Though MTB has been an established company for almost 20 years, publicizing its capabilities has been minimal until now. Owners Ken Flowers and Ron Peiffer are both highly skilled controls engineers who are extremely hands-on throughout the organization. Flowers worked for American Pfauter and became an understudy of German engineers, even staying in Germany for a time to understand their practices. As he worked with gear experts who trained him on how to build and repair mechanical and CNC-controlled machines, Flowers later developed software for gear manufacturing at NUM Corporation, then developed his own conversational software for gear shapers, hobbers, and grinders, which is offered at MTB. Equally qualified is Peiffer, who led the shop floor controls side of Bourn & Koch prior to partnering with Flowers. Since both partners serviced machines throughout the world at hundreds of companies, these leaders have a vast knowledge of the mechanical and electrical aspects of machines and the highly specialized world of gear manufacturing. Currently, MTB has a backlog of orders from many companies who are converting their mechanically gear driven machines to CNC, and others who need control systems upgraded, called a recontrol. “The difficulty in this industry is that every machine is different,” said MTB’s sales manager Anne Miner. “Very few rebuilds or recontrols are exactly the same. Recently, for instance, we stood in front of a Pfauter P1501 and evaluated all five axes to determine how to reduce the drivetrain and understand the weights of components and inertia required. We have dedicated engineers—mechanical, electrical, and master mechanics—for each project. Each discipline works toward a better solution. Usually the mechanical engineer will sit next to the machine in the shop as the master mechanic disassembles it, measuring and evaluating every element. We look at rebuilding a machine like doing a restoration of a classic car, but with a new high-performance engine and chassis underneath the body. It’s like a puzzle: understanding every component by taking it apart and putting it back together for improved productivity.” Miner went on to explain the exact science behind it. “To rebuild these machines, you have to know exactly how they work—down to the paint job,” said Miner. “If you don’t paint an older machine correctly, the paint will not adhere well and bubbling or flaking of the paint will occur. The durability and strength of old carcasses is well-known, but the attention to detail, even to the coatings applied, is what makes them great platforms for a rebuild.” Such attention to detail is common practice at MTB. Nothing is left untouched. Every original component reused in the machine is inspected, then repaired or replaced if required. Instead of new brake lines, MTB install custom-made hydraulic lines. For the electrical systems, they install all new wiring throughout the machine. Drivetrains are shortened for efficiency and accuracy. Finally, a new CNC engine is installed and tuned to give peak performance to the customer’s new machine. Rebuilds can include a complete conversion from change gear to CNC, or just maintaining a machine as-is. Oddly enough, there are companies who want just that. “Why? I’m not sure,” said Miner. “Some people just don’t want to change to CNC.” Typically, 98% of their machine orders are from large companies in aerospace, mining, and heavy equipment. Currently on MTB’s floor, they are converting four mechanical (gear-driven) machines to CNC. They have a Fellows 36-6 shaper, a Pfauter P900 hobber, a Pfauter P900 Turbo hobber, and a Pfauter P1501 hobber. Many others are waiting in line, but there is limited floor space and engineers for this endeavor. Other projects include a Lorenz shaper being partially rebuilt and recontrolled, a Kapp VAS 432 Grinder being recontrolled and redesigned with an onboard dresser, and a Liebherr LC-152 being recontrolled, rewired, and all slides mechanically repaired. Many other projects are recontrols or in-field rebuilds. MTB is just completing a partial rebuild in the field of a large Schiess horizontal hobber approximately 40’ in length, an arduous process that took a team of ten people in the field.
Regarding recontrols, MTB’s engineering team designs a “recontrol kit,” which consists of CNC control, motors, cabling, scales, electrical cabinet, and other components. When the kit is complete, it’s shipped to the customer where the machine electrical modifications are handled. The machine is down for three to four weeks to complete the recontrol, an efficient method to maintain production.
As a technology-driven company, the staff of MTB offers a wide array of experience in mechanical and electrical engineering, electronic controls, and software design. This knowledge is coupled with an eye for innovation and a genuine desire to provide quality service. MTB has increased their manufacturing space by 20,100 sq. ft. to accommodate the demand for rebuilding and recontrolling additional machines. They’ve also taken on a grinding line from Germany, launched at Gear Expo, called Burri. “It’s a CNC continuous generating grinding line built on the mechanical basis of Reishauer. These Burri grinders are completely designed and built at Burri’s facility in Villingendorf Germany,” said Miner. “At MTB, every day is a new challenge. As OEM builders merge, bifurcate, and close their doors, companies who own their machines need solutions, and MTB provides that.”