Could you tell us a little about the company’s history?
Of course. The company was founded by Walter Schneeberger in 1923 to manufacture tool grinders for profiling woodworking and molding cutters. We are headquartered in Roggwil, Switzerland, with subsidiaries in Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain, China, and the United States. Schneeberger was pivotal in the development of the first CNC controlled profile grinders, which were introduced in 1985, and it launched the world’s first five-axis tool grinder into the market in 1990. Our Elgin, Illinois, facility was incorporated in 1994 when it became clear that the service and application demands were such that we needed direct representation here in the States to handle installation and training. We do work through sales representatives—we’re represented by some 20 agencies around the world, in fact—but if we’re talking about something like the gear-manufacturing industry, the technology is very specific, so we do work closely with our representatives to handle those aspects of the relationship. We also send our technicians back to Switzerland for a minimum of two weeks of recurrent training each year, and we host technicians from the home office quite regularly. Our dedicated sales staff also has a strong grasp of the technology involved.
Describe the grinders you manufacture, especially those of interest to gear manufacturers.
Our Aries model is an economically priced four-axis CNC hob and shaper cutter sharpener that’s ideally suited for sharpening straight hobs and cutters, which do not require complex wheel profile dressing. In addition to a generous work envelope and a GE-Fanuc control, the work is typically held between centers in a very comfortable, ergonomical fashion on a t-slotted bed. We offer an extensive line of five- and six-axis CNC grinders such as the Corvus GDS with five-axis grinding for oversized tools and the Corvus BBA for grinding broaches. The Gemini model also offers five-axis grinding for both tool regrinding and production, and it was designed for automated high-performance tool production.
Our production machines can be outfitted with integrated robotic handling as well as the Galileo optical measuring machine. We can also configure the machines to provide different direct drive spindle horsepower ratings of up to 56 Hp for coarse pitch hobs and spindle speeds up to 18,000 RPM, and also to provide automatic in-machine CNC wheel dressing. Our CNC machines utilize a touch screen with a Windows XP platform driving GE-Fanuc controls with our own menu-driven, graphical, Quinto software.
Other options and peripherals include integrated optical measuring systems, integrated laser wheel measurement systems, and automated coolant filtration systems. The integrated optical measuring system allows the user to compare the actual with the desired profile, which is an option that’s very popular in Europe, where this level of automation is in heavy use. Our longtime expertise in this area, through working with our customers globally, is invaluable here in the States as the interest in profile automation is growing.
Is all the manufacturing conducted in Switzerland? If so, what do you stock?
Yes, it is, but we usually have two or three machines in stock. We have an Aries on the floor, at present. The grinding applications best suited for the Aries are typically less complex than the other models, so we can quickly configure them for prompt delivery. With the larger machines the integration work is typically handled at the plant, but our lead time is generally around six months, which is very competitive. We do carry an extensive inventory of spare parts, ranging from electronic parts to rebuilt spindles for prompt replacement.
One thing we’re quite proud of is the solid foundation incorporated in the design of the larger models. These are massive, heavy duty, stable machines, as we start with an advanced polymer concrete bed and make extensive use of linear drive motors and glass scales, which very much differentiates us from companies that are still relying on relatively outdated technology. Add Schneeberger monorail linear ways on the horizontal axis and water-cooled spindles for thermal stability and you have an accurate, flexible, dependable machine. But what it really boils down to is having a solid machine foundation, because you’re not going to get the highest-quality grinding unless you have that solid, stable platform.