BluePrint Engines’ Block-Machining Process Keeps A Personal Touch

The modern-day computer has infiltrated every area of our lives. Even limited to the ability to count from zero to one, the computer has become a valuable tool, bringing a new level of accuracy, reliability, and repeatability once unobtainable. But, just like today’s “Artificial Intelligence” – which everyone seems to be going crazy over – there still needs to be a level of human control to get the desired outcome. BluePrint Engines is a perfect example of utilizing the benefits of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) for its block machining process while keeping human eyes on the quality of the product.

BluePrint Engines' assembly floor

BluePrint Engines has invested mightily for increased productivity and precision in its block machining and engine assembly process.

Back in 1982, Norris Marshall began machining and assembling engines, doing one engine at a time in his garage. He honed his skill by building task-oriented engines for friends, neighbors, drag racers, circle track racers, and street rodders.

“I started my business in 1982, in a four-car garage in a residential part of town,” Norris states. “Back then, I was doing machine-shop work, boring blocks, valve jobs, etc. The business grew into doing complete engines, and eventually, it turned into a factory where we re-manufactured engines, eventually topping out at 100 a day.”

BluePrint used CAD drawings (left) and 3D printing (middle) to create its cast-iron block forgings (right) that are proudly manufactured and machined in the USA. BluePrint now designs its own blocks, heads, cranks, rods, and oil pans.

From these meager beginnings, BluePrint Engines has expanded its capability immensely, thanks to the company’s state-of-the-art 210,000-square-foot facility. The company now designs its own blocks, heads, crankshafts, rods, and oil pans as an OEM-level manufacturer, and also designs the machines used during the block machining.

We spoke recently with BluePrint Engines about their block machining process, which consists of a raw casting at the beginning of the process, on its way to a completely machined engine block awaiting assembly by BluePrint’s skilled staff.

block machining process

The Block machining process is done in four or five operations as the block moves down the line. It is mounted on fixtures that position the block differently to allow the machine tools to access the areas of the block to be machined.

Integrating CNC Block Machining

For decades, Norris manually machined blocks and other engine components much like you would expect from a typical machine shop. Recently, the company took another step forward by investing in the precision, increased scalability, and repeatability inherent to the CNC machining process.

Each BluePrint Engines block begins as a raw casting of BPE's design before entering the machining process.

While the investment in computer-aided machining has helped take BluePrint’s business volume to the next level, the process still relies on human involvement to ensure a high level of quality. By integrating passionate, qualified technicians and investing in CNC block-machining technology, BluePrint is now able to keep up with the growing demand for engines while ensuring accuracy and quality in every crate engine they build.

As mentioned, due to its scale of engine production, BluePrint Engines has been able to invest in casting its own engine blocks. BluePrint was able to design its molds, adding various upgrades to the design. Each new, BluePrint small-block Chevy engine is fully machined and assembled in the USA and features four-bolt main caps and a one-piece rear main seal. The block castings include provision for a mechanical fuel pump and also use a passenger-side dipstick. During the block machining process, a provision for the clutch linkage is also drilled and tapped into the casting. But, before beginning the CNC block-machining process, each raw casting received from the foundry must pass stringent quality control checks.

Each finished block is extensively critiqued for proper surface finishing (left) as it exits the machining process (center), before going on to the assembly area (right).

From there, each block will go on to be CNC machined. The company consolidated many block machining steps into a centralized machine and location. Rather than relying on hand-transferring the block through multiple stations during the machining process, tasks such as boring and honing the cylinders, decking block surfaces, and line-honing bearing journals can be done on fixtures. These fixtures position the block differently at each station, allowing the block machining tools to access the necessary areas to be worked on.

The Human Element Of The Block-Machining Process

The quality of any business is comprised of the people in it. BluePrint Engines knows this and has kept the human element within its block machining process. Even while harnessing all the benefits of CNC machining, the final say always defaults to a set of human eyes to control the quality of the product.

During a block’s path through the various machining and assembling processes, BluePrint’s skilled technicians keep a keen eye on quality control. They also continue the block’s progress throughout the company’s vast engine-building facility. Tasks such as installing freeze plugs and painting are still done by hand, allowing for that personal touch. As the block moves its way through the assembly, various tasks, such as installation of the cam bearings, use presses or other tools to aid in installation, but a human has manual control over the process.

BPE's block machining process

BluePrint’s block machining process includes modern technology and a hands-on commitment from its skilled staff.

The BluePrint Engines Warranty

As each machined BluePrint block works its way through each station, it becomes more recognizable as the finished product. What first appears as a stack of cast iron at the beginning of the block machining process, winds down the line and becomes any variety of high-quality configurations BluePrint Engines provides. The company offers GM, Ford, and Chrysler-compatible engines built with all-new components from name-brand suppliers. BluePrint has recently begun offering its Builder Series, allowing the customer to specify the engine and transmission of choice for their application.

Every assembled BluePrint engine is dyno-tested to ensure the highest quality and performance. Each one also comes with a warranty of both parts and labor for 30 months, or 50,000 miles. BluePrint’s warranty applies to both individual and professional installations, and is fully transferrable, providing peace of mind to the DIY enthusiast as well as the vehicle’s next owner.

assembled BluePrint small-block Chevy engines

With the new BluePrint engine installed, the fun begins! Of course, reasonable care applies during engine start-up and break-in. The BPE installation guide suggests using a quality motor oil of the appropriate grade and viscosity. Note that BluePrint Engines recommends against synthetic oils during the start-up and break-in period. Synthetic oils may be used after break-in and after an accumulated 9,000 miles for vehicles, or 200 hours for marine applications.

From the first forging to the final assembly, each BluePrint engine is a blend of hands-on skill and CNC capability. BluePrint is in the business of creating fuel-breathing monsters out of metal components, but the quality it provides can only come from a personal touch.

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About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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