Q&A with Bill Miller

Vice President of Sales and Service
Kapp Technologies L.P.

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What’s your role at Kapp?

I’ve worked in numerous roles for Kapp Niles beginning in 1981, including service manager, application engineer, product manager, regional sales manager, and since 2007, vice president of sales at Kapp Technologies. I’m a graduate from the University of Cincinnati with a BSME and owe my career path to Ford Motor Company, where I started in 1978 as a gear lab engineer during a new transmission launch. Since Jim Buschy has now retired after his 26 years with Kapp, I’ve added “Service” to my title. Service and support are strengths for us, and by teaming with Michael Ruppert and Michael Kapp, our focus is on continued excellence.

Tell us a little more about Kapp.

Kapp Technologies in Boulder, Colorado, serves 130 customer sites in North America with 500 machines in operation — the oldest one delivered in 1983. Our headquarters is in Coburg, Germany, where two manufacturing sites are located plus a third site in Berlin, Germany. There are over 700 employees globally. Kapp Niles is a family-owned business. Michael Kapp is the grandson of the founder and manages Parts and Service in Boulder. We employ 35 in Boulder for service, parts, and plated CBN as well as DIA tool design and manufacture. Regional service, parts, and sales employees are located in Mexico, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, where I reside. Our products serve OEMs in the aerospace, automotive, energy, and construction segments. We also enjoy success with small and family-owned companies that serve as tier 1 and 2 suppliers to these industries.

Describe the machines and solutions that Kapp offers.

We build grinding machines to produce gears as large as 8,000 mm in diameter to as small as 0.3 module. We offer specialized machine series for each gear application as well as non-gear precision profiles. The KX series delivers optimum mass production that uses generating grinding. Our VX series is the premium solution for aerospace external and internal gearing. The ZE and ZP series profile grinding machines serve large gear and shaft requirements, including military standards and demands. The HGS series sets the standard for vane pump slot grinding. We’ve added metrology solutions to our portfolio to match the same range of production machines. We’ve announced Kapp Niles Metrology GmbH to complement our Penta Gear Metrology division for a full range of solutions.

Give an example of how Kapp has met the needs of its customers.

Kapp has been known for developing solutions to “grind the ungrindables.” Our pioneering work and introduction of the precise CBN-plated form grinding wheel in the late 1970s led to essentially a stampede for Kapp machines to utilize the technology. The technology enabled the adoption and growth of tooth grinding from small internal splines, using 15-mm-diameter wheels, to large screw compressor rotors, using wheels up to

300 mm in diameter. Economical grinding from solid became a reality for vane pumps with 1-mm-wide slots. We chose to prove every new application of the technology before agreeing to a machine sale.

How has Kapp met industry demands?

Tooth modifications to target specific geometry are now unlimited, which frees designers to specify exact tooth forms. All software is written and tested in-house. We designed and built our own CNC in 2001, which was necessary to meet the precision. We were the first to offer a standard Siemens CNC for gear grinding without a “black box” in 1997. Remaining at the forefront of control development for advances required from CNC suppliers is essential for us.

Does Kapp offer training?

Kapp Niles machines are always available in our Boulder facility for tests and learning by our engineers as well as simulation of customer applications. We offer our Rocky Mountain Profile Grinding School (RMPGS) — a fall school focused on profile grinding — and a spring school for advanced training on gear finishing methods (RMGFS). Both schools devote more than 50 percent of time to grinding machine setup and technology.

What are some of Kapp’s latest technologies?

Tooth polishing added as a post process to generating and profile grinding is now running in several plants. Production of conical gears for V-drives, targeting of specific tooth bias, as well as using generating grinding for prototypes are common today. Our plated tool business remains strong, as new jet aircrafts have specialized gears and splines. Utilization of larger CBN grains such as B852 is producing metering screws from solid more economically than whirling or milling.

What’s in the future for Kapp?

One frontier is advancing process control for long-term process capability. Digitized process data is streamed during the grinding process to customer databases real-time as part of embracing Industry 4.0.  Rapid measurement before and after grinding with closed-loop feedback from on-board and integrated gages is another example. Kapp Niles Metrology GmbH offers a portable analyzer for involute and helix certification directly on large machines. Penta Gear Metrology offers pre-grind and post-grind integrated gages for real process control.

What will Kapp showcase at Gear Expo 2017?

We’ll showcase our latest generating grinding machine series, technology, and new features that reduce time to “first part off.” Besides revealing a new machine, we’ll also put an emphasis on metrology developments. Our Solution Center presentation will highlight the benefits of specific developments consistent with the Industry 4.0 standard.

Do you envision retirement since your colleague, Jim, just retired?

I’m excited about new technology developments and by a recognition that America needs to emphasize manufacturing. I’m fortunate to have a great group of young engineers and managers to coach. Dean Smith retired at 65 and advised current North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams not to make the same mistake.

For more information: www.kapp-niles.com