Volume 5 | Issue 3 | Year 2002

Hugh Campbell loved designing and constructing grinding machines. He’d spent his entire working career on special machines and 10 years as chief engineer for the Frauenthal Grinder Division of Kaydon Bearing Company of Muskegon, Mich. The Frauenthal machines made a name for themselves, and so did Campbell. Interestingly enough, these dependable machines are still in use in the bearing, aircraft and aerospace fields, and used models 40 years and older are still in demand.

After the Frauenthal Division was sold off in the early 1960s, Campbell continued to design and build custom machinery independently, founding a proprietorship known as Seaway Machinery. The accelerating demand for this type of equipment created the need for a larger organization. Thus, in 1969 Campbell Grinder Company (today headquartered in Spring Lake, Mich.) was born.

“The modern Campbell Grinder is custom-applied to each customer’s special requirements,” says Bruce Hammond, vice president of applications technology. “This ability to solve diversified production problems and greatly improve production methods is a witness to the company’s ability.” Its unique approaches to customer applications have resulted in the “unusual” becoming a standard approach at Campbell Grinder. A classic example of this was the development of the coolant nozzle changer. This device allows the machine to change its own coolant nozzles specific to a wheel without the need for operator intervention. The changer ensures that the nozzles are always in the right place at the right time, vastly improving tool life and cycle time.

“The Campbell approach of building to customer requirements has resulted in steady growth,” explains Hammond. “Customer loyalty and a history of repeat sales verify the need for the kind of organization that works with customers’ special requirements rather than forcing the need to fit the available product.”

Smooth Moves
Campbell Grinders are ultrarugged and built to perform continuously with a minimum amount of maintenance or downtime. The company now has an installed base of 400 machines. A variety of U.S. and several overseas manufacturers buy Campbell Grinder machines to shape aerospace and jet engine components, large precision bearings, aircraft/missile radar nose cones, automotive parts, ship steering cylinders, telescope mirrors, computer printer components and other unique products.

“We’ve historically built what is known as rotary-table, vertical-spindle grinding machines,” says Hammond. “We built that same machine and versions of it until the early ‘90s, and it’s still one of the models we build today. It’s just more complex with CNC controls and a variety of innovative options.”Campbell Grinder now creates all of its machines at a brand new custom-built facility the company moved into last year. The 30,000 square-foot manufacturing plant is a temperature-controlled environment, a very important amenity when dealing with high precision tools. “We’re principally an engineering and assembly house,” explains Hammond. “We don’t manufacture parts here. We buy components and we assemble them to the configuration we’ve designed. The parts are sourced globally to ensure the highest quality available. We assemble, develop processes and write programs to meet the customers’ requirements.”

Last year, 75 percent of Campbell Grinder’s shipments went to the aerospace industry. The company works with the three major engine manufactures — GE, Rolls Royce and Pratt & Whitney — and grind several components within each engine. “For the other 25 percent,” says Hammond, “we are always testing other markets, keeping our eyes open for the next vein of gold. This approach has led us to building machines for grinding and polishing large telescope mirrors, steel mill roll-support bearings, turbo-prop hubs and blades, just to mention a few. It just seems one thing leads to another and to another. And we value every opportunity that comes along.”

Grinding Gurus
In addition to its many flexible grinding machines, Campbell Grinder is especially proud of a machine called the grind center. This machine has been around since 1994, but the company has continued to perfect it. The grind center grinds, turns, mills, inspects and changes its own grinding and dressing tools. In one application, it’s used to machine a jet engine’s high-pressure turbine nozzle assembly — no simple task because, in fact, the process usually takes several days on a variety of machines. But Campbell Grinder engineers were able to improve upon that considerably by delivering one machine that completed the part in less than eight hours.

“We’ve also started a new group called Applications,” says Hammond. “The majority of our machines sold — last year over 75 percent — with a total part process included. Many companies are looking to outside sources for process development, so we’ve dedicated a group of very talented individuals to work specifically toward helping our customers turn out their end product in the most cost-effective way possible.”

Campbell Grinder’s passion is solving the complex problems of today’s industry. “We’re not a commodity machine tool builder and never will be,” assures Hammond. “Our employees are engineering people. They’re dedicated to solving the problems that others can’t.” And so Campbell Grinder will continue to succeed as new problems come along and the company sets to solving them. Driven to be a world leader, Campbell Grinder exceeds its partnerships with clients through teamwork, continuous improvement and the use of the latest technologies — a good group to have around.

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