The L.S. Starrett Co. has been designing, manufacturing, and supplying high-quality, precision measuring tools, metrology systems, and more for 140 years.

When companies need to ensure the highest and most accurate quality control process, they turn to the experts at Starrett.

Founded in 1880 and headquartered in Athol, Massachusetts, The L.S. Starrett Company is a leading global manufacturer of precision measuring tools and gages, optical comparators, vision systems, force measurement, and hardness testing solutions. Starrett also manufactures laser measurement systems, custom engineered granite solutions, custom gaging, and more. The Starrett brand is recognized throughout the world for exceptional quality and precision.

The number of industries that Starrett works with is as vast as it is varied. Those industries include aerospace, medical, energy, defense, automotive, sporting goods, pharmaceutical, food processing, and — of course — gear manufacturing.

An application specific precision tool that Starrett offers for the gear industry is the Gear Tooth Vernier Caliper. The company also offers thousands of precision tools and gages, as well as advanced metrology solutions with powerful software designed to measure a large range of parts including gears, according to Scott Robinson, Starrett’s technical support manager.

“We make a plethora of precision tools that can be used for an extensive number of quality control applications,” he said. “When measuring a gear, you may start with a caliper. Another precision gage option for gear makers is a micrometer, the most accurate handheld tool available to skilled operators.”

The Starrett HDV (Horizontal Digital Video) System is an excellent gear measurement solution, as well as for grooved-parts inspection. (Courtesy: The L.S. Starrett Company)

Gears and More

“Most of our products are not designed specifically for gear manufacturing; however, they are absolutely capable of measuring and inspecting gears and gear tooth forms,” said Mark Arenal, general manager for Starrett Metrology Systems and Starrett Kinemetric Engineering.

In one example when gears are measured, pins or balls are inserted into the gear, and measurements are taken over those pins, according to Rick Lasure, Starrett North American sales manager.

“We’re able to take a gear tooth and electronically construct the ball or pin diameter to measure a gear without the requirement to purchase special pins or balls, which would add cost and have a lengthy delivery of about four to six weeks,” he said.

Micrometers can be designed with the ball shaped anvils in them to measure gears, according to Lasure.

Walk-Up Metrology

Starrett’s metrology systems are used both on the shop floor in a manufacturing environment, as well as in the quality and research labs, according to Arenal. Vision systems and optical comparators are valuable resources for gear inspection.

“They are used in a variety of places in the manufacturing area, so our systems in general are designed to be easy to use,” he said. “We like to use the term ‘they’re walk-up friendly,’ so that different people in different job categories are able to walk up and use the system for various types of measurements. That’s basically the user approach that we take. So while yes, you could be a power user and have a lot of training, you don’t need extensive training to use the systems to take basic part measurements.”

Starrett 5006 Groove Calipers are coolant resistant and ideal for measuring internal and external grooves on large workpieces. (Courtesy: The L.S. Starrett Company)

Supported by a Team of Experts

“We have knowledgeable technical support and application engineers located across the globe, and sometimes these experts go directly to the customer site where we use their eyes and expertise to consult on an application,” said Tim Cucchi, Precision Hand Tools Product Manager. “Often being onsite is a very effective approach to defining the right solution.”

Seeing the application first-hand, Starrett can identify what the customer is attempting to accomplish and select the right piece of equipment to do the job, according to Arenal. Starrett will also do an application study and demonstrate the best solution.

“For example, we’ll do an onsite customer demonstration to gain an understanding of the challenges and goals and identify any bottlenecks so that we can provide them with a solution that makes sense,” he said. “Depending on the application, there’s a variety of techniques and metrology solutions we have available to meet their needs.”

Special Gage Division

In addition to the thousands of standard precision tools and gages, Starrett is able to offer customized capabilities that many companies don’t, according to Robinson.

“We have a Special Gage Division that has its own engineering staff, test labs, and tool makers,” he said. “That’s a significant benefit for our customers, especially if they need a product that can’t be found in the catalog. Our Special Gage Division has been designing and building dimensional measuring instruments for over 50 years. We pride ourselves with being able to offer a solution to measure all machined parts.”

That kind of expertise is important, especially when a customer comes to Starrett’s team with a unique challenge.

