Chris Koepfer

Chris Koepfer has been involved in metalworking for 30 years. His first 14 were in the machine tool group at Cincinnati Milacron where he honed his technical writing skills in turning, machining and grinding before joining Modern Machine Shop in 1992 as an associate editor. In 2001, he helped found MMS’ sister publication Production Machining, which speaks to the precision machined parts segment of the industry. Chris is graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, as are three of his four children, and an XU basketball fan—which can be as daunting as working in metalworking, he says.

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 26. August 2016

Thinking Ahead

The Nakamura-Tome AS-200L lathe is provided by OptiPro Systems for the Finger Lakes Community College-G.W. Lisk Co. advanced manufacturing machinist training program.

Many companies are seriously thinking about their workforce demographics, and some are doing something about it. Recently, an Ontario, New York, machine tool builder and distributor, OptiPro Systems, donated a Nakamura-Tome lathe valued at $200,000 to Finger Lake Community College - G.W. Lisk Co.’s advanced manufacturing machinist training program. 

Don Miller, technical sales engineer for OptiPro, says he understands the value of advanced training and its need to train on advanced equipment. “Because of a lack of academic resources, business and academia need work as partners to provide well trained workers. Everybody needs to be a winner,” Mr. Miller says.

“It’s tough to dedicate a sophisticated machine tool to just training,” says Dave Phillips, G.W. Lisk’s training manager. Modern machine tools are so sophisticated and expensive that taking them out of production can be cost prohibitive. Placing the machine in a dedicated training facility solves the in-production issue and allows the students more hands-on time.

A regional, tri-lateral partnership such as this may well be a harbinger for the future as manufacturing proactively addresses the skilled worker shortage. According to Scott Cummings, director at G.W. Lisk, about 20 percent of his workforce will reach retirement age within five years. 

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 19. August 2016

Homage to a Machine Tool Family Man

Herb and Phil Miller, machine tool men. 

Phil Miller, managing director at Tornos Technologies U.S., submitted the following homage to his father who recently passed. I thought it was worth sharing in part because it speaks to the generational nature of the machine tool industry and how we tend to pay it forward.

My father, Herbert Louis Miller, was a “machine tool man” through and through. He was a fixture in the industry for over 40 years, and he influenced and shaped the lives of many people who knew him. He was also a mentor to his sons and grandchildren, as three sons and two grandsons have followed in his path into machine tools.

He was a hard-working and hard-driving individual, and it was his drive and persistence, that became a part of all his children’s psyche. “We do not give up.”

After serving in the U.S. Army, he began his apprenticeship as a machinist at Koppers Company, in Baltimore, Maryland. It was there that he gained the foundation and tools, for a lifelong career in machine tools. He went on to night school, attending John Hopkins University for seven years, studying echanical engineering. During this period, he also sold pots and pans door to door on weekends, always trying to get ahead. At the same time, our family was growing in size every year, as he and my mother ultimately raised seven children. He then joined Western Electric as a manufacturing engineer and expanded his technical knowledge.

In 1964, he joined New Britain Tool Co. as a young sales engineer. After completing training, he relocated our family to Hoffman Estates, Illinois, to handle the Chicago sales territory. This was the beginning of his machine tool career. 

During his tenure at New Britain, he did exceptionally well. He worked his way up to regional sales manager, then national sales manager, and in the end was offered the position of V.P. of sales. However, after 17 years with New Britain, he decided it was time to go on his own. It was the summer of 1980 that H.L. Miller Machine Tools Inc. was born, and by year’s end, my brother John, and then I, joined the company. Years later, my brother Dan joined the team as well. At the time, we were known as the screw machine dealer, as we carried all the best screw machine lines available and all the related equipment. After many years in the field, he finally retired in 2007.

My father was a charismatic and dynamic salesman that knew his products intimately. He was known internationally for his technical expertise in the screw machine Industry. He also made many endearing friendships along the way. However, his true legacy is the large and growing family that he leaves behind, carrying on his name.

I loved him very much, and he will always be with me.

Click here to read a similar homage I wrote about my dad last year. 

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 12. August 2016

Programming is Key for Vertical Multitasking

Bumotec’s S-191V is among the smallest VMT machines on the market. It is ideal for multitasking applications in the watch-making and medical industries.

Machining a workpiece in the vertical plane has long been an efficient way to load/unload and take advantage of gravity. Applying various forms of machining processes to what was traditionally a turning process has opened up significant advantages to this workpiece orientation.

Milling, drilling, turning and boring are now available to shops looking to perform multitasking operations on what is basically a vertical turning lathe. This article looks at applying multitasking machines in efficient and productive ways. Moreover, it looks at how to best program the multiple operations in a sequence that optimizes production. Programming systems have come a long way to help automate programming of complex workpieces and the sequence of operations that multitasking machine tools are capable of performing. Click here to read the story. 


Posted by: Chris Koepfer 5. August 2016

Aerospace Industry Steps Out at TRAM 2016

TRAM is happening at IMTS 2016. Get your seat. 

Conferences increasingly play an important role in the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) experience. This year’s edition is no exception. One of many IMTS conferences this year focuses on the aerospace industry. I attended the last edition of this conference that was held in Sheffield, England last November and it was well worth the trip and the time.

For IMTS 2016, TRAM, the aerospace industry’s premier conference, has announced its technical program. Taking place alongside IMTS, the conference runs September 14-15, in Chicago, Illinois, the program consists of a day and a half of technical sessions covering smart machining, super alloys, near-net shape primary processing, automation, future manufacturing technologies, adaptive control, intelligent fixturing and more.

This year’s presenters include heavy hitters such as Boeing, Rolls Royce, Sandvik, FANUC, BAE Systems and Mitsui Seiki. For those in the aerospace industry, hearing from these folks is a good thing.

The conference program continues to be a collaboration between industry, academia and media to bring attendees the latest trends in aerospace manufacturing. Conference highlights include keynote presentations from Boeing and Jaguar, as well as 20 sessions from technical experts at leading OEMS, suppliers, MRO facilities and advanced manufacturing providers.

TRAM is co-located with IMTS at McCormick Place, September 12-17. TRAM attendees have full access to the IMTS show floor, which includes to more than 2,000 exhibitors. It’s a big deal and worth the time.

This year also includes an exhibit and networking room where sponsors and exhibitors will be displaying the latest in aerospace technology.

For complete program details, visit

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 29. July 2016

Company Circa 1860 Offers a Lesson in Success


For 156 years, Wilson Bohannan has manufactured brass padlocks. It has been in business continuously since 1860, the year Abraham Lincoln was elected president. That’s quite an accomplishment. It has survived by using innovation and making continuous technological investments.

We featured this unique company several times; the latest article was on its newest investment in CNC rotary transfer equipment from Hydromat. Years earlier, I visited the company to discuss its investment in a CNC multi-spindle machine. 

The company is a legacy and a lesson for American business success. The family-owned company is currently run by Howard Smith, a 42-year veteran of the padlock wars and a member of the 6th generation to head the company. Read a column by Mr. Smith here.  

Visit “An American Success Story,” and "Making Locks Since Lincoln" to read the stories we’ve published about this iconic company. 

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