Midwest Motion Products designs, manufactures, and distributes standard and custom motion control equipment, including fully reversible brushed and brushless DC gear motors, motors with fail safe brakes and servomotors with feedback devices such as analog tachometers and encoders.
We interviewed Marcus Cordes, Operations Manager at Midwest Motion Products, about making custom mechanical components and the process of collaborating with engineers. Below is the interview.
Tell me a little bit about why you decided to work with Torque Transmissions. What led you to them?
"We had been in a search for a right angle gearbox supplier for a number of years really. It had been a project on our back burner but something that we thought was important to us to expand into. We did offer a line of right-angled gear motors but it was difficult to produce in a cost-effective way so we wanted to get in touch with someone like them. We tried a few different companies and eventually came across them online and they expressed a great deal of interest in working with us which, of course, got us excited and as things moved on we realized more and more how it was a good fit and so far it's proven to be just that."
How did you find them?
"I believe it was my father, Randy. I believe he may have spotted them online or in a magazine or something. I don't recall exactly. It was something remembered and said "Hey, give them a try and see what they think" and it turned out they were interested."
So what specific products did you purchase from Torque Transmissions?
"Just the right angle gear boxes."
Can you tell me a little bit about the application, what they're used for?
"Actually we sell to many, many, many hundreds of different companies so the possibilities are pretty unlimited as far as where they could end up being used. But some of the typical industries are agriculture and mathematical industry, some military applications, robotics. Other factory automation. Bomb disposal robots are another one that we've been involved with."
Interesting. I see on your site under the DC gearmotors things like brushed right-angled and brushless right-angled. Are you using the Torque Transmission gear boxes in products like these as a component?
"It does, yes. That is the torque transmission gearbox there. The center portion of the drive."
Please tell me a little bit about the design process. Did you purchase off the shelf products or did you have Torque Transmission custom design something for you?
"We had a concept in mind and we had over the years tweaked it until it was something that we thought would work well and we got that into the hands of their capable engineering staff who took the necessary design and engineering steps to make it a working product. Torque Transmission also produced the first prototypes. We had to work with them a little bit to get to the final product but that was all very simple to do as well. We were very happy with the final product."
Let's dig into the design process a little bit. Did you bring them CAD drawings or 3-D models or did you just bring in sketches?
"Yep, just a sketch that we had created ourselves."
Okay. So that took they and qualified the application by asking you a bunch of questions about the different ratios or sizes, speeds, weights, and then they took your concept and created a first prototype. Did you get a small sample or one or two of them to prototype and test them?
"Basically we told them here's the maximum speed that we're going to need it to be able to rotate safely on a continuous basis and here's the maximum amount of torque that it will have to be able to transmit, also on a continuous basis and also intermittently. So peak momentary torque, what it would have to withstand as well. So they did take that into effect and I believe the bevel gears are sized as such to be able to do the things we needed it to do. The initial prototypes, yes, we purchased a small batch, I believe of 5, and we were able to take a good look at them, try them out and it was even after that that we had some information to share that resulted in a little bit of a change."
Then we bought another 250 to 300 of them and realized that there was even a better way to eliminate one of the parts that we were already using and maybe just incorporate what was going on there into the gear box that they were providing. I was astounded at how simple that was to get that change made. There was no sweat on their part to be able to adapt to our fluid situation and not make things financially difficult for us. It was actually quite a pleasant experience in that regard."
So they didn't hit you with a bunch of design change charges or up-charges or new drawing charges or tooling charges. They just went in and changed their drawings and built you new one?
"Exactly and we were quite delighted with that."
"How about speed? Were they able to keep up with your time frame and get those changes and everything done in the time frame you were looking for?"
"Yes, there were no real significant delays of any kind. It was the amount of time you would expect when one is paying close attention to detail and producing a quality part. We were confident that was being done. But at the same time, yeah, it was a pretty timely process. We were pleased with that."
Excellent. And as for the gear box itself, in terms of your quality, you've purchased these for a while now I assume, so you've got some track record. Are you happy with the robustness and the quality in the field?
"Yes, we have been very happy with the quality of the final product. We don't have hundreds of them out there in the field just yet but from what we've heard there's been nothing but positive remarks from our customers."
Are there other products? Do you anticipate this being a standard product for a while where it won't be changing? Because, you know torque can make updates quickly and easily you would be tweaking this product as you go along?
"Yeah, we have 3 general sizes of gear motors that we offer. This was the middle size. That's the GRA-52 as we call it, and they've done a great job with that. But they're taking things they've learned and incorporating them into the larger and then eventually the smaller size that we're going to be expanding into and making improvements based on what they learned from the first round. We're very happy. We've just, in fact today, seen the initial prototype drawings for the GRA-81 as we call it, and we were very pleased with what was done there. In the future there's a possibility of expanding as far as maybe adding a ratio to these boxes. Maybe making them, instead of just a 1-to-1 so it's just turning the standard motor speed rate out as the same speed out of the gear box, maybe cutting that in half and doubling the torque. That's something we've thought about doing as well. Yes, certainly whenever we think gears Torque Transmission would be the first company we would think of, regardless of what the project may be."
Do you get into the other product lines like pulleys and thrust bearings and things like that or just gears right now?
"Mostly just motion control equipment like linear actuators and non-geared motors, and controls, speed controls. We sell power supplies also. But we value add to our motors and gear motors by adding coders and brakes and NEMA flanges so that they can be adapted easily into other applications."
Is there anything else about the process of working with Torque Transmission that you think might be interesting to our readers?
"Yeah, like I said, it's very easy working with their engineering staff. They seem to have a very good understanding of what they're doing and ask the right questions. Like I said, the timeliness was a definitely a positive experience for us. They're also, I think, right in the right ballpark for right angle gearbox pricing. I think they sell a quality part so it's not necessarily going to be cheap but it's also the right price. I think they're a good fit for us there."