CBN Upgrade for Conventional-Abrasive Grinder Breaks Aerospace Part Bottleneck

ROCKFORD, IL— Adapting a CNC grinder with conventional abrasives to use Meister CBN grinding wheels has resulted in a 15x productivity improvement for plunge grinding close tolerance aerospace parts at Woodward, Inc., producer of high-precision components and systems for the Aerospace and Energy Industries.  This innovative process change has broken a perplexing manufacturing bottleneck, reduced multi-year projected expenditures for acquiring additional grinding equipment to make similar parts, and has resulted in a payback on necessary equipment modifications in less than a year.  

These results were achieved by modifying the manufacturing process for an aerospace pump gear made of “soft” A11 tool steel and hardened to 75 HRc. According to Steve Dietrich, who operates the pump gear manufacturing cell, the specifications for this part leave absolutely no room for burning or microscopic cracking as revealed by eddy current testing.  Since the original ceramic wheel used in this application tended to load up quickly and generate excessive amounts of heat, it was necessary to operate the grinder at very slow speeds and to stop the process frequently to dress the wheel.  Under these conditions the grinder was producing only one part every 2 ½ hours.

 Moving Carefully

 Blackhawk Industrial, Woodward’s manufacturing supplies integrator, initially approached Woodward with the concept of improving grinding efficiency by retrofitting selected conventional-abrasive grinders with CBN wheels. Blackhawk then introduced the Woodward Manufacturing Engineers to Meister Abrasives USA, (North Kingstown, RI) which provided wheels, dressers, and technical support as the company tested the approach by converting an existing Okuma grinder to CBN capabilities.   

Tim Vinz, Account Manager for Blackhawk said: “The success of that project gave the company the confidence to move forward on the aerospace project which had a much higher potential for dramatic productivity improvements. Woodward worked closely with Meister over several months, carefully developing process, wheel, and dresser specifications for its retrofitted CBN wheel process.”

 Meister’s Midwest Sales/Applications Engineer, Tom Cappadona explained how adapting the CBN wheel for use on the Studer S33 shaft and gear grinding machine required the addition of several pieces of peripheral equipment to the machine:

  • Acoustic Sensor: Provides a real time indication of wheel pressure during grinding and indicates the quality of dress based on the consistency of noise generated by the dresser as it moves across the wheel.
  • High Frequency Dresser with programmable speed control.
  • Chiller: To keep coolant temperature at a consistent 73°F to assure repeatable high surface finishes (3 – 4 Ra) even while operating at high grinding surface speeds.
  • Auto Balancer for the grinding wheel.
  • CBN Wheel and Diamond Dresser: Meister vitrified CBN wheel and rotary hDD (Hybrid Diamond Dresser).

This retrofitted equipment added approximately $55 thousand in up-front costs to the project.


Economic Analysis

 The new process went on line in November of 2012. Woodward Manufacturing Engineer, Geoff Means said, “Within days of installing the new process it was clear that it would achieve significant productivity improvements without burning or cracking the parts. We went from making less than a part an hour to up to 15 an hour. Those were our most dramatic results. However we are running several families of similar parts and getting very good machine cycles with them as well.”

To illustrate this point, Woodward and Meister USA collaborated on a 6-month study to evaluate the economic benefit of switching from ceramic to CBN wheels for this process. The following table summarizes some particularly impressive results on one of Woodward’s most challenging parts.

Table 1: Economic Impact of Replacing Ceramic Wheel with CBN Wheel and Rotary Diamond Dresser


Ceramic Wheel

CBN wheel & hDD dresser

Cycle Time (minutes) 



Parts ground per hour



Dressing frequency

32 dresses per part

8 parts per dress

Parts per wheel



Wheel cost per part



Dresser cost per part



Cost of grind time per part



Dress cycle cost per part



Wheel change cost per part



Total cost per part

$ 202



“One of the things that surprised us the most,” said Means, “was that the per part wheel costs for CBN vs Ceramic for this application was significantly less, even though the CBN wheel cost us about $7000 [plus 1 backup wheel and a dressing disk] compared to $6oo for the ceramic product. The CBN wheel was still in good condition after 6 months and is likely to last more than year.” 

