NOT ALL WHEELS ARE ALIKE
With 12 Brands, 120 models, and 2,200 specifications, RAYS Engineering infuses race data and technology into each of their consumer line of wheels
With 12 brands, 120 models, and 2,200 specifications, RAYS Engineering infuses race data and technology into each of their consumer line of wheels
Searching for your next set of wheels can be cumbersome, but as your search continues remember one thing: Some wheels may look alike, but they’re nothing alike—particularly when it comes to quality or construction. Especially in modern times where the market is flooded with an influx of cheap knockoffs, the wheel market can be hard to navigate. To help better make that decision, you’ll want to consider budget and style. But above all, be sure to find out how the wheel you want is manufactured. By now racing purists and fans of well-built wheels know all too well about RAYS Engineering, the creative force behind such brands as Volk Racing and Gram Lights. With deep-seated roots in racing, RAYS Engineering is also the powerhouse behind Volk’s infamous TE37. Introduced in 1996, the TE37 remains a timeless classic that is manufactured using only the finest materials and advanced manufacturing processes. The same stringent manufacturing process to create the TE37 are the same ones applied to every single wheel that comes out of RAYS Engineering. In fact, RAYS does not allow compromise when it comes to the quality or safety of their product.
To ensure this, they have equipment set up to efficiently produce highly accurate and homogeneous production for both forging and casting while their unique benchmarks (JWL+R) far exceed traditional Japanese safety standards. In addition, their heavy involvement in motorsports activities has put them under the constant demand to manufacture superior aluminum wheels. Given the constant demands of the program, the resulting pressure is what has helped keep RAYS Engineering committed to their philosophy of “The Concept is Racing.” As manufacturers of wheels for both motorsport activities and road use, they each have their own special manufacturing processes, but it is their goal to erase the line that divides them. Yet by removing the barriers between motorsports wheels and road wheels, RAYS has helped eliminate the significant differences between the two. Whereas many wheel companies build strictly from a design standpoint, RAYS Engineering molds function into fashion by creating wheels they stand by. That said, here are some of the highlights of their manufacturing process and a glimpse into how they are able to create some of the world’s lightest and strongest wheels.
JWL+R Extreme Testing
The JWL are strength standards for safety, which apply to aluminum wheels distributed in Japan. There are, however, significant differences between the vehicle performance, weight, and other attributes between the time these standards were established and today. As a result, RAYS has developed its own “+R” strength standards to go above and beyond the requirements and rigors of traditional JWL standards.
Comparison of JWL+R Testing vs. JWL
• Radial stress test: 800,000 rotations (JWL: 500,000 rotations) • Rotary bending fatigue test: 150,000 rotations (JWL: 100,000 rotations) • 13-degree impact test: Drop height 255 mm (JWL: 230 mm)
JWL+R Specific Test Criteria (A RAYS original)
• 90-degree impact (90-degree drop) test (drop height 100mm/ton) • Post-modification drum test (800,000 rotations) • Coating performance test (spraying
with salt water, composite corrosion, weather resistance tests, and so on)
The entire manufacturing process of RAYS Engineering is encapsulated in Japan but it’s their selective process, technology, and machinery that shine. For example’s sake, TE37S are constructed entirely out of aluminum, but keep reading. Whereas other wheels have as much as 20 percent of other materials, RAYS commissions its own A6061-T6 blend that specifically complements its forging process and results in the specific elasticity, stress strain, tensile strength, and fatigue strength they are looking for. All of that means that its pure-aluminum construction doesn’t just result in a lightweight wheel, which, by the way, is pretty important. According to RAYS, eliminating 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of unsprung weight, like that from your car’s wheels, can be as effective as shedding 15 kg (33 pounds) of overall vehicle weight. As it turns out, pure aluminum also allows for increased rigidity as well as better thermal conductivity, remaining up to three times cooler than steel, resulting in better brake cooling and better overall performance.
Forging Machine Exclusive
The introduction of RAYS’ 10,000ton forging machine makes it the most powerful in Japan. This allows RAYS to produce wheels with diameters as large as 22 inches, all the while giving them the technology to form ideal fiber flows in line with the particular wheel design. Along with RM8000 technology, these advanced tools and processes allow them to form beautiful fiber flows by opening some of the dies prior to the finishing process.
Proprietary Technology–taf (Texture Arrangement Fining)
In its simplest explanation, TAF is RAYS proprietary technology that uniformly reinforces the entire wheel by homogenizing the internal structure of wheels through miniaturization. To do so, a homogeneously densely crystallized aluminum alloy brings an unprecedented level of strength and surface smoothness unattainable by conventional manufacturing technology.
Today, the mainstream technology for realizing high-performance cast wheels is inner rim spinning (rolling) called “flow forming.” By applying knowhow gained from forging and the RAYS cast flow forming (RCF) method before any other manufacturer, RAYS has produced many sports wheels that have overturned conventional cast wheel concepts. Flow forming alone is not sufficient for manufacturers to advertise their wheels as truly light and strong, however, because the range of reinforcement is limited to the inner rim, the disc surface remains the same unless further improvements are made. TAF is a new technique for producing light, strong, beautiful cast wheels, which takes a completely different approach from the conventional cast wheel production method. The key word is miniaturization. Molten aluminum alloy is poured into a die, and the structure crystallizes as it cools and hardens. Usually, the alloy is allowed to cool naturally but molten aluminum alloys form finer crystals that join more solidly if chilled quickly. Therefore, RAYS invented their unique TAF method in which aluminum alloys are quickly chilled by water running through innumerable pipes inset in the wheel die. This allows for finer crystals that join together more densely in the rim and disc, thus increasing wheel strength. In turn, greater wheel strength has encouraged RAYS to daringly reduce wheel weight, resulting in a truly high-performance, flawless cast wheel (Rcast) with an unprecedentedly light and strong rim and disc. Another benefit of miniaturization, not to be overlooked, is the consequent smoothing of the wheel surface. Allowing for a beautiful finish after processing ensures that this is the most suitable technology for cast wheels. The TAF method is completed by once again heat-treating the wheels after miniaturization in order to optimize their molecular structure. RAYS, never satisfied with the status quo and always striving to lead the world, continues to innovate in the realm of
cast wheel production as they do in all of our markets.
Proprietary Firm Forging
Although not as high profile as discs, high-performance rims are another of RAYS’ manufacturing strengths. In particular, RAYS’ cast flow forming (RCF) is an innovative manufacturing method that lightens and strengthens the inner rim by spinning it—an innovative manufacturing method that has taken cast wheels to the next level of development. For wheels with a two-piece structure, usually sheet rims produced by shaping aluminum sheets into rims, RAYS uses its own in-house-developed cut rims (VAIO-X rims) that are produced by controlling rim thickness. This helps their constant efforts to reduce weight across all wheel parts.
Information is Power
Much like car manufacturers, using data compiled from factory race cars to use in future technologies for their consumer cars, RAYS has been accumulating, integrating, and analyzing various data from the racing programs utilizing their wheels. That same data is reflected in their latest strength and 3-D rigidify analysis, which in turn speeds up their development times. The same program allows them to identify areas of high stress concentrations while analyzing the spokes and how they affect overall structural rigidity.