching from large companies to medium to small.
According to Frati, the industry is trending away from prioritizing speed in grinding machines and instead values flexibility. “That is why over the past five years we’ve developed a new concept of machine, the RPF.21/L3, which is now in the fifth generation of design which is targeting mainly the flexibility and versatility that is now required, especially by the brake disc pad manufacturers,” he says.
In the past, a company might set up machines for a particular configuration and produce a million identical parts over a period of months. Now, batches are smaller and brake pads, in particular, come in many more sizes and shapes. “The geometry of the product has changed, so machines have to change to make them,” Frati says.
“Now the customers want the machine to be very much universal — a machine that can handle any kind of shape that can come up from the mind of the designers of the part,” Frati explains, stressing that being able to make quick changes to the machines configuration is also critical.
When Comec sells a new machine, it commits to on-site training, which is normally taped for future reference. It can also be onsite to service a machine anywhere in the world within 48 hours.
Frati is extremely excited about the newest development at Comec. Starting in the summer of 2020, the company will provide automatic hot presses. “It’s a coming up from the market. It’s a demand,” Frati says, mentioning that there is currently not a lot of competition in this space.
As brake makers search for efficiency, finding ways to automatically connect presses and grinders is a high priority. With Comec making both parts, the company can find ways to sync them together. “We are keeping an eye on designing the machine to be able to work together with our latest, super flexible, multi-functional grinding machine,” Frati says.
The ability to make presses stems in part from Comec’s 2004 acquisition by what became AFT, a company with three brands in its portfolio (watch a video about AFT). One of the brands, Fabes, specializes in presses. With personnel shared among the brands, finding ways to link the Comec and Fabes outputs was natural.
AFT is located in Piacenza in Northern Italy, near Milan. All employees work in the same large facility that houses AFT’s manufacturing technology. Most of the people working for AFT split their time between its three divisions, creating, in Frati’s words, “considerable technical synergy, useful for all the three divisions for innovation and improvements of their products.”
Frati points out that many of the core employees have been with Comec for at least a couple decades. That reinforces the family feel. “The atmosphere is very good. We can understand each other very quickly. We have a common way to see how we have to get to the point we want to go.” New employees “are trained to embrace the same philosophy we have.”
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Deeper Dive into Comec Products
The BRAKE Report asked Frati to explain some of the key products at Comec and their top features.
The grinder type RPF.21/L3 is a revolution in the way of grinding disc brake pads and it is the ideal solution for highly complex disc brake pads where a very high flexibility and very short set-up time is requested.
This grinder can carry out all the possible geometries on a disc brake pads such as chamfers (parallel and radial), diamond chamfers, tangential chamfers, slots (linear, diagonal, and radial), single or multiple.
The productivity of the grinder type RPF.21/L3 depends on the number of operations that must be carried out on each single pad. The maximum productivity is about 1,000 pads/hour.
The grinders type RPF.6/LS are the ideal technological solution for the large volume production of disc brake pads, especially for their high productivity (up to 2,400 pads/hour) and automation level that minimizes grinding costs.
These continuous-feed, heavy duty grinders can be used either as units of fully automatic production lines or as stand-alone machines.
These grinders for disc brake pads are suitable both for the OE manufacturers, thanks to their high grinding quality and productivity and for aftermarket suppliers, thanks to their very short set-up time. The grinders type RPF.6/LS can process pads for cars, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles.
These grinders have no need for dedicated tooling and jigs to take into account the different types of pins (protrusions) on the backing plate of the disc brake pads.
The stand-alone grinding machines RCF.51, RCF.60/B, RCF.50/SW and RCF.50/C can be connected in a single complete automatic processing line.
Several configurations, depending on the features of each machines and of the requested grinding operations are available.
For the production of the smallest batches. This flexible system can be supplied in a 6- or 12-press configuration with one or two sets of 6 stationary presses arranged in line. Each press operates independently and can produce a different part number. Each unit can be equipped with a central unit for electrical control and oil pressure supply. Each single press can be equipped with dedicated back-plate magazine and automation to load and to unload the machine. The system can operate also if one of the presses is stopped for maintenance or for changeover operations.