Q&A with Mike Smith

Vice President of Sales Capstan Atlantic


Capstan Atlantic has been around for quite awhile, hasn’t it?

Yes, it has. It was founded by Don Paulin in the forties, and his son Mark is the current owner and CEO along with his partner Chris Doughty, so it’s been a privately held organization all along. Although the company has gone through many changes over the years, the basic structure these days involves headquarters at Capstan California in Los Angeles, Capstan Tennessee in Rockwood, Capstan Mexico in Guadalajara, and Capstan Atlantic here in Wrentham, Massachusetts. Capstan California primarily focuses on stainless steel and filters, Capstan Tennessee deals typically in lower volume powder metal parts, and Capstan Mexico services multiple industries in Mexico and North America. Here at Capstan Atlantic we’re involved in supporting our customers regardless of volume in many different industries, and we’re working in a 100,000 square-foot facility. We’ve been at this location for about 15 years now.

Tell us about the company’s specialties and capabilities.

We really focus on three different market segments, which are large multilevel gears and structural components, assorted gearing, and then small, close-tolerance parts. In the first category we’re talking about gears in the 550-ton range and below, and the more complex they are, the better we like it. The second segment, assorted gears, is a very large part of our business. We run the full gamut, too, from the smallest pinion that’s an eighth of an inch in diameter all the way up to gears that are five and a half inches in diameter, and they include helical, spur, bevel, and pinions, as well as fine and course pitch gears. And then in the third segment of our business we’ve been able to establish manufacturing cells where we can produce millions of tight-tolerance parts per year, and at a very economical market position. So when you walk through our plant you’ll see a lot of gears and multi-level parts, and then millions of very small parts that go in a wide array of applications.

I understand that you’re heavily involved in R&D. What are your areas of interest?

We have developed and are in production with a number of technologies applied to gearing that allows us to compete in the 8620 world, where PM traditionally hasn’t been able to meet the necessary strength requirements. One of these proprietary processes is called HD4, which is our nomenclature for the high-density single pressed powder metal gear, and it allows us to achieve densities of 7.4 to 7.5 g/cc. HD4R, which is the next level, involves surface densification of the gear teeth. We’re basically densifying the surface of the PM gear locally, closing off all the porosity on the surface, and that results in a PM gear with similar rolling contact fatigue properties to that of wrought or forged gears. So the HD4/HR4R process allows us to manufacture very high-strength gears that can compete with 8620, which is pretty remarkable, and it also produces a mirror surface finish to reduce NVH levels.

How do you retain your position in an increasingly global marketplace?

We are a North American supplier for the most part, and we recognize that. We do ship some product overseas, but we haven’t yet expanded there physically. When we decide to grow, we do so carefully, because we like to build relationships with our customers very carefully and organically. And we earn their trust by the quality of our products as well as our employees. We put a tremendous amount of value on the knowledge our employees possess. We offer extensive training programs, and every one of our employees has gone through Lean Manufacturing training and Kaizen activities. Capstan is a family owned business, and taking care of its employees is central to the company’s philosophy. That really is the core of the organization.

MORE INFO: Call (508) 384-3100, send e-mail to sales@capstanatlantic.com, or go to [www.capstanatlantic.com].