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2008, October - From Turning Center to Gear Hobber.., Manufacturing News

Manufacturing News
November 2008

From Turning Center to Hobbing Machine in One Index of a Turret

Like many worldwide manufacturers Western Pennsylvania manufacturer AUMA Actuator faced an international problem: provide support to its local customers in a timely, cost effective manner.

AUMA, a leading manufacturer in valve actuator technology, has been in the Pittsburgh area since 1976. With a German based parent company, the Canonsburg, PA, facility serves as the North American headquarters for manufacturing and sales, turning out nearly 10,000 actuators per year for customers in the US, Canada and Mexico. Local customers include Canonsburg Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Homer City Power Plant as well as the City of Pittsburgh Water Treatment Plant.

Brian Weaver, Manufacturing Engineer, was concerned about the lead time for non-standard products and the cost associated with getting parts from Germany. Typically the lead time for parts was around six-eight weeks and the devalue of the American dollar against the Euro was making the purchase of the parts expensive. With such a large local customer base, AUMA needed to find a way to bring the production of their parts to the US.

Working with Chris Wagner, CMTSE, Allegheny Machine Tool, the local Doosan Infracore distributor, they identified the obstacles in manufacturing the parts. The parts in question are splined couplings for actuators. One of the parts measures approximately 3-1/2-inches diameter by 3-inches in length and is made from 1045 steel. The operations involved were facing, turning, center drilling, deburring and gear hobbing. Traditionally, these series of operations required that the part be handled multiple times and would require more than one piece of machinery. Chris had an idea.

During an open house, Chris had seen a product from MD Tooling, Howell, MI, that was described as a gear hobber for turning centers. This driven tool fits into the turret of a live tool enabled lathe and provides hobbing capability. Working with Wes McLucas an applications engineer from MD Tooling, Chris identified the correct gear hobbing tool and hob to use on the Puma 300MS that he was proposing.

When the machine was installed and production began, the first hob used was a single start hob. Once Brian became more comfortable with hobbing on his lathe, he chose to try a double start hob. This process allows more material to be removed in a faster time without requiring additional horsepower.
Now, three years later, AUMA utilizes multiple
double start hobs and even a triple start hob to
produce different size couplings.

The part is typically manufactured by facing, turning and center drilling on a lathe, then moving the part to a hobbing machine for the machining of the splines. This creates handling issues and longer cycle times. Today, the same part is manufactured on one lathe, from bar stock to finished part. The cycle time for the complete part, described above, on the lathe is just under five minutes. Recently tooling has been added to remove any burrs while still on the lathe.

The MD Tooling gear hobbing tool comes in two different sizes for the Doosan machines, each of these are built rugged, able to cut materials from soft brass to hardened stainless steel. Combining the different size tools and the vast number of different hobs available allowed AUMA the flexibility needed to manufacture couplings in additional sizes and bring their production to the US as well. Now, even if their stock is low, their customers can have parts in a few days, while minimizing inventory. Germany has recognized the success of implementing such change and is now working closely with Brian to identify yet more parts that can be manufactured state side.

When ask what he found to be most beneficial in implementing the MD Tooling gear hobbers, Brian said, "MD Tooling has provided us with a solution that is incredibly well built and flexible. We now have the ability to respond to special requests from our customers quickly without having to stock these parts. And MD Tooling backs up their products with a company that puts the customer first. We receive individual attention and solutions to meet our needs, not someone else's."

Meanwhile, in nearby Bethel Park, PA, another Doosan customer is using his Gear Hobbing tool in a completely different application. Where AUMA Actuator is an international manufacturer with company headquarters in Germany, General Manufacturing is a local, small town business.

According to Mike Fastuca, VP of Production, the company was started almost 50 years ago by Mike's grandfather. It is a provider of precision machined parts for military products, with a focus on small arms. Until 2000, the company was a manual machine company; however, following 9/11, they went from one Bridgeport to 16 Doosans.

Like many family businesses, Mike grew up in the shop. He worked closely with his father and took on all that was thrown at him. His late father had the belief that kids could handle what they are given, so give them more, and that is what he did. He often found jobs for Mike's high school friends, many of which are still full time employees that share in the responsibilities of getting the job done. Like his father, Mike has acquired a great can do attitude, he will tell you that more than once, he has taken on a job and then figured out how to do it.

It is this maverick spirit that led Mike to MD Tooling and his first gear hobbing driven tool. The part in question features a bevel gear around a finished shaft. Without hobbing capability, General Manufacturing was forced to subcontract out the part. The desire was to bring the part in house, so that production schedules could be controlled.

Working with Bob Bauer, Applications Engineer, Allegheny Machine Tool, Mike was introduced to MD Tooling and its Gear Hobbing tool. The plan was for Mike to put the gear hobbing tool on his Doosan Puma 2500LSY. There was however, a small catch, to cut a bevel gear with the hobbing tool, requires the polygon turning option within the Fanuc control. The company's machine did not have this option.

The polygon turning option creates a synchronization between the live tool and the main or sub spindle, without the option, you can only index the spindle and cut one tooth at a time. And that is exactly what Mike is doing. On a dedicated machine, General Manufacturing is able to take bar fed stock to engraved finished part, in less than 30 minutes and does this 24/7. According to Mike, "Without the encouragement of my family, the knowledge and character I got from my Dad and MD's Tooling, gear cutting would be a lot more stressful. These three factors combined have led me to find a creative solution to meet my manufacturing requirements."

The limitations on implementing live tooling are limited only by imagination. The number of tools available and their applications are expanding at huge rate. Today's manufacturers must embrace this technology if they want to remain competitive in both foreign and local markets.

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