Gear manufacturing is a world unto itself. It has its own language, technologies, and challenges, so it stands to reason that the cutting tools it requires would be highly specialized as well. When seeking expertise in the field of metal removal tooling, there’s one number that gear manufacturers should keep in mind: 1889.
“That’s the year when Ingersoll Cutting Tools was awarded its first patent,” according to Chuck Elder, president of the company’s North American operations, “so that’s 122 years of experience we have in designing and manufacturing cutting tools.”
As is the case with any company that’s been around for more than a century, Ingersoll has gone through quite a few transformations over the years. Launched in Cleveland, Ohio, in the late 1800s, the company later moved to its current location in Rockford, Illinois, around the turn of the century. Then, in 2001, everything changed when Ingersoll became a member of the IMC Group, which is now majority owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Today Ingersoll Cutting Tools is a full-line supplier of standard products for turning, milling, drilling, and reaming, also designing and manufacturing custom tooling for specialty markets such as gear manufacturing.
As product manager for gear machining, Frank Berardi has been heavily involved in the design of these special cutting tools, which includes hobs, gashers, shapers, and cutters. “We pioneered the development of the indexable insert hob back in the seventies, and we’ve continued to improve on that design ever since,” he says. “We’ve been expanding the range of gears we can handle, and adding more features as well. In fact, we’ve recently launched a double-thread hob that slashes cycle time in half when producing larger gears like slewing rings that have a large number of teeth to be cut. Like our single-start hob, the design is segmented, making it expandable and easy to assemble and disassemble.”
Not only have these tools been designed specifically for gearing applications, they increase the end-user’s flexibility in a number of ways, according to Berardi. “Many customers have invested in new equipment and need to upgrade their tooling,” he says, “but with the geometries that we’ve introduced, like the S-Max insert that we’re using in our roughing gasher, we’ve been able to reduce the power consumption requirements so that they can be run on older machines as well.”
Other advents include indexable insert shapers that are primarily used for roughing, but are consistently producing results that are very close to the finished form, at the same time reducing cycle time by 50-70 percent. “We’ve also introduced a new finishing gasher for internal gears with a large number of teeth, and it features replaceable hardware so that we can use positive or negative inserts,” Berardi explains. “It’s primarily designed as a finisher, and by changing inserts we can cover a wide range of gears with the same cutter body.”
With dedicated gear engineering teams both at its Rockford location and its sister plant in Germany—they provide their markets, and each other, with inch and metric tooling—Ingersoll products are highly engineered and unique solutions designed to meet each customer’s individual needs.
“And that’s critical for gear manufacturers, because it’s such a specialized market,” Elder adds. “Rather than trying to convince them that a standard tool will meet their application, our approach involves listening to what they want to achieve and then designing the custom tooling that will allow them to do so. That’s our commitment to the gear manufacturing industry, and as the second-largest manufacturer of metal cutting products in the world, we’re in a position to make good on that promise.”