Often, the unsung backbone of the gear-manufacturing world is the very tools used to make them.
In the case of Platinum Tooling, the company has been supplying a variety of tools used to shape, not just the gear industry, but a multitude of industries across the globe.
Platinum Tooling serves the automotive, aerospace, medical, firearms, and energy markets, as well as many other industries in metalworking and has a network of sales representatives throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico to service OEMs, machine tool dealers, and industrial supply companies.
“For the gear manufacturing industry, a lot of gears are round, and they’re produced on lathes, and they have a lot of features that need to be machined on lathes, so our live tools are the product that we sell for gear manufacturers,” said Preben Hansen, president of Platinum Tooling.
“The turning is simple, but then gears will have features that need to be machined in them — holes that need to be drilled and tapped in it — and that’s the kind of work that we supply tools for, as well as hobbing tools. A lot of lathes these days have the capabilities of doing hobbing.”
Platinum Tooling has been in business for more than a decade and is the sole importer of live tools, angle heads, and multiple spindle tools manufactured by Heimatec GmbH, based in Renchen, Germany.
Heimatec offers one of the widest ranges of live tools in the industry and has more than 40,000 designs in its database. The company uses the highest quality gears that are ground and lapped in sets to allow for efficient torque transmission and minimal backlash. Heimatec live tools feature its patented u-tec changing system and heavy-duty bearings found throughout its product lines available with an external or internal coolant supply. The u-tec changing system helps reduce inventory and changeover time, which can result in cost savings.
“I’ve been in machine tool accessories my whole life,” Hansen said. “And I got together with Heimatec, who would become a major source for tooling in this country. I said, ‘We need to start a business over in the U.S. selling Heimatec product.’ And after a lot of negotiating, we did. We started up a joint business partnership between myself and the manufacturer in Germany. And then, some years later, I figured out that really to move forward with the business, I needed to get independent. So, I bought their share of the U.S. business, and we took over as Platinum Tooling about two years ago.”
Making live tools
That independence has sparked numerous developments within Platinum Tooling’s history, including stocking live tools for just about any major lathe on the marketplace, according to Hansen.
“We have a couple of different styles, and we have a nice quick-change system,” he said. “There’s a gear company here in Illinois called Overton, and they make a lot of different gears there. They have a lot of families of parts, and they need to drill and tap holes in these families of parts. So, they use our tools for doing all of that, and they’re quick change, so for each part, they have inserts set up ready to go, so when they change over, they can quickly go to a different part number in that family and very quickly start manufacturing again.”
Platinum Tooling was also instrumental in the development of a tool for Milwaukee Electric, according to Hansen.
“In Milwaukee’s prototype development area, they needed to produce a lot of gears for a drill that had eight little gears in it, so they came to us and said, ‘We need to cut all these gears. We have all these little different hobs with different diameters, and we need the flexibility of a tool that we can put on our Mazak machine and that we can put all these, six, seven different hob diameters on and produce gears here for the prototypes we’re building,’” he said. “We made them a tool for that. Now, they make the gears for all their prototype hand tools in Milwaukee Electric on a hobbing tool that we built them.”
Platinum Tooling does a surprising amount of custom-designed tools, according to Hansen.
“That’s actually a pretty strong aspect of what we can do because we can build tools,” he said. “We’re very good at customs. We understand engineering; we understand application. If I get a challenging application like that, I’ll get a hold of a customer, and, before (COVID), I’d go visit and sit down with them and go through the whole project, but now, we work more with solid models and engineering specs based on the customer’s requirements. We know how to tackle challenging applications, and we know how to build special tools. They take a bit to do, but it usually works out pretty well. We’re a great engineering company.”
Hansen said his company may get a few requests a week for custom tools, adding that it can take about a month to create a tool that satisfies the customer’s needs.
“There’s a lot of custom applications,” he said. “It’s amazing what people think of.”
That detailed customer service is a cornerstone of Platinum Tooling’s core philosophy, according to Hansen.
“When we started the business, we knew we weren’t going to be the biggest or the cheapest in the market, but I said there’s one thing we can do better than anybody else, and that’s customer service,” he said. “And that’s what we did, and that’s why I think the business has grown. Every year we’ve grown substantially. And I think it’s because we give customer service that’s as good as anything on the market.”
That customer service has kept Platinum Tooling’s clientele coming back year after year, according to Hansen.
“In the last 10 years since we started this business, Heimatec business was zero in the United States when we took over,” he said. “I think I’m most proud of the loyalty that we have from our customers now. We have a customer base that does not look anywhere else for tools. They come to us, and we can help them, and they know that, and so I am really happy with the customers that we have and the loyalty they’re showing to us because they know what we can do for them.”
More sophisticated products
When it comes to the gear market, Hansen said the lathes in the market have become more sophisticated with each passing year.
“The lathes that we deal with are more sophisticated than ever, and so there’s more gear work being done on lathes as compared to gear machines because of the capabilities,” he said. “In particular, the controls had synchronized the turrets and the spindle. Our involvement has been with the development of new tools for the lathes that are getting better and more capable of cutting gears.”
As the needs of industry grow and evolve, Hansen said it will be necessary for his company to continue growing more sophisticated in order to compete on a worldwide basis.
“Machine tools are more capable than they ever were, and there’s more automation being done,” he said. “I think that the industry in general is moving toward more sophisticated automation types of setups. And we have products that fit that. When you do that, you need something that the customers don’t have to worry about. You can set it up; you can run it, and you know it’s going to keep going for you. And I think that’s what’s important here. It’s pretty competitive around the world, and the United States is not the cheapest place to do business, but I think we’re as clever as anywhere. And I think that by thinking about production and automation and higher end work and using good equipment and doing things in a sophisticated manner, we’ll be very competitive in the world marketplace.”
MORE INFO platinumtooling.com