The Meister rotary hDD dresser produced a very free cutting wheel after precisely removing a thin layer of material from the CBN wheel face. Dietrich reports that this fine incremental dressing process has resulted in better dimensional control, reducing the amount of time the operator has to spend watching over and adjusting the equipment.

Means said engineers at this plant are now looking at other applications that could benefit from the use of a CBN wheel on a conventional-abrasive grinder and they are not the only ones. Word of process improvements travels fast at Woodward and engineers at the company’s facility in Ft. Collins, CO are making a similar assessment.

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🚀 A very simple way to win customers

A long time ago in my marketing communications career, I was sitting across the table from the Vice President of Marketing for a brand new client. He started the conversation with a question that has stayed with me for more than two decades.

“Do you know why we chose you instead of the others we interviewed.”

“No,” I said in all honesty.

“It was because when you discussed marketing communications with us you always used  the words ‘we’ and ‘our’— as in ‘how do we present this concept to new customers’ or ‘what are our marketing objectives for the next quarter?”

 “Everybody else we interviewed used the word ‘you’ and ‘your’ when they wanted to get at the same type of information. We could tell that, in your own mind you already saw yourself as part of our team and that made it very easy for us to select you.”

Because this trait was something that came to me naturally I was surprised to learn that it was something that differentiated me from my competitors.This experience showed me how important it is to see things through the customer’s eyes and how doing so paves the way for winning new business and maintaining sound, long-lasting relationships.

So before you try to develop any sort of marketing communications piece take a little time to first see what you are about to present through your customers eyes. That one change of perspective can work wonders. 

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Are Trade Magazines an Endangered Species

I am a Commercial Journalist– someone who gets paid by clients to do editorial quality writing for them. For many years now I have been concerned that trade magazines, which in general have become skinnier and skinnier, will soon be a thing of the past and I will have lost an important outlet for my work.

That is not a tremendous concern for me anymore. With the advent of blogging tools like WordPress and email blasting tools like constant contact, there has never been a greater need for the services of professional content developers, especially one’s who have expertise in specialize fields (e.g manufacturing technologies and related software).

I am, however, still concerned about the future of the trade press. It provides an invaluable service by

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For Business and Pleasure

For Business and Pleasure
By Joel Cassola


Professional: I started the business in 1980 after working seven years as a PR writer and communications program planner for New England’s fourth largest business-to-business advertising agency, Horton, Church & Goff.

I gravitated to the business and technical sides of the advertising industry, where my talents as a writer (I’ve won a few awards) were most marketable.

As proprietor of Joel Cassola & Associates, I have introduced new products and written hundreds of feature articles, case histories, sales literature and web content for dozens of companies, both large and small.

Joel Cassola & Associates Ltd | 401-463-7594 | Email:

Joel and Kathy Cassola

Personal: I grew up in an unusual waterfront home in Beverly, Massachusetts, where my dad built 36-foot, wooden lobster boats in the basement (it never occurred to him that he couldn’t.) I graduated from U-Mass Amherst, then served as a Hospital Corpman (medic) in Vietnam with the Navy’s SeaBees (Construction Battalion).

After working as a photo journalist, a statistician with the State of Rhode Island, and a correspondence course writer, I finally got on a career track in marketing communications.

Today, I live in Cranston, Rhode Island, with my wife Kathy and a  retired cat who used to be a gifted artist (I’m not kidding). When we are not working, 11 grandchildren keep us very busy.  On my own time, I enjoy digital photography, learning to play the guitar, hiking and peddling on the rails to trails bike paths.

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Improve Your Marketing Productivity

Productivity: getting more quality output
with less input (i.e. time and money)

If your company sells products and services that make your customers more productive, this site is for you. If you are a business professional looking for cost-effect sales and marketing communications approaches (DIY or outsourced), you are also in luck.

This Blot is intended repository of proven, cost-effective communications tools & techniques. Borrow from them liberally. You will become more productive in communicating with your customers and prospects, and they will better understand the benefits and value of your unique solutions.

This site is operated as a service to the customers, prospects and business partners of Joel Cassola & Associates. JCA specializes in providing professional editorial and web content services to industrial and technical commercial businesses and their advertising agencies.

Joel Cassola & Associates Ltd | 401-463-7594 | Email:

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