A Good Waste of Time

organic

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)

Spending too much time on your computer? I’m guilty of that too, but I use the occasional educational content as an excuse. One of my favorite Facebook pages is “Thrust Me, I’m a mechanical engineer.” In recent days they posted a video on gear grinding and another on making “Organic Gears at Home.”

I was puzzled about “organic gears” too, but couldn’t resist clicking on the link:  (https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=475345352607073&set=vb.173678916107053&type=3&theater.)

When it comes to teaching newbies about gears I usually skip the entire involute curve, string unrolling from the base circle thing, as I find it makes people’s eyes glaze over. This organic gear explanation may become my go-to replacement lesson. It reminds me of a great lesson I learned from one of our Polish maintenance men. His father ran an underground car repair shop back home in the pre-Solidarity years. Parts were not available for most vehicles in their little farming town. But not to worry, the old man had a lathe, a welder, and a pile of scrap steel.

Many times they would just weld up a broken tooth and file or die grind it to shape, sometimes without taking the gear out of the gearbox. Feel free to cringe; I sure did. But for more serious damage, when multiple teeth were gone, a suitable blank was cobbled up from stuff in the scrap pile. Then the broken part was tack welded to it. An apprentice then spent a morning at the drill press putting a hole thru to match each root. Followed by an afternoon on the band saw doing whatever flanks they could, tack welds were broken if needed and the other flanks sawed. A bit of filing and grinding and the gear was ready to go. What about splines, you ask? Turn the teeth off the damaged gear, tap the spline up into place, and weld. Heat treat? A torch and a bucket of oil are all you need.

This is truly “organic” gear making! I wonder if someone can post a video of the process before the improving Polish economy renders the skillset obsolete.

The War to End All Wars

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)

As the son of a World War II sailor, I was raised with an honest respect for our nation’s veterans. The massive size of WW II and its reshaping of society made World War I — its predecessor — appear less interesting. In history class — this was during the Vietnam years — we found referring to the earlier conflict as “The Great War” rather ironic in our overly serious, teenaged analysis.

But certainly one lasting impact that ghastly war had was the establishment worldwide of November 11th as Veterans Day. Originally known as Armistice Day, it was intended as a time for reflection on just how close the slogan had come to becoming true — not because human beings evolved to resolve political conflict through negotiation, but because the combatants were running out of military age men.

The statistics are frightening: nineteenth century tactics combined with 20th century weapons and primitive living conditions killed over 9 million soldiers and wounded another 21 million. That’s approaching 2% of the total population of the countries originally involved, including an even larger percentage of the male population — from ages 16 to 49.

World War II statistics are even grimmer, as they include significant numbers of civilian deaths. Our Vietnam losses were intolerably high for the politicians at around 50,000 men over 10+ years. Imagine modern media coverage of a single battle — e.g., The Somme — that killed a million soldiers!

But today’s world places a much higher premium on life than theirs’ did, and for that we owe them great thanks for getting that evolution started. Indeed, my point in writing this is to honor the effort made by our ancestors to, in the cant of the 1970s, “Give peace a chance.” It didn’t last long; its resolution was even bloodier.

But the sacrifice was sincere.

So to all our veterans: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

The Importance of Perseverance

GF01  Glide Flight- 1st test flight of SpaceShip2

 

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 tragic loss of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two prompted some comments on whether the program should continue. Loss of life should require an examination of the procedures and decision making process. Independent experts should be asked to look things over in great detail, not to find scapegoats but to make thing better in the future.

It has been pointed out that this is not the first fatal accident in the history of space exploration. Going into space may never be as safe as our television programs and movies make it seem. Bert Rutan, aviation expert, predicts that safety levels might eventually approach those of 1920s vintage passenger planes. It might not ever be possible to have statistics even close to modern commercial jets.

Everything in life has a risk/reward ratio to consider. Fortunately we no longer have to risk our lives just to eat dinner or get a tooth pulled. Driving across the continent is still adventurous, but not dangerous. Occasionally some of us have had to risk our jobs on a technical matter; sometimes those decisions don’t work out so well. I remember having to explain to my-then ten-year-old daughter that our need to relocate was primarily the result of poor decisions on my part.

Gambling is part of human nature. Games of chance have been found in archaeology digs; they are described in ancient texts. Part of our love of sports is that the outcome is not a sure thing. As engineers we do our best to make our projects “sure things,” but there is always going to be some element of risk remaining.

Every test program sees statistical variation; allowable stresses are compromises. Formulas have rounding in them. Materials have defects that may not be fully accounted for in the allowables.

My point is this: You can manage risk but you can’t eliminate it. If something is worth doing, it is worth failing at. And failing more than once.