The Starrett Special Gage Division has developed micrometers and gages used to measure the pitch diameter of gears, according to Andrew Morin, senior engineer in the Special Gage Division at Starrett.

“We do a lot of spline work, either ID or OD, which has many of the same dimensions as a gear tooth/ pattern,” he said. “Our Special Gage team can develop a solution for anything that needs to be QC’ed in the gear industry, ranging from very small to extremely large gears. Examples include a Bore Gage such as a pistol grip style, or a custom internal or external micrometer with ball contacts to fit in the gears at correct pitch diameter size. As long as we can get a tool in the application/part, we’ll develop a solution to measure it.”

The gears used in the automotive industry, for example, can be unique, but Morin said his team has the capability to design and build tools to measure those gears as well.

“For many gears, you can’t just measure straight across, because the number of teeth make it offset a little bit,” he said. “You have to put presets in, and you have to design the gage to compensate for that error.”

The Starrett 456 Gear Tooth Vernier Caliper is designed to measure in 0.001 inch or 0.02mm, the thickness of gear teeth at the pitch line (the chordal thickness of the teeth) using the distance from the top of a tooth to a chord. (Courtesy: The L.S. Starrett Company)

Implementing Industry 4.0 and Beyond

As more industries implement Industry 4.0 technology, Starrett is well entrenched in this initiative as well.

“Providing innovative solutions to meet industry changes is of upmost importance to Starrett,” said Starrett Marketing Manager Jim Ballou. “For example, Starrett offers wireless data collection software, which greatly improves the ease of collecting and storing data by enabling the monitoring of a wireless network, precision tools, system status, and tool measurement all from one screen. Next generation systems must seamlessly interface with enterprise middleware for the Industrial Internet of Things/Industry 4.0 while allowing operators to do their jobs unencumbered. Measuring, collecting, and storing data for analysis and reports in the digital age will continue to become faster and more automated to meet the demands of Industry 4.0 and beyond.”

“We are continually advancing our digital tools, and we’re looking at the communication end of it right now,” Cucchi said. “We’re adding Bluetooth communication to all of the handles including on the indicators, the micrometers, and the calipers.”

What that means is rather than a technician having to stop and write down measurements, serial numbers, gear names, tooth forms, and more on a piece of paper, now the tools can automatically record all the measurements as the work is being done, according to Cucchi.

“Today, customers want to transmit data with speed and accuracy by the touch of a button,” he said.

Moving into more Automation

Increasing automation is essential, and Cucchi stressed that is a good thing.

“At Starrett, we have an initiative to automate many of the most simplistic jobs,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for our skilled personnel to take on new, more challenging roles. For people who may have been performing repetitive tasks, they apply their skills elsewhere to increase their productivity and take on more meaningful jobs.”

Starrett also offers automation capabilities via its Metrology Solutions products including the Starrett Horizontal Digital Video (HDV) systems, which are excellent for gear measurement, according to Arenal.

“We have two patents on our HDV product line, and we have seen great success with that product and feel that it provides a lot of value to our customers in helping them obtain more data when they’re taking measurements,” he said. “And that’s what many companies are looking for. They’re looking for data to drive decision making. The HDV product is one of our most popular solutions.”

Starrett micrometers can be can be designed with the ball shaped anvils in them to measure gears. (Courtesy: The L.S. Starrett Company)

19th Century Beginnings

Starrett has been achieving excellence since its beginnings in 1880 when Laroy Sunderland Starrett first invented a meat chopper for household kitchens and then invented the Combination Square.

The company has won numerous awards for its products, but one award that particularly stands out as important is when Starrett won the Army-Navy E for Excellence Award during World War II, according to Robinson.

“I think there were only about 180 E Awards presented across the whole country,” he said. “We still have the actual banners that Starrett won. The award ceremony took place in April 1943 outside of our building with about 2,300 employees standing in the pouring rain for 45 minutes listening to the award presentation.”

Eye Toward the Future

After thousands of employees and millions of precision tools, gages, and saw blades later, the company is still looking for ways that will better serve the myriad of industries it caters to.

As Starrett reaches into the future, it will continue to focus on its broad portfolio of products, according to Arenal.

“We want to continue to globalize our brand and our products and meet the markets where the need is,” he said.  “We will carry on our tradition of precision, quality, and innovation while implementing technology to meet the needs of factories in the future.”