“Customers don’t want machine tools. They want quality parts out the door, from day one.”

Drake Manufacturing Services Co., a process-driven manufacturer of precision CNC Manufacturing Systems for producing threads and gears, is located in Warren, Ohio. “We apply our threaded part making experience to specific manufacturing applications around the world,” says president Jim Vosmik. “Our machines are designed and built with the idea that our customers want finished parts that meet relevant specifications, not machine tools.”

Vosmik started as a Drake customer back in 1996. “I had a cutting tools company, and I got to know the people and engineers at Drake,” he recalls. “They were a machine tool company who understood that their customers did not want machine tools. That was really attractive to me. If I could have a product made to my specifications, of high quality, without any capital investment, I would do that. Customers don’t want machine tools. They want quality parts out the door, from day one. They are buying the ability to make however many parts per hour they need to make in an inexpensive way.”

Over the years, the research and development team at Drake Manufacturing has invested a substantial amount of capital in making the thread grinding software simple and user-friendly. A machine operator who understands the grinding process but is not skilled in computer code can, with a few simple menu screens, grind a thread, a worm, or a gear.  Every Drake machine comes equipped with this PartSmart™ programming. Its thread and worm software is state-of-the-art, with simple menus for all thread forms as well as ZA, ZN, ZK, and ZI worms. With feedback from early customers of its profile gear grinders, it is applying the same principles and working to simplify the form definition and modification interfaces. Vosmik explains the rationale behind it:

“Over the last 30 years, a great number of highly skilled post-war machinists retired,” he says. “That breed of expertise is going away. The new people are used to computers running machines. They are not going through machinist apprenticeship programs like the previous generation. They’re coming at it from more of a machine operator standpoint rather than a machinist standpoint. The difference is that machine operators are more adept at responding to the output of gear analyzer, and adjusting the program appropriately. Our user interface has to be a part of this closed loop machine feedback system to make it easy for the operator to respond to the measurement feedback.” Today, Vosmik and Drake Manufacturing are adjusting to a new generation of operators by simplifying and automating the process.

Drake started out as retrofitters. Now, however, many of the old machines they retrofitted are outdated and no longer, in many cases, capable of getting the part tolerances. “The customers’ geometric tolerances have tightened, but you also have this whole world of fastening, rippling, noise, harshness, and vibration. Customers are interested in aspects of the part, at a level we could hardly measure ten years ago,” Vosmik explains. Because of this technology, part quality has been driven so far that when combined with advances in  the capabilities of the tooling now in the milling, cutting, and grinding worlds, the entire process has made an unbelievable leap forward. “Now we’re required to control waveforms on parts down into the sub-micron range. Sometimes it’s hard to do that with the older machines.”

In general, that’s what has driven Drake towards new, carefully engineered machines, and has made retrofitting a smaller part of its business. At this point, Drake only provides retrofits for existing customers, and that’s after trying to convince them they’re better off getting a new machine. “For not that much more money, we can get the customer a thermally-stable new machine with high dynamic stiffness with temperature-controlled, motorized dressing and grinding spindles, temperature-controlled slides that hold and repeat position all day long—almost regardless of the environment,” Vosmik says. “Greater performance overcomes any cost difference over the life of the machine in many cases.

“There are no compromises in process, performance, or quality,” Vosmik says. “Maximum dynamic stiffness, rigidity, and precision are designed in. And Drake takes responsibility for complete process development: wheels, dressing, and process on your parts. All aspects of the process are programmed: in-grinding, dressing, loading/unloading, gaging—whatever is required for the entire family of parts. Control set-up is completed through a few simple menu entries, to provide the customer with quality parts from day one.”

Drake’s thread and gear manufacturing solutions include rack mills, profile gear grinders, worm and thread grinders, internal thread grinders, and ball nut and ballscrew grinders.

Its machines help maximize productivity, improve quality, and reduce production costs for a wide variety of demanding applications in the steering systems, power transmission, speed reducer, cutting tool, ball screw, linear motion, and aerospace industries.

Drake Manufacturing Services is inviting customers and friends to visit booth #311 at Gear Expo, September 15-17 at the Indianapolis Convention Center, where they are exhibiting with their gear systems reps, Koepfer America. Manufacturers are encouraged to discuss their unique gear production challenges with Drake Manufacturing application engineers who will be on hand to offer solutions using a variety of Drake machines and automation systems.

MORE INFO  www.drakemfg.com or call 330-847-7291

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is the managing editor with Gear Solutions Magazine.