Customer Profile – Gleason Cutting Tools

Rockford, Illinois is known worldwide for its rich manufacturing history. One of Rockford’s most prolific inventors was Howard Colman, holder of 149 patents and founder of the Barber-Colman company in 1904. The spirit of Colman’s ingenuity is carried on through the work of the leaders and staff of Gleason Cutting Tools in Loves Park, Illinois, the near northern suburb of Rockford.

In the late 1990s, Gleason saw the opportunity to invest in the cutting tools plant that had once been a part of the Barber-Colman company. Gleason could clearly see the value of the generations of technology and engineering knowledge among the skilled tradespeople there. In Gleason’s first decade in Loves Park, they saw that investment pay off, as Gleason Cutting Tools found innovative approaches to gear cutting that transformed the industry. Automation and innovative tooling solutions developed in the Loves Park plant helped newly trained employees become almost as efficient as thirty-year veterans.

With the training tools we now have at our disposal, the best practices we developed, sign-off sheets that hold us all accountable… what matters the most to us in an employee is the willingness to learn with a positive attitude.

Gary Anderson, Gleason Cutting Tools
A blue banner with white block letters reads “Computerized Vacuum Heat Treat Cell” over a very tidy aisle. Eight Ipsen furnaces flank white floors with clearly marked blue boundary lines.

Gary Anderson has seen a lot of changes in his department. A blue banner with white block letters reads “Computerized Vacuum Heat Treat Cell” over a very tidy aisle. Eight Ipsen furnaces flank white floors with clearly marked blue boundary lines. Every Ipsen furnace has a heat-treat process running.

Anderson, Gleason’s Heat Treat Supervisor, has been working at the Loves Park plant for more than 40 years. He recalls the earliest processes the company used to treat metals – a salt bath that operators dipped parts into until they were so hot that they glowed yellow. “You’d know that you had a complete soak when the parts were the same color as the salt bath,” Anderson explained. “If the parts weren’t that same shade of color as the salt bath, you’d put them back in to complete the soak.”

With demand for cleaner parts that could handle newly developed coatings and a push to use less hazardous materials in the 1990s, Anderson was there when the first Ipsen VTTCK vacuum furnace was installed.

“We needed a clean substrate for the new titanium nitride coatings, and the salt bath allowed for oxidation that had to be blasted off before application,” Anderson explained. “These new coatings would extend the life of the cutting tools.”

Anderson explained how Ipsen was a key player in making that transition. “Our work with Ipsen has been awesome. From the beginning (Ipsen Chief Engineer) Craig Moller and his crew have been instrumental in guiding us to the types of furnaces we purchased. We’ve had the same maintenance team for 35 years, and no matter when our maintenance crew calls on Ipsen, we can count on Ipsen service to have an answer.”

Keeping an Eye on the Work

Gleason Cutting Tools Ipsen TurboTreater Vacuum Furnace
Gleason Cutting Tools Abar Ipsen ADLC-1200-E atmosphere furnace

In 2013, Gleason Cutting Tools took possession of their fourth Ipsen TurboTreater model H3636, which stands across the aisle from three VTTCKs. The TurboTreaters were brought in to handle a triple tempering process while the VTTCKs handle the work of hardening. A lone Abar Ipsen ADLC-1200-E atmosphere furnace from the early 1980s operates at the end of the aisle, handling lower temperature tempering for parts that don’t require a vacuum furnace.

When Gleason brought in the first TurboTreaters in 2012 to handle the tempering process, they were replacing furnaces that depended on exterior air temperatures as part of their cooling process. “The old furnaces may have been able to complete a triple temper 20 hours in the winter, but they could take as much as 30 hours for the same process in the summer.” The Ipsen TurboTreater gave Anderson and his team more consistency, completing the process in 20 hours every time.

Four flat-screen monitors at the end of the aisle show a readout of the status of all eight machines, using Ipsen’s PdMetrics predictive maintenance tool to keep all that information centralized and the status of the furnaces top of mind.

“When I see that the lights are green, I know that I don’t have to worry about my furnaces,” Anderson said enthusiastically. “When they get into the yellows, it gives us a chance to order parts, schedule downtime, and make a plan to have maintenance staff on hand, so we’re ready to go.”

Anderson sees potential for sharing the PdMetrics platform with other Gleason locations around the world that are also operating Ipsen furnaces. “I promoted the idea that we could have PdMetrics in our branches in China and Germany, so that our maintenance team could see that data and become a resource when needed.”

Preparing for What’s Next

In 2023, Ipsen installed a new hot zone in one of the VTTCKs from 1995, and Anderson has seen great strides in the longevity of the hot zones, which he attributes to working with Ipsen on iterating best practices, improved designs, and a shared philosophy on improving processes. When asked about the TurboTreaters, Anderson noted that with the processes they run, Gleason hasn’t had to replace a hot zone since they were installed.

Gleason Cutting Tools may have started out using the “Computer Vacuum Heat Treat Cell” as a captive heat-treat department, but over the years, Anderson and his team have grown their subcontracting work in the department leaps and bounds. Today, Gleason’s heat-treat department runs about 70 percent subcontracted parts. “As the leading manufacturer of worldclass gear cutting tools, Gleason has mastered the challenge of heat treating distortion-sensitive tooling. With our knowledge, furnaces, fixturing, faster throughput and optimized consistency, our customers have spread from coast-to-coast largely by word of mouth.”

It’s not uncommon to see Ipsen Sales or Service Engineers visiting the Gleason plant, showing a customer what the TurboTreaters can do, or seeing an Ipsen furnace in peak operating condition. Anderson has always been supportive of the relationship between the two companies. “The big thing that our two companies share is loyalty. Our partnership works both ways, and I’ve appreciated that all my years.”

Gleason Cutting Tools is a part of the Gleason Corporation, headquartered in Rochester, New York, established in 1865. For more information about the Gleason Corporation, visit

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