Kennametal Extrude Hone has grown from a manufacturer and seller of abrasive flow machining (AFM) machines to include electrochemical machining (ECM) and its thermal energy method (TEM), making it a world leader in these three core practices.

Kennametal Extrude Hone was founded more than 50 years ago in Irwin, Pennsylvania, as Extrude Hone Corp. by Lawrence Rhoades, an entrepreneur and inventor. After years of extensive research, Rhoades began manufacturing and selling abrasive flow machining (AFM) machines, and that was the company’s sole focus at that time. In 1974, Extrude Hone began looking toward the die industry and aerospace field and set up a distribution for electrochemical machining (ECM) and machine service for ECM units of AEG Elotherm in North America. Soon after, the company began manufacturing ECM machines. In 2000, Extrude Hone took over Robert Bosch Surftran division including the product lines for both ECM and thermal energy metals (TEM), or thermal deburring. Extrude Hone also began expanding into Europe to meet the demand for ECM systems, thus opening a location in Buxheim, Germany. Then, the company acquired Dynetics and the product lines Chemtool, Dynaflow, and Dynastream for AFM machines and took over the TEM business unit of Bosch Rexroth AG.

In 2005, Latrobe, Pennsylvania-based Kennametal, one of the leading manufacturers of metal cutting tools, acquired Extrude Hone from Rhoades for approximately $137 million.

“Kennametal was interested because Extrude Hone had the two processes that were related to metal cutting and to its secondary operations,” said Bruno Boutantin, global marketing manager at Kennametal Precision Surface Solutions. “When you do metal cutting, you generate burrs. A big portion was removing burrs; the other portion was to improve the quality of the surface after machining, or polishing. This was a good match that they were thinking about at that time.”

With the acquisition of Extrude Hone came two more companies VMB and Diva-Tec manufacturers of electrolytic deburring machines also in Germany. These merged into Extrude Hone GmbH, which transitioned into the name Kennametal Extrude Hone in 2008.

Today, Kennametal Extrude Hone has grown from the trio of core processes (ECM, AFM, and TEM) that were once separate units into a strong, consolidated, complete global team with 12 facilities around the world and 350 employees so that it now efficiently serves OEMs and Tier 1s in the automotive, energy, and aerospace industries. Eleven facilities are equipped with contract shop capabilities, and three have manufacturing capabilities. Two facilities are centers of excellence — the headquarters in Irwin, Pennsylvania, for AFM, AFM microflow, and TEM, and the other in Holzguenz, Germany, for ECM, ECM Dynamic, and precise ECM (PECM). As a global network, the company also has facilities in Japan, China, Europe, South America, Ireland, Germany, and Asia.

With this range of core processes and facilities, Kennametal Extrude Hone is able to offer its customers solutions to match their different needs.

“From a technology angle, some customers may require only simple deburring of gears, so we can use TEM or ECM,” Boutantin said. “Others will be interested in adding more value to their component by applying a radius around the teeth to reduce wear, noise, and improve cleanliness; for this, we have ECM, or in specific applications or specific material (titanium) such as aerospace, we have AFM. For those looking to do both shaping and finishing of gears in a single step, we have PECM, delivering the perfect shape (µ domain tolerance) combined with the perfect surface.”

Along with its specialized machining services, Kennametal Extrude Hone stands apart from others in the industry with a range of customer support.

“We support the customer by designing the best solution including specific knowledge applied to fixture design and exceptional fixture design manufacturing capabilities to ensure extremely demanding tolerances plus aftermarket support of their equipment,” said Boutantin. “We bring the whole package to the customer from A to Z, anywhere around the world.”

In addition, the company has a business development team in charge of powertrain, focusing on upcoming needs, looking at trends, and spending time with customers outside of the daily business relationships.

“We are involved from Day 1 with them to develop solutions for them, find out what we can do, and what we could do better,” Boutantin said.

In regard to meeting the continuous requirements in improving gear life and improved performance of gears, Kennametal Extrude Hone has been successful in creating radii with extremely precise and highly repeatable quality from tooth to tooth and between components. This ensures lower resistance, vibration, and reduced noise and translates into strength and reliability.

“We understood that ECM should be the high-end solution first and that our edge in designing and manufacturing ECM fixtures combined with our extended ECM machine portfolio and the capability to manage high volume production could be the answer,” Boutantin said.

So far, it looks like it was the winning solution.

“A customer relationship is more than a brand, products, and papers,”  Boutantin said. “It’s all about the people who really make the difference and the extra miles you go for customers and their needs. That’s valid for any position in the company where someone is interacting with customers, from the front desk, packaging, and warehouse to engineering, sales, and service, or from the capital equipment business or contract shop. Our team is engaged and has the willingness to do more.”

According to Boutantin, Kennametal Extrude Hone’s future looks bright and has plans to include more growth, developments, and improvements.

“We continue to develop our business so we put effort in R&D,” Boutantin said. “Some recent examples of this include designing next generation media for AFM, new generator for the ECM without stray machining mark, and the FlexiCathode for in-the-field ECM machining or extra large components over several meters. This development will interest people in the gear industry.”