Q&A with Chris Wellman and Ivan Torres

President and Vice President at Avers Machine

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Avers Machine recently partnered with Helios Gear Products to install a new, automation-equipped Hera 90 CNC gear hobber. Avers’ Chris Wellman and Ivan Torres discuss the installation.

Who are your typical customers?

Wellman: Most of our niche customers are going to be OEM (original equipment manufacturers), and we’re making a specialized component that goes into their assembly or into their machine to be used in whatever industry that they happen to be in. We’re a rack manufacturer; we’re a gear manufacturer. We’re a machining company and we’ve become a little bit more of a one-stop shop for our customers over the years.

As a leader at Avers Machine, what are your primary goals for now and how are you looking forward to the future?

Wellman: If we’re not changing and we’re not looking at something new, then we’re stagnant, which is not a good thing in our industry because the technology is always changing; the tooling is always changing, and you always need to be looking at the new things.

How did you first get connected with Helios, and what is the relationship today?

Wellman: We were always good friends with the people at Koepfer America (formerly Helios Gear Products), and we always knew their products and had their equipment and machines. When I moved over to Avers, we didn’t have any Koepfer machines or equipment, so we started a conversation with them. And it was probably about two years later that we bought our first Helios machine. We knew that they knew gearing, and they knew hobs, and they knew processes, and how to make everything, so it was a good relationship.

What was the Hera 90 installation process like?

Wellman: The machine came in, and we powered it up the next day. Then Helios was in the following day to start training and installation. From the time that the machine hit our floor, we ran our first part three days later. Helios will answer all the questions, and they’ll send their service person and their tech person to help. Most companies won’t send a person unless you give them a PO and they’re going to charge you. When Helios says they’re there to support you and help you, they really do mean that.

How has the machine been working for you?

Torres: The machine has made us so much more productive. There are jobs that used to take a week, and now we are knocking them out in two days or less. It’s been a game-changer for us. We’ve done spurs, helicals, worm gears, and now we’re doing worms, so basically everything it’s made to do, we’ve run through it.

Wellman: We ran seven jobs back-to-back on the same arbor and all we had to do was go up to the control and change the number of teeth; we never had to change the work arbor, never had to change the hob, and because of the CNC control and the accuracy of the machine, we just put in exactly what size we wanted.

What are your top three favorite benefits of the machine and what changes has it brought about?

Wellman: Our top three are the capability of the machine, the repeatability of the machine, and the accuracy of the machine. With the Hera, we’ve been able to save so much time because the machine automatically goes back to the settings where we were successful. We’re using the same hob, the same tooling, and our setup times have been significantly cut. We also appreciate the rigidity of the machine.

What are cycle times now looking like with the Hera?

Wellman: In the Barber-Colman we were limited by a 600 RPM hob spindle. In the Hera, we’ve got 6,000 RPMs, so we’re not limited at all, and it really becomes a limitation of how fast the tool can run. We were running a high-speed steel hob that was coated so we were able to ramp that up to 1,000 RPM without a problem. We even now have the ability to utilize carbide hobs, which we have done on some jobs, and we can take that 1,000 RPM up to 2,000 or 3,000 RPMs. But even more importantly, there’s a deburring disk in the Hera 90. The deburring disk comes up and deburrs each part so all we need to do is just a very light brush when the part comes out of the machine, which saves a tremendous amount of deburring and handling time.

How has your manufacturing process changed since you added the Hera 90?

Wellman: Before the Hera 90, we would run higher volume jobs on more manual equipment, putting a lot of strain and load on the operators. The Hera 90 brought us automation. Since we were able to make the tooling in-house with our own machine shop, we were up and running immediately. The machine is loading and unloading faster than any operator could do manually, and it takes all that load off of the operators.

How is the Hera helping you prepare for the future?

Wellman: The Hera 90 platform allows us to do a couple of different things. It allows us to use our creativity and think outside the box when it comes to making new tooling, and re-engineer jobs so they can be so much smoother to set up and so much easier on our operators. The main focus is the accuracy and efficiency of the machine, and we’ve been able to save a lot of floorspace.