Originally established in 1995 as purely a service organization, Machine Tool Builders (MTB) has since evolved into a single-source solutions provider offering the best of both worlds: rebuilding and re-controlling all types of older gear manufacturing machines, and now offering a fast-growing line of world-class new gear machines.

In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, gear manufacturers are often faced with a difficult choice: either replace their older CNC machines with expensive new equipment, or gradually lose the race for more productivity, quality, and reliability.

For many in the gear manufacturing industries, Machine Tool Builders offers a compelling alternative. Over the last three decades, Machine Tool Builders (MTB) has evolved into an industry-leading machinery rebuilder and, most recently, a source for new machines that offer world-class performance at a highly competitive cost.

It’s been quite the journey for a business that began as a modest service company founded by Mike Fiorenza and Ken Flowers.

“We started doing service on machines and quickly began taking on bigger projects of rebuilding machines, and then re-controlling machines; the demand for the work we specialize in turned out to be quite significant,” said John Waxler, VP of operations at MTB.

Rebuilding, recontrolling – revitalizing

The bulk of MTB’s business, especially for gear manufacturing, is rebuilding machines, according to Waxler.

“We rebuild and re-control any CNC machine as well as older mechanical machines,” he said. “The majority of our work, depending on the year, is about 75 percent gear-manufacturing machines: hobbing, shaping and form grinding. Those are the majority of the machines we do for the gear-manufacturing industry. We specialize in these machines, all makes and models, representing the most widespread processes and most popular brands found in the industry.”

With today’s demand for more performance adding to machine complexity, MTB has kept pace by putting more tools in its toolbox to aid in gear-manufacturing efficiency, according to Waxler.

“For example, within the last five years, we have added more features to our form grinding software,” he said. “Now, we have a software package to do onboard dressing and also onboard inspection. It allows us to be able to rebuild and re-control the majority of form grinding machines out there. In the past, those were some machines that we didn’t have the software packages to allow us to take on that type of work. Now, we have those software packages created so we can take on those machines.”

Over the last three decades, Machine Tool Builders (MTB) has evolved into an industry-leading machinery rebuilder. (Courtesy: MTB)

A fast-expanding family of world-class new machines

Most recently, Waxler said that MTB has begun representing a wider variety of new machines from OEMs in Germany, South Korea, and Japan to offer world-class gear production technologies for smaller gears where rebuilding might not make economic sense.

“For example, we represent a Korean machine called SMG,” Waxler said. “They make vertical hobbing machines for gears ranging from 200 mm to 400 mm diameters. We didn’t usually rebuild or re-control machines below 500 mm. This allows us to have a product that, if you go below 500, now we have a product to meet your needs.”

MTB also represents a company called Burri, out of Germany, who makes generating grinding machines and profile grinding machines. Burri’s machines are also right below that 500 mm threshold as well, according to Waxler. Other machines represented by MTB include HAMAI, a Japanese builder of horizontal, fine-pitch thread-hobbing machines for the 40 mm to 80 mm diameter part range. Within the past year, MTB has represented Tec for Gears, who makes gear chamfering machines. Donner+Pfister machines are also available from MTB. They make specialized inspection machines that can inspect the pitch, lead, and profile on large gears right on the shop floor, as well as a portable gear inspector that can be machine mounted.

“This is for very large gears, so you don’t have to try to pick up the gear and put it on an inspection machine,” he said. “Thus saving hours, even days, for typical large gear inspection.”

With today’s demand for more performance adding to machine complexity, MTB has kept pace by putting more tools to its toolbox to aid in gear-manufacturing efficiency. (Courtesy: MTB)

Specialized software

MTB’s recent software package is expected to be a game changer for the company, according to Waxler.

When form grinders appeared on the scene in the mid-to-late 1990s, probes were introduced in order to measure the gear. Based on the results of the probe, the profile of the gear could be adjusted.

“We have a software package where now the operator enters in their gear data, and we can generate the profile of that gear to — based on the parameters — any modifications they have entered, then we can grind that gear,” Waxler said. “If the machine is equipped with an on-board inspection, we can inspect the gear and give you a full inspection result, just as a normal gear checker would. We can also take those results and calculate the new adjustments to put your gear where it should be.”

“Ultimately, we’re able to deliver today’s state-of-the-art CNC operating functionality, and eliminating the uncertainty, or inability, of a customer to get spare parts and/or service for an older CNC,” he said. “Now, you can get rid of your obsolete control system and essentially operate with a new control system that’s fully supported.”

Over time, the MTB’s focus has shifted from just service to rebuilding, retrofitting, and re-controlling older gear shapers, hobbers, and grinding machines. (Courtesy: MTB)

Delivering a better customer experience

MTB’s most recent products, as well as its tried-and-true services that it has offered for almost 30 years, all boils down to meeting customers’ needs, according to Waxler.

“We identify our customers’ needs, and then provide a high quality and cost-effective product,” he said. “That product could come from us rebuilding a machine or re-controlling the machine, but it could also come from one of the new machine OEMs that we represent. If, for example, part size is less than 500 mm, it may not be cost-effective for us to rebuild it, but that’s when we can get you a quality machine from a company that we represent.”

This dedication to its customers starts with the very first contact, according to Waxler.

“We first try to gather as much information about their needs as we can get,” he said. “Then we also try to learn as much of their process to try to get a good idea of everything that’s going on. Once we got that information, we can come up with a proposal to meet their challenges. A lot of times, what we come up with may not even have been what they were first requesting, because they may not have had any idea this existed. So, we try to gather as much information as possible, so we can make the best decision from there.”

Keeping pace with change

As machines continue to advance and rely more on digital components, Waxler said MTB will more than likely be doing fewer mechanical rebuilds.

“That’s just the fact there’s going to be less out there,” he said. “We’re going to have to start taking on more machines from the early 2000s that are going to have more features that we’ll have to keep adapting and adding into our software packages.”

What started as repair services, MTB has evolved into one of the premier gear machinery solutions providers in the industry. Over time, the company’s focus has shifted from just service to rebuilding, retrofitting, and re-controlling older gear shapers, hobbers, and grinding machines, to now offering the best possible solution, whether rebuilt or brand new.

No wonder MTB has built up a prestigious customer base with projects and machine installations throughout the US, and in Europe and China. 

MORE INFO  machinetoolbuilders.com

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is the editor of Gear Solutions. He can be reached at 800-366-2185 ext. 204.