In the late eighties, while working as a design engineer for a large machine tool company, N.K. Chinnusamy — who is known familiarly as “Chinn” — began to wonder about the gears they were purchasing for high-speed applications. While he’d been assured the gears were of the highest quality, AGMA 14, there was simply too much noise and vibration for that to be the case. Since inspection software wasn’t as widely available then as it is today, quite often you were forced to simply take your supplier’s word for the quality of their product. To Chinn, this just wasn’t acceptable.
“So we did our research and eventually found out about inspection software that had been developed by a company in Germany, which we purchased and used to check the gears,” he recalls. “What we found was that they were nowhere near the quality we’d been told, which was the source of the noise, of course.”
Knowing that high-speed gearing was a hot and emerging field, he felt the time was right to offer highly accurate, precision gears backed by inspection software analysis. This led to the launch of Excel Gear, Inc. — which is based in Roscoe, Illinois — in 1990, with Chinn as its president and founder.
As is the case with any new technology, concept, or business, it took some time for Chinn to convince his first customer of the soundness of his approach and the quality of his abilities in designing and manufacturing gears for high-speed applications. One of its first big breaks involved the opportunity to bid on a project for Okuma, the Japanese developer of CNC and machining technologies. “They were interested in developing a new five-axis machining center with gimbal heads to provide continuous 360-degree rotation for creating life-size models of new automotive body designs,” he says. “Our suggestion involved using slip rings in each head instead of cables, which restricted the head’s reach, and they were delighted. We eventually won the contract, and we’ve designed and built eight high-precision 20,000rpm motorized spindle gimbal heads for them so far, providing spare parts for them as well.”
Using each success as leverage, Excel was soon able to land a contract with BAE Systems for design/build work on a new, super-efficient gearbox for the U.S. Navy. Prior to the contract being awarded the company was put through its paces, proving its products lived up to its claims by creating preliminary concept and detail designs and conducting finite element analysis and other complex means of ensuring accuracy, including prototyping. Excel also has a longstanding relationship with Hurco Manufacturing, for which it has supplied more than 300 15,000rpm spindles. Other longtime customers include Caterpillar and MAG Giddings & Lewis, in addition to manufacturers of overhead cranes and even centrifuge equipment.
At the center of this successful record lies the company’s commitment to providing great designs from the start, and proving they’ve achieved what they set out to at the end. “We created our own design software in house,” Chinn says, “so we are quite familiar with its capabilities and how it functions. Our engineers have extensive experience in the design and manufacture of custom gearboxes and power transmission systems, and parts are inspected at many points during the process. If a gear doesn’t meet a customer’s specifications 100 percent, they are notified and we wait for their instructions or approval before shipping. In addition, inspection reports are sent with each gear we manufacture.”
With 35,000 square feet of manufacturing space, and four and a half acres of land available for expansion, Chinn says Excel Gear will continue its careful, measured growth relying on positive reviews from repeat customers as its primary marketing method. “We feel that, in addition to longstanding relationships with your customers, their high opinion of your work is really the best endorsement you can have in obtaining new clients,” he says. “It’s one thing to land a contract with a big company, but when you can retain that relationship over the course of many years, that’s when you’ve earned their trust, not just their business.”