Gear Solutions Writes Feature on Slater Tools
Formed in 1951, Slater Tools began as a modest machine shop in Warren, MI and moved to Clinton Township in the 1990s, where they’ve been ever since. Today the company’s rotary broaching and screw machine tools operate throughout North America and around the globe on CNC lathes, mills, and Swiss screw machines. Slater’s innovations, as well as design and engineering support, have helped thousands of precision metalworking customers in the aerospace, medical, automotive, and various other industries.
A major player in the screw machine tooling industry in the 1960s, Slater Tools later patented the first rotary broach tool holder system and has since become synonymous with rotary broaching. All of Slater’s products are designed and manufactured in the US, and are backed by an absolute commitment to customer service and satisfaction. Slater’s complete line of rotary broaching and screw machine tool products is designed to reduce cycle times and add value to any precision machining operation.
“We have a lot of control over quality,” says Jeff Tryles, director of sales for Slater Tools. “We do everything in-house, under one roof, keeping standard shapes and sizes in stock so they can ship out the same day. Custom serrations or splines require a short turnaround. Usually with custom forms, the customer will submit a portion of their print. We’ll take a look to make sure that the tooth height is okay, and that the depth and material aren’t excessive for rotary broaching. Then we quote it, send over a drawing of the form for approval, and start manufacturing right here.”
Slater Tools rotary broaches and rotary broach tool holders eliminate secondary operations associated with conventional broaching, saving customers time and money on their hex, square, spline, serration, and other custom shaped applications. Internal and external forms are quickly and easily achieved using rotary broach tooling. All Slater Tools products are designed and manufactured in the US at the Clinton Township, MI facility, where the company is proud to employ a staff of industry experts, using sophisticated equipment and techniques to provide a continuous stream of standard and custom solutions, with a keen eye for improved quality and productivity.
“Rotary broaching is very effective, particularly for small-form pieces, up to 2.5 inches in diameter,” says Kris Renner, sales and marketing director for Slater Tools. “We’ve found that many companies already have the machines to use rotary broaching and simply need to be made aware of that capability. This is a good situation, as it allows for greater utilization without the need for additional equipment. There are many applications out there where people are using rotary broaching: Gear making, aerospace, plumbing, automotive, medical industries (bone screws), even golf companies — anything with teeth on it, as long as it is within the parameters of rotary broaching. That’s what people like about it; you can use a machine that many people already have, a lathe or a mill, and complete the process in a matter of seconds. You can make up to 50,000 pieces per broach, depending on your application.”
The rotary broach has evolved over the course of time, integrating new materials and coatings along with machine tool advancements. Slater Tools had a hand in some notable innovations along the way; in the 1970s, Slater patented the first rotary broach tool holder, their Adjustable Series tool holder. Expanding on that in 2005, they introduced an Adjustment-Free Series of rotary broach tool holders, predominately used in Swiss-type machines. Renner explains the advantages of the newer Adjustment-Free tool holder:
“The Adjustment-Free Series is already centered, basically eliminating operator error. Just mount it in your machine and let it run. It reduces setup time, saving customers money.”
Initially applied to softer materials, things changed along with metallurgical advancements, and Slater began dealing with more difficult materials such as titanium and tough stainless steels, where they applied specific cutting tool materials to provide better tool life for the customer. The new materials included M2 High Speed Steel (HSS), PM4 HSS for greater wear resistance, and a cobalt-based T15. Tryles explains the advantage of these higher grades:
“They wore a lot better when dealing with titanium and stainless. We came out with a couple of different coating offerings as well, which again provides more lubricity and a better tool life. We’ll typically start the customer with the M2 grade, which is a little more pliable. From there, we determine how hard of grade of material we can go with.”
Slater Tools is also known for their customer service. “As soon as customers have the tool in their hands, they can call us anytime and we can walk them through any application,” says Tryles. “We can also adjust the form on the front of the broach tool, to optimize tool life, giving that ‘cutting edge’ a little more durability.
“We’re seeing a trend of more people understanding rotary broaching and all the different applications it can be used for. We want people to spread the word. The more productive we can make our customers, e.g. lower cost, better tool life, the more likely they’ll be to tell others in the industry that this is a great investment to make.”