Tell us about your background, and how you came to join Lovejoy.
I was in the Army, and once I’d gotten out I needed a job, so I accepted a position with a PM parts manufacturer while I was working toward my degree in mechanical engineering at Northern Illinois University. I ended up staying with that company for 15 years, and while I was there I worked as a press operator and a die setter, then I got into design and manufacturing engineering before moving into operations as a maintenance and production manager. I’ve been involved in just about anything that has to do with the PM process, so I had all of that experience under my belt when I had the opportunity to join Lovejoy, which I did in August of 2006. It’s kind of funny that I’d planned to study and teach history when I first enrolled in college, but I’d always known I loved science and math, so I’m very glad I decided to study engineering instead. I definitely made the right decision, in terms of a fulfilling career choice.
What does your position with the company involve?
I’m responsible for overseeing the operations and engineering activities in our powder metal group, which involves everything from daily production, to new product launches, to going out and meeting our customers along with members of our sales force. If it has to do with powder metal in any way, shape, or form, you’ll find me there. We are also a member of the AGMA, where I’m on the Powder Metallurgy Gearing Committee, so we’re heavily involved in the gear-manufacturing industry, and also in promoting and improving the PM industry at large.
Lovejoy is a champion of the “green machining” process. What are the benefits for gear manufacturers?
First of all, we manufacture large or small gears that are highly dense and very complex geometrically. We tend to look for jobs involving larger gears—for us that means gears with a two-plus inch pitch diameter—and we produce them in low to medium quantities, which are anywhere from 1,000 to 200,000 parts annually. We’ll do everything from spur to bevel gears. As for green machining, this is a process that many in the PM industry have been trying to incorporate into their operations, but Lovejoy has invested quite a bit of time and money into R&D efforts leading to its current viability.
What it involves, basically, is performing any necessary machining to the gear before it enters the furnace, before it’s been hardened, so that material can be removed easily and the excess gathered and used in a new batch. And we can do everything from drilling and tapping to turning and boring cross holes. This doesn’t include broaching or any hobbing or gear-forming operations, however, just any conventional machining of external features. One of the huge advantages, as you can imagine, involves prolonged tool life since the material being drilled or shaped is so soft. At this point we like to say that our tool life is basically infinite because we have not yet seen them fail on any of the projects we’ve worked on.
So those two things alone—less material waste, and prolonged tool life—make this very efficient, but the fact that no coolants or cutting fluids are used, and no swarf or chips are generated, make it a very green process as well. As I’ve mentioned, green machining is very advantageous for gears, especially when you need a cross hole for oil flow or a double row of teeth, which can require very expensive tooling when you’re working on a hardened piece because of all the interrupted cuts you have to make. Using the green process is much more cost effective, and the cycle times are greatly reduced as well. So we feel that this process has many benefits, both from a manufacturing as well as an environmental standpoint, and we also see it as part of our commitment to always be at the leading edge of new and developing technologies.