Akrapovic’s modern 32,300 square-foot facility is nestled in the rolling hills near the small village of Ivancna Gorica just outside Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city. Here, approximately 430 skilled employees turn the sheets and rolls of titanium into ultra-lightweight, high-performance exhaust systems. All research and development for new systems and manufacturing is done in-house in order to stay independent of outside suppliers and maintain 100 percent control over product quality. On the factory floor workers use TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding to piece together the titanium systems. TIG welding is an arc welding process that uses a nonconsumable tungsten electrode while the weld area is protected from atmospheric contamination by as a shielding gas—in this case, argon. The workers are trained to achieve strong and flawless welds to pass the rigors of their in-house quality checks and material testing laboratory and the immaculate aesthetic requirements of a completely exposed exhaust system (as is an absolute necessity on a motorcycle application, and a quality which will be continued for all automotive systems). During manufacturing, Akrapovic also uses many state-of-the-art pieces of equipment, some of which were developed in-house, to create and dress the individual components for the exhaust system. Laser cutting, laser engraving, hydro-forming (bending tubes using machines that mold metal with high pressure water, this process maintains maximum metal strength and optimizes exhaust flow as the precisely desired shape can be achieved), and investment casting are just some of the high-tech processes performed during the manufacturing workflow.

In 2009, a one-of-a-kind titanium foundry was constructed in a new 8,600 square-foot building at the main Akrapovic facility. It comprises all phases of the investment casting process, from wax injection of the model to the final inspection of cast parts with X-ray radioscopy and other quality control procedures such as chemical analyses, mechanical property testing and digital dimensional accuracy. The foundry’s main purpose is to recycle shavings and unused pieces of titanium created in the exhaust manufacturing process. This titanium is separated based on quality and chemical structure, and is then shredded, cleaned, and pressed into briquettes to prepare it for the vacuum oven necessary to melt the titanium alloy in a non-reactive environment. The recycled titanium is blended with new titanium to achieve the precise alloy characteristics for the vacuum-cast exhaust components. In the future, the company plans to expand the foundry proportion of the business into other fields of application, such as medicine (structural implants), powerplant equipment, entertainment and art.

Akrapovic also possesses great expertise and experience in the field of carbon-fiber composite parts design and manufacturing. Anything from fenders to fairings, or from trim to muffler casings on motorcycles, and from newly styled exhaust tip casings to heat shielding for sports cars can be created in a state-of-the-art carbon fiber facility, with more new products on the way. The main benefits of carbon-fiber strengthened composites are: It is up to eight times lighter than steel, it can withstand extreme mechanical loads, it has an extremely high tensile strength (80 times per weight unit more than steel), and can be easily manufactured into complex shapes of various sizes.

By Doug Neilson
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