Tell us about yourself and your role at Koepfer America.
I’ve been with Koepfer America about four years. I’m a licensed structural engineer, so my background is actually in buildings. The manufacturing industry is certainly different from buildings, but it’s still a lot of problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and engineering.
My dad started Koepfer America in the late 1980s, so we’re celebrating our 30th year at the upcoming Gear Expo.
What were some of your key takeaways from the recent AGMA Annual Meeting?
It is always a great networking opportunity to connect with customers and other suppliers. It’s a chance for us to take the temperature of the industry by talking with other people in AGMA as well as the speakers presenting the latest on the economy, technology, and aspects like industry 4.0. I also really liked Matt Croson’s presentation about the strategic plan for AGMA. He brings a new enthusiasm to the industry and to the association.
Let’s talk about hobbing. How do you work with your customers on designing an engineered hob?
With an engineered hob, we are trying to encourage our customers to think through their hob choices. A lot of them will say, it’s a 10 DP hob; it has a 20-degree pressure angle; I need it in high-speed steel, and give me a coating, and, boom, they’re done. That is as far as they go. But it’s the cutting tool. It has a huge impact on the productivity of the whole process.
Regarding productivity, hob material and its grade, number of flutes, number of threads, and overall dimensions of the hob can be engineered along with machining parameters to get the most tool performance. If a customer is willing to go through the effort with us, we can usually deliver a hobbing application with measurably improved results.
A lot of gear manufacturers may take for granted the standard features of a generated tooth form such as the active involute profile, root fillet radius, tip modifications, and so on. Regarding the profile, a full root fillet is something that can be commonly engineered to blend smoothly into the active involute, and you can do an analysis of the generated tooth form to make sure that it’s a smooth profile. If you can avoid or minimize any sharp edges in what’s generated, you can avoid stress concentrations when the gears are used.
Dry hobbing is another thing that we are hearing about more and more often, so people need a hob without coolant. The hobs will be designed with a certain rake angle and other features to avoid chip welding and minimize wear.
Tell us about the Helios brand of gear hobs, and give an example of a hob solution.
Helios is a brand of ultra-fine-pitch to coarse-pitch carbide and high-speed steel tools that we offer in North America. With expedited deliveries and engineered applications, anybody who needs a custom profile or custom hob to optimize their hobbing process, we welcome the opportunity to find solutions.
For an example, typically, you do green hobbing, heat treat, and then finish hobbing. We were able to through-harden a blank and then hob it afterwards. In doing so, we eliminated a green hobbing process beforehand, which saved a lot of time. You also don’t need to worry about green hobbing tools. The part itself was 50-52 RC, and it was a 20 DP part — a relatively fine pitch part. Today, we are working on another process. Same challenge, same hardness, same through-hardened goal, but that one is a 12 DP part. We are fairly confident it is going to be successful. The big results: We eliminated the green hobbing process and tools, minimized deburring, and we made sure that a single hob was able to stay on a machine for a full working shift, so instead of doing hob changes during a shift, we can do those between shifts.
What are the benefits to resharpening hobs?
Resharpening a hob returns it to its original geometric quality. You do that by grinding away stock from the face of each hob tooth. Those edges that you grind away are the worn edges, and with a high-quality grind, you are returning a nice clean sharp edge to each tooth profile. We do resharpening on our own CNC machines that we developed at Koepfer America in South Elgin, Illinois. And we use Wenzel analytical inspection equipment to certify our machine and the hobs that we sharpen.
What’s in the future for Koepfer America, and what will you be showcasing at Gear Expo?
We will showcase the new Koepfer Vektor control — a next-generation interface that’s more user-friendly. We will also have a new CLC 200-SZ shaping machine with an automatic loading and unloading system integrated. This model will be new to the North American market. It’s too early to say exactly, but we are working hard to introduce other new European equipment to our market at Gear Expo.
We are also working on a full CNC uniform chamfer machine solution to generate a uniform chamfer. We see this demand from the aerospace sector. Also, within the next year, we should have a new generation of hobbing machines.
For more information: www.koepferamerica.com