Small but Swift — Haas Customer Success Story
By Matt Bailey
On one side of a narrow, dusty road in an anonymous industrial zone near Brescia, Lombardy, at the foot of the Alps, is a hangar-sized building housing 16 Haas CNC machine tools. On the other side of the road, adjoined to another, smaller factory building, is a family home which acts as the mother-ship for four brothers, their wives, their children, two dogs – and the retired grandparents who started Il Gruppo Gilberti S.p.A, more than 30 years ago.
Brescia is well known for its connections to motor sport; the famous Mille Miglia (1000 mile) roadrace is held annually, starting from the centre of the historic city. Nearby, world-renowned engineering company Brembo S.p.A designs and makes braking systems for the world’s most powerful cars and motorcycles.
For enthusiasts of two- and four-wheeled fun whose budgets won’t quite allow them to race 1000 miles in a classic sports car, or invest in the latest Brembo-shod Ferrari, there’s a locally made alternative that promises just as much entertainment, but on a Lilliputian scale.
“OK, so this is our mini-moto,” says Marco, 39, youngest of the four Gilberti brothers. “We build the whole thing entirely ourselves using our Haas CNC machine tools, except the motor, which we buy.
“The initial project to design and create a mini-moto was born 3 years ago. We started with just a line of spare parts – such as hubs, rims, etc. Now we have an online store where we sell them to customers all over the world.”
As well as parts for the automotive sector and general industry, the Gilberti business makes and supplies components for the Go-kart racing community.
“Business took a sharp downturn in 2009,” remembers Marco. “Go-kart racing was particularly hard hit. A little while later, we began developing the GR1RR mini-moto, which is currently our show bike. We make almost everything on it using our Haas SL-20 lathes and two Haas VF-2 machines. We don’t make parts in large quantities, but we do make a very wide variety. We use the Haas lathes to make the front forks, for example. We use the mills to make the brake calipers – from solid billets – the pistons, screws, all the frame supports, and the steering yoke.”
There is no shortage of similar mini bikes and quads available to buy, both online and also off. Needless to say, many of them come from countries where price is the most important component, and longevity and safety come low down on the list of priorities.
“We have some examples of Chinese-made mini-motos,” says Marco. “To make something with a much better quality but that is still affordable, we needed to find CNC machine tools that were reliable, accurate, and not too expensive.
We chose Haas machines because they have all of these characteristics. We bought the first one around 10 years ago, and we liked it straight away. It was easy to programme, robust, and fast. So, as we built our business, we decided to stay with Haas. In fact, we don’t have any other make of machine, and we’re pretty happy with that arrangement.
“We have a very good relationship with the sales company – they are attentive, including on the phone, and if we have a problem or a question, they are here immediately. The truth is, we’ve never had any significant problems!”
On the track, with the right rider on board, a 49cc mini-moto like the GR1RR, weighing just 25 kg, will easily reach 120 km/h (75 mph). It may not be very far to fall if something goes wrong, but at those sorts of speeds, the tarmac is plenty hard enough.
“There are many cheap alternatives around, but there’s a good market for well-designed and well-made mini-motos like ours,” says Marco. “People can see immediately that the parts are beautifully engineered and finished. As well as the sheer fun of riding a Gilberti mini-moto, anyone with a love of fine machining will get a lot of pleasure from just owning one.”