Arter Precision Grinding Machines, a written history of over a century of top-notch grinding
Updated: Feb 12
Multiple changes in ownership, innovation, and success defines the 106-year history of Arter Precision Grinding Machines. Originally organized as the Persons-Arter Machine Company in 1914, William Arter designed his own version of a rotary surface grinder, taking his time to perfect and sell it by 1915. The subsequent success of the company provided a crucial role in the industrialization of the United States throughout the 20th century.
William Arter started his work within the manufacturing industry while still in England at the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company after completing his education at the Manchester Technical School and the Horwich Technical Institute. He worked his way up within the railway industry in England before moving to Massachusetts to look for better opportunities within manufacturing.
Following multiple jobs throughout Massachusetts, Arter saw the promise of the surface grinder while at the Heald Machine Company in 1914. He worked on his own version of the grinder until he perfected it in 1915, selling the first models. While also patenting and producing many different machines along with the surface grinders, the surface grinders flourished with the company focusing on the development and sales of them.
The first model of Arter grinder was identified as the Model A, with three different work tables available on the model. An 8", 12", and eventually a 16" work table were available for sale. The quality of the machine was outstanding for its time, with the general specifications and design being able to stay consistent for nearly 20 years.
Through those nearly 20 years, the Persons-Arter Machine Company profited well off of the current manufacturing climate with automobiles becoming more and more popular as well as World War I during the early days of the company. Early records show incredible volume of new surface grinders being produced, averaging out to around one per week.
In 1924, Arter looked to grow the booming company and acquired the Warren F. Fraser Company. With the addition of Fraser's goodwill and patents, Arter also decided to change the name of the company to just the Arter Grinder Machine Company.
With the acquisition of the Warren F. Fraser Company, Arter was able to diversify their product line, manufacturing multiple specialized grinders, like the one pictured here.
The added Fraser models of grinders gave Arter the ability to diversify their line of grinders, producing multiple different specialized grinders including automatic piston ring grinders, automatic head grinders, and an automatic cylindrical grinder, all based off some of the Fraser models.
By the mid-1930s, Arter was able to focus on innovation away from the Model A, starting the design and production of their hydraulic machines. The Model B was their first version of the hydraulic line, offering a wide range of sizes from 20" to 40". Along with the Model B came the aptly named Model C, a derivative of the Model B but smaller in size.
Looking to perfect their hydraulic line, the Model C was redesigned into the Model D. This model's biggest difference was the moving spindle compared to the table moving to grind parts. With this improvement, Model Ds were able to obtain a high degree of accuracy and fine finish.
Around the time the company was looking to perfect the hydraulic models, World War II broke out, causing the manufacturing in the country to look towards providing for the war effort.
With this, the war production board looked towards the Arter company to make their best engineered and easiest to manufacture grinder to provide much needed grinding services. The company selected the Model A-3 in 12" and 16" sizes, flooding the market with these machines while the hydraulic grinders would take a back seat for now.
With their service to the war effort, the company was awarded the Army-Navy "E" Award, given to companies during World War II that achieved "Excellence in Production" or "E" of war equipment. Only 5% of the companies that produced war equipment were given the distinguished award (history.navy.mil).
An example of the Army-Navy "E" Award for excellence in production throughout World War II. The award was given out in terms of number of stars based on production, with Arter receiving two stars.
Following the war, the production focused back onto the development of the hydraulic machines. The Model E came in the late 1940's, taking the Model D and having the table move while the spindle held steady. This change lessened the vibration of the machine while grinding and provided superior flatness and parallelism. Over the years, the Model E has gone under the most changes and modifications of all the models, with the model still being around today.
Again looking to expand in the mid-1950's, Arter found their opportunity to do so in the likes of the Grenby Manufacturing Company, purchasing the EG-103 and the IG-103 grinders in 1955. These grinders were unique in that they were two different grinders in one. Upon changing the wheelheads, the grinder turns from an external grinder into an internal grinder, with these being used for tool room or production work where a space saving machine is needed.
Shortly after the addition two of the Grenby Manufacturing Company's models, Sundstrand Machine Tool in Belvidere, Ill. announced the acquisition of the Arter Company, slowly integrating the company into the capital goods division. As Sundstrand manufactured the grinders, the name of the new grinders manufactured changed from Arter to Sundstrand-Arter to Sundstrand Grinders.
Looking to create a superior version of a classic model, Sundstrand redesigned the Model B and it became the Model H. The H was produced as a 16”, 20”, 24”, 30” and 40” sizes with all sizes excluding the 40" being able to tilt and lock up to 10 degrees concave and convex. The durability of the machine was unmatched, with many grinders still in use 50 years later.
In 1980, looking to sell the product line, Centro-Metalcut, Inc. employees, Don Blachford and Frank Gyorkos, saw the promise in Arter brand and purchased the line from Sundstrand. After the purchase, the Arter name was restored by CMI, with each new grinder brandishing the Arter name again.
Following many years of production of the grinders, Tri-CAM, Inc. purchased the Arter line as a part of a purchase to bring all the production lines under the Tri-CAM name. With the change in ownership came a name change to Arter Precision Grinding Machines, which has stuck since.
Through the Tri-CAM, Inc. ownership, the design team at Tri-CAM saw an opportunity to further develop the Model E, taking out the hydraulics and converting it into a CNC machine. This has been the latest change to the line in terms of design and are still sold today in 24", 30", and 36" sizes.
Obsidian Manufacturing Industries, Inc. acquired the line in 2018 and still owns the line today. Services still provided include production of new machines, repair of old machines, used Arter sales, and spare part sales.
Five years after Arter was purchased under the Tri-CAM name, the Arter line changed hands again, this time being purchased by Quantum Design, Inc. in 2007. After 11 years of ownership, David Nordman, a former CMI and Tri-CAM employee and current vice-president of Obsidian Manufacturing Industries, Inc., assisted in purchasing the line from Quantum Design along with President Sue Nordman.
The line stays in ownership of Obsidian Manufacturing, providing full services of all Arter models including the production of new machines, repair of old machines, used Arter sales, and spare part sales.
The last modification and current model of the Arter line is the Model E CNC machine.
Although the Arter line has changed hands on five occasions through the 106-year history since William Arter started producing the grinders, the quality of grinding, durability, and innovation of the line have stayed consistent and look to last for many more years under the Obsidian brand.
Obsidian Manufacturing Industries, Inc. is located at 5015 28th Avenue, in Rockford. To inquire about the Obsidian brands, visit www.obsidianmfg.com or call (815) 962-8700. You can also find Obsidian on all social media platforms.
Arter Precision Grinding Machines brand is owned by Obsidian Manufacturing Industries, Inc.