Catalog Season

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The holiday gift catalogs have started to arrive at my house. Over the years our gift list has been pared down, but we occasionally see something unique that is just perfect for someone on the list. In our family we have plenty of book readers, gardeners, and nick knack collectors. I am the only car nut (it only takes one!), but we get lots of catalogs full of car-related things.

What I haven’t seen is a catalog full of gearing-related collectables for the office or man cave. Exposed gear train clocks might suffice for some people, but I’d like a cut-away manual transmission or perhaps a replica of that ancient astrolabe thingie shown in Darle Dudley’s book, Evolution of the Gear Art.

I have various gears and bits of gears in my office, but nothing that meshes or rotates. There is something about a toy that moves. The next time you are at a trade show, look at how people are attracted to cut-a-ways that rotate — especially ones that are filled with a colorful lubricant to squish between the teeth.

If you have interesting display gearboxes, consider putting them in your lobby for visitors to play with or taking them to schools. I first saw gears in action in a cut-a-way car transmission in seventh grade science class. It was never really part of the curriculum, yet students couldn’t keep their hands off it.

Posters, etchings, and photographs have their place, but they don’t satisfy the tactile needs of the observer the way a cracked gear from a 1990s Indy car transmission does. Neither comes close to the patent model I was once caretaker for — working proof that you could have a one-tooth helical pinion. A small model of a differential or worm drive would be fun.

Anyone know if there is a catalog of gearing-elated dust collectors?

Moving the Goal Posts

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)

under-construction

Our area has been “under construction,” or, more accurately — “re-construction” — for the past year or so. Every road in town has been ripped up; the old blacktop recycled; and the surface renewed with a fresh layer of asphalt; new handicap access curbs; and reflective striping. In less than 100 years, our expectations of what a “good road” is have gone from a graveled cow path to the well-lit, ultra-smooth secondary roads of suburban America.

The same thing has occurred in the gear trade. I had occasion recently to look at the “charts” of a never-used 1969 vintage turbo-compressor pinion. The client had to decide whether to use this precious spare part “as-built” or to spend time and money bringing it up to current standards. For those unfamiliar with turbo-compressor pinions, they run at speeds up to 60,000 rpm on very expensive oil film bearings, and have always represented the pinnacle of gear quality.

This particular pinion was certified to AGMA Q10 at the time of manufacture. In 1969, gear grinding was not yet widely used — especially on through-hardened parts. New charts, run on a state-of-the-art CMM verified that 45 year old claim, but the client wisely chose to have the pinion ground to current AGMA Q13 (A4) tolerances.

As much as we old guys revere the “good old days,” we must recognize that expectations are much higher today. Resurfacing a mile of four-lane highway once took a month of detours; we were complaining about a week of inconvenience (the road never actually closed to traffic). The improvements in machinery and method these days are incredible. The same is true of our gear shops; new equipment out-produces the old in both quality and cycle time.

The challenge for gear makers is to know when to invest in new equipment and when you can get by with the old stuff. Your customer isn’t going to settle for anything but high- quality end results. No one travels by cow path anymore.

History Lessons

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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)

My trip to the AGMA Fall Technical Meeting was preceded by a one-day visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park. As a boy I loved Civil War history, and at one time probably knew most of the major elements of the Gettysburg encounter by heart. Other passions have clouded those boyhood memories, so it was great to have them refreshed with an open-top bus tour and a walk through the fabulous visitors center.

After watching a sunset from the top of Little Round Top, it struck me that the battle was won before it even started. The Union’s chief engineer, General G.K. Warren, had been dispatched to survey the area and found the “high ground” defended only by a signal corps unit. He quickly rectified that error and, despite all the movements and bravery of those three days, that decision to better defend the high ground resulted in victory.

As engineers we, too, can be distracted by all the excitement and activity around us. Our employers and customers count on us to make sure the fundamental “rules” are followed. Somebody has to know the standards, write the procedures, and see that they are followed. It isn’t always “fun” but few people consider engineering to be “fun” anyway. (I know; let’s keep it our secret lest we be overrun by accountants looking for a more fulfilling career.)

While the fundamentals of our trade don’t change often, modern analysis tools and machine tools are changing some of the design rules. If you haven’t reviewed the standards for your products recently, it is time to download the latest version and make sure you comply. Similarly, if you have manufacturing responsibilities you need to meet regularly with tool suppliers to ensure you are getting the productivity you are paying for.

Gear Technology prides itself on helping you stay current with both the design and manufacturing sides of the gear industry. As General Warren showed: good problem anticipation, early correction and “win the day” — no matter what troubles come your way.

