Certifying the Quality of Gears is Now a Must

By purchasing a second gear tester, Microingranaggi doubles its capacity of control on gears, satisfying the increasingly frequent demand for “certified” quality. But investments do not only concern the machinery endowment. The company is proceeding with an all-round renovation program.

by Silvia Crespi

Microingranaggi is taking important steps forward towards its transformation into an increasingly modern and smart company. To this purpose, an all-round investment program is being enacted: a second gear tester, a hobbing machine, a lathe, a new management software, two automated part storing systems and more, driven by a strong urge to change and renovate. We talked about this with Stefano Garavaglia, general manager and owner of the company.

In the gear machining segment, quality control is taking up an increasingly important role. This is also true today for microgears. Could you explain why?
Quality control may be seen from two different but equally important standpoints: the supplier’s and the customer’s. The importance of carrying out controls where the item is actually manufactured, allows to verify correctness and take timely action if there are any problems.
Gear-tooth control is very specific and must be carried out by personnel with adequate competence regarding both the measurement machine, the gear tester, and the production machine: the two technologies must necessarily communicate. Not many companies can carry out detailed controls on gears. Control carried out by the supplier is the only guarantee that the end user has on the conformity of the gear to the design, or the technical specification provided, and of the repeatability of the quality level every time (that is, of consistency in the supplies).
The reliability of the supplier is therefore a value we cannot do without, and it is essential that suppliers be equipped adequately not just to verify quality, but also to certify it, providing appropriate documents. Besides, quality control may represent, for the supplier, a “safety system” in case of complaints.
On their part, customers fit gears and carry out testing on the finished transmissions. In a scenario where companies in our segment are increasingly oriented towards export, the demand of having certified quality even or the single components is increasingly felt. Today our clients export all over the world, sometimes with very high volumes. This is why a fault on a gear may become a very relevant problem.
If manufacturers of traditional gears have been able to make use of such tools as gear testers for some time now, in the field of microgears this tool was not so widespread, first of all because microgears are rarely fitted on large plants or are essential for their functioning, and secondly for the intrinsic difficulties of controlling microcomponents.

Recently Microingranaggi purchased a new gear tester, to be placed alongside the one bought in 2009. What are the reasons which led to this new investment?
The purchase of a gear tester changes the outlook of production, It could almost be termed “litmus paper”, or a condition monitoring tool for the production machine, since it brings to light all of its secret, such as, the reasons for the difference in terms of precision, between two machines which are apparently identical or the reasons why, in some machining processes, different levels of precision are reached when passing from one machine to another… Besides, it enables us to obtain statistics on production, on the state of wear of the machines, on the productivity levels, on the need for extraordinary maintenance and so on. The arrival of the first Klingelnberg P26 gear tester, which is still perfectly functioning, had already been an eye opener for our production.
We decided to purchase a new machine on account of the increasingly important role which this type of machine has taken on in our company’s production cycle, to the extent that it created the need to envisage a “redundancy”. This was also due to a brief down time of the gear tester, which occurred last year, but which sounded like an alarm bell!
Besides, with certification requests ever on the increase, the machine had a workload which was difficult to manage and was becoming the bottleneck of our production process. It should be considered that we have 12 NC gear cutters in use and in some cases, the certification of every single item is required, with the emission of it own report.

Even for the new machine, Microingranaggi turned to Klingelnberg: a partnership which becomes stronger as time goes by…
This is indeed the case: we once more purchased a Klingelnberg P26 gear tester. We believe it is an excellent machine, among the best on the market. Basically, the machine is not very different from the one we bought in 2009. Software has been improved and made even more user-friendly and flexible; besides the machine is equipped with an automatic probe changer, which comes in handy when several tests are required for a single item, and with a new package for roughness control on the side of the tooth.
Purchasing the same model of machine has other advantages, such as, interchangeable equipment, such as probes, the reduction of learning phases for operators and so on… Even from a sales and technical standpoint, in terms of service, we are very satisfied.

How is the machining of gears changing?
It is certainly evolving, even though the change is not as exasperated as in other segments and difficult to perceive in the short term. It is determined by the need to follow the evolution of the different technologies (machine tool and operating system) which do not always “run” forward at the same speed. The evolution of the performances of the machine (in terms of speed, for instance) must be accompanies by the improvement of the performances of the tool and of the control system. In general, machines are increasingly fast, flexible, multitasking, automated, precise. In short, the three requests put forward by the market are always the same: increase of production capacity and of precision and, at the same time, cost reduction.

Microingranaggi did not only invest in its machine endowment, but it is also pursuing an al-round investment program. Could you talk to us about it?
We already had a development program which included the measuring machine, Thanks to support offered to companies, we definitely increased the program: a new gear cutter, a lathe, two automated Modula storing systems. We fully exploited the benefits envisaged by the national 4.0 plan, but above all the “Al VIA” call for tender by the Lombardy region allowed us to carry out a complete update, including new management software, which we are implementing right now, alongside the previous system. It was therefore also necessary to interconnect the management system with the software of the new storing systems: hard work, especially as regards the training of our employees who had to change their work methods completely.
Even the interconnection of machines is part of the factory modernization process, another step which required hefty sums invested in training personnel; even in this case support by the Lombardy region was essential.
To conclude, I may say that Microingranaggi really went through a small revolution: an investment program which is challenging to manage (and which we are carrying out without losing productivity, without a day’s delay in orders and therefore without any repercussions on our sales!) which I feel very proud of.

Are there any new, stimulating projects and applications for microgears?
The new projects which we are continuously presented are another stimulating factor. We receive requests from clients which are always diverse and highly differentiated: from e-bikes, to designs in the field of optical instruments, to the electromedical segment and new interesting projects in the avionics segment. New projects which are generating another change: if so far we have supplied components, now we increasingly offer assembled groups and tested and proven subsystems. This requires a change in the methods we used to work with, a change which requires human resources with adequate competences, even as regards the technical office, which implies hiring new personnel… It is impossible not to be satisfied!