Dr. Faydor L. Litvin: 100 Years a Genius

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

The Gear Technology gang wishes to congratulate Dr. Faydor L. Litvin of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) on celebrating his 100th birthday in January. We had hoped to interview this distinguished engineer, inventor and author for a more in-depth review of his contributions to our industry, but have just learned he no longer entertains such requests.

Dr. Litvin began his UIC tenure in 1979 at the age most men retire, following a noteworthy life in his native Russia. Besides teaching and supervising over 75 graduate students, he continued to develop his gear theories and to publish books and papers that are widely used today. In Development of Gear Technology and Theory of Gearing (1997, NASA RP-1406), Dr. Litvin offered the following testimony to the hundreds of people who contributed to our trade without recognition. We at the Gear Technology blog share this excerpt from that preface in honor of Dr. Litvin’s centennial:

The history of developments in any area, including gear technology and theory, is the history of creativity, which has often gone unrecognized during one’s lifetime. The aspiration to create is a passion that enriches the life but requires unconditional devotion. Usually, creativity is associated with the arts (music, literature, painting), possibly because they have the greatest influence on our emotions. However, we do not realize the extent to which this passion conquers the daily activities of many in all levels of society. The desire of gifted persons to create is the driving force in their lives, bringing them joy and suffering and often no fame. For Fame, a capricious goddess, does not award in the proper time and may not award at all. My sympathy is for those who failed to achieve recognition for their accomplishments, and I share Dostoyevsky’s philosophy that suffering is necessary for spiritual achievement, but the price to be paid is sometimes too high. However, an individual who gives his heart to create should not look for fame. This was expressed with great emotion by Pasternak (1960) in his famous verse, “To Be That Famous Is Hardly Handsome”:

Creation’s aim—yourself to give,
Not loud success, appreciation.
To mean round nothing—shames to live,
On all men’s lips an empty sermon.

I sympathize with the heroes of Pasternak’s verse.

We at Gear Technology are thankful that Professor Litvin has been recognized for his achievements within his lifetime and encourage readers to become familiar with his writings.

Time Flies When You Are Making Gears

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

On Saturday I began my 44th year in the gear industry. I remember way too many details of my first day as a drafting apprentice at the Falk Corporation for it to have been that long ago, but the calendar doesn’t lie.

After expressing shock that I had no relatives working there, my new co-workers began the long, hard task of teaching me enough so I wouldn’t be “a hazard to navigation.” At least one old hand advised having a good back up plan since hydraulics were going to take over everything. There have certainly been many changes in our trade since 1971 but anyone who ever watched an episode of Junkyard Wars could tell you, the hydraulic revolution never happened.

In my opinion, the big changes that reshaped our industry:

  1. Computer controlled machine tools. When I took my first shop tour at Falk it was wall- to-wall turret lathes in three buildings. Ten years later they were gone.
  2. Personal computers. In 1971 we punched our own cards for the mainframe computer. At least once a week a box of cards got dropped on the way to the computer room. I could have built a house with my boxes of cards. Ten years later that mainframe was in a little box on every desk.
  3. Computer Aided Drafting. I was a late adopter of CAD, as you might expect given my apprenticeship. By the mid 1980s, a single CAD station could out perform five or six draftsmen.
  4. Ground gearing. Falk held on to through hardened gearing longer than most companies, but by 1990 most of the industry had transitioned to carburized and hardened gears with ground flanks.
  5. Coated hobs and cutters. It took a while for everyone to believe the test results, but within a few years the benefits of extended tool life changed the economics of the business.
  6. CNC Form Grinders. In 1971 there were two dominant gear grinding technologies: MAAGs for bigger, high-precision parts and Reishauers for smaller, high-volume parts. On MAAGs you talked “days per gear” and on Reishauers it was “minutes per gear” after a day of wheel prep. The advent of CNC form grinding reduced the cost of gear grinding and made the advanced micro-geometry required for high performance possible.
  7. The Internet. Until the Internet came into our lives, you needed good library skills to research technical topics. Inquiries and purchase orders came in via the post office and might take days just to reach the appropriate desk. Responses went by “snail mail” too. Long distance phone calls were reserved for emergencies. For a short period of time, communication shifted to fax machines, but once the “dot com” boom started, we were on that slippery slope to instant communication.
  8. Cell phones. When I started traveling with sales people, the first thing that I noticed was how much of a hassle it was for them to communicate by phone. Most carried bags of “telephone change” and knew where every pay phone was on their turf. Being able to carry a cell phone, even at the outrageous rates of the early days, revolutionized the sales game.

Did I miss anything? Use the comments to let me know.