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By: Tom Walsh

With the resurgence of motorcycles on American highways, Indian Motorcycle is on the road. The long-awaited debut of the legendary motorcycle came less than five months after the Indian Motorcycle Company secured the rights to the Indian Motorcycle trademark early in 1999. Prior to this event, the Indian Chief was last seen in 1953. At that time, the legendary cruiser was built in Springfield, MA, site of the company's origins in 1901. The 'Chief' is being produced at the company's new 150,000 sq.ft. facility in Northern California.The Limited Edition Indian Chief is unique to the world of motorcycling, a cruiser that combines the finest design features of the past with the modern technology of today. A head turner wherever it appears, the low sleek look of the cruiser is complemented by classic Indian design features: the custom fringe leather seat, the war bonnet light on the front fender, and the deep skirted fenders, Its 88-cubic inch, 45 degree V-twin engine is a proven design and offers superior torque. The custom stretched and ranks frame has been ergonmically designed to suit all types of riders and the suspension system gives the machine unmatched handing characteristics.'Likewise,' stated Indian's machine shop foreman Mike Alves, 'we are using some Mighty formidable NC machine tools to craft parts for the Chief. Two of them in particular are the Mighty Viper VMC-1000G and the VT-25B Turing Center. These units are running 20 hours per day, six days a week, machining 1018 steel. The Vipers are key to the machining of all cyclindrical parts, all frame components and the wwing arm.'


The VMC-1000G has many of the same rugged features that all the VIPER VMCs have. The unit at Indian has a travel of 40.5" x 20" x 24" and is fitted with a Mitsubishi M520A controller. Mighty's Viper line features the toughest C Frame series of VMCs available on the market. The Viper C Frame series are heavy tudy, high quality CNC vertical machining centers that allows both large and small machines shops precision machining affordability. The Viper is built on heavy duty Meehanite casting that ensures maximum rigidity. The column, bed and saddle are all oversized and can support heavy loads without table deflection. Featuring large box ways that have been hardened with Turcite B and precison grounded, all axes are reinforced to provide the highest degree of rigidity and stability. The Viper VMC-2100AG has a travel of 81" x 40" x 35" and weighs 52,800 lbs. Table load is 6,600 lbs.
Viper VMCs are poweree by heavy duty 'leading-edge' Mitsubishi digital motors with 30 min, continuous 30HP. Spindleis gear type with speeds 40-4,000rpm. Control is with the Mitsubishi 520A controller which ensures ultra-precise, virtually error-free machining. Utilizing 32-bit CPUs, the unit allows up to six axes of simultaneous control. This all-digital control is achieved by parallel data bus link, ensuring expendability, ease of fine turning and maintenance.


The Mighty CNC turning center used by Indian is the VT-25B, which is built tough, with one-piece construction and 45 degree slanted bed with an integrated piping structure. Headstock, saddle, turret and tailstock are located on the same bed, preventing the miss-match of thermal growth on each part, which in turn ensures an accurate turning operation.
High precision P4 grade spindle bearings ensure precision turning long-term operations while the oil pressure monitoring system detects lubrication and pressure drops immediately, should they ever occur. The cooling tank is completely separate from the main slant bed, thus preventing any thermal growth from hot cutting chips.
The VT-25B relies on the FANUC 18T controller for high-speed precise and efficient machining control. With FANUC's proprietary servo and spindle control and processor for high speed computation, the VT-25B is just right for turning operations.


Because the last 'Indian' was manufactured in 1953, reverse engineering played a key role in mainaining the old 'Chief' look. In addition to old blue printes, Indian relied heavily on their Mitutyo coordinate measurement machine to obtain specification son old parts. Employing Geopak software, the CMM is able to convert the informaiton into CAD/CAM compatible data.
Data from Geopak and specifications from the blue printes are feed into Indian's CAM software of choice, FeatureCAM by EGS (Engineering Geometry Systems). This software allows importation of solid modeling data or IGES surface models and sllows the user to simply select portions of a solid or IGES surface model to create features directly.
Indian has two versions of FeatureCAM, FeatureMILL and FeatureTURN. FeatureMILL was developed for the hsop floor and provides full touch screen support, without the need for a mouse or keyboard. It supports tapping the boring cycles as well and provides many mechanisms for commenting NC code. The re-machining feature allows automatic calculation of the regions left by previous machining operations and then applies new toolpaths to cut the uncut portions of the parts. FeatureTURN supports many shaped stock and allows of threading and canned cycle support.


All employees in the machine shop perform their own programming. Indian hires only machinists and those that have their own tools. The net result of the 'Chief' back into the marketplace is that the company has daily tours for those that want to see how motorcycles are made.