Preserving Gear History

starly_differential_gear_1877_sewalot_1 

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)

One of the initiatives now in progress since the close of the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) 2014 Fall FTM was building a detailed timeline of the organization’s history since its founding in 1916. The goal is complete it in time for the 2015 FTM — and Gear Expo — in Detroit next October. Sadly, many people who could have contributed to this effort are no longer available for interviews.

I have previously commented on how rapidly I have gone from new guy at AGMA meetings in 1979 to old geezer today. So many questions I should have asked the great engineers I met at those meetings are now moot. We, as an industry, never valued our history; and so countless important papers, products and artifacts have been lost to careless archiving and the trash man.

Just one example: as an apprentice in 1971, I physically moved the huge tooth used to develop AGMA’s gear bending strength formula from storage to the foundry scrap pile. I only know it was an historic artifact because Walter Schmitter’s son Bob was my foreman that day and he gave the orders for it to be melted down. There simply was no “value” in old test pieces back then, and no repository to park them in until interest renewed.

Many of you work, or worked, with industry icons and didn’t know it. Your company may have been the first to make a particular product, or to have used a particular manufacturing technique. Perhaps you have an old cut-a-way model gathering dust in a store room or a scrapbook of company activities floating around.

Now is the ideal time to ask questions of those old-timers. Put aside false modesty and tout your firm’s contribution to our industry. It was great to see the founding of Gear Technology magazine prominently featured on the initial draft of the Timeline. We’ll be doing our part to search the archives and add milestones when we uncover them. If you uncover an interesting “gear story,” let us know and we’ll feature it here in the blog.

Fall Technical Meeting Report

agma

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)

Since 1980 the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) has hosted a Fall Technical Meeting (FTM), where the industry gathers to listen to papers presented by leading engineers and researchers. Since its start in 1984, Gear Technology magazine has been publishing some of those papers — and giving them an even wider audience.

This year’s FTM was held in Arlington, Virginia, close to the association’s headquarters and our country’s beautiful capitol city. Once again the AGMA technical staff organized a great slate of papers, and the meeting room was full of familiar faces — plus many new ones. The FTM has become a “must attend” event for many people in the industry.

It was my privilege to present a paper on high contact ratio gearing, recounting my conversion from skeptic to advocate over the course of 30 years. Hopefully the paper will find its way into GT in 2015; if not, you’ll be able to find it on my website in a few weeks.

The 2015 FTM call for papers has already gone out. Starting this year, the entire process will be electronic; details are at the AGMA website. Papers need not be groundbreaking research; my paper hinges upon a tooth form first published in 1935! For those of you who are interested in writing a paper, but wonder if your idea is “good enough,” I will be happy to correspond with you and offer editing and technical support.

Of particular interest to me are papers on selecting the best material for a part; on fixing parts with grind steps or grind temper; and on techniques to improve tooth flank surface finish. If you have a water jet cutting machine or a modern CNC gear grinder, you are well positioned to help “solve” these problems.

We can no longer count on large corporate members to carry the bulk of the research load. But even small companies like mine can make an important contribution to the gear arts.

Why not get your outfit known on the international radar as a place for cutting-edge gears?

Publish or Perish

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)


My very first posting in this space was a call for papers for the 2013 AGMA Fall Technical Meeting. I had just gotten home from Arlington, Virginia, where my paper was one of over 20 added to the canon. Over the next year, many of those papers were published in Gear Technology and made available to online users via the magazine’s fully searchable archives. Unfortunately, not all AGMA papers from previous FTMs are available on-line, and some that are scanned in are not searchable. We, as an industry, owe a debt of gratitude to this magazine’s publisher and staff for going that extra mile to make the archives more user- and reader-friendly.

But my topic today is “Publish or Perish.” This phrase may be familiar to you in an academic setting, but if you are an engineer working today, it applies to you as well. Occasionally people will write to me seeking advice on becoming a consulting engineer. They aren’t very happy when I recommend a 20- or 30-year-long preparation period that involves public speaking and writing papers. Their eagerness to get started does not change the facts on the ground: you won’t be successful as a consultant without a demonstrated history of accomplishment and name recognition.

In other words, you have to build your “personal brand.” I got started on this in 1987, when my boss decided I should write a book on gears to hand out to customers. He pulled the funding about the time he laid me off, but I was able to get 20 job interviews from the 24 copies of the self-published book that my wife and I mailed out. Said book has been revised and expanded over the years, and it still helps me get work; you can get a free copy at the Beyta Gear Service web site (www.beytagear.com). Would I have preferred spending that “writing time” doing other things? Definitely; but I now consider it one of the best investments I ever made.

This was my fourth AGMA FTM paper, and they don’t get easier as you go along. It has been many years since member companies presented papers on their in-house research, so individual engineers must pick up the educational torch and advance our trade. If you make the effort you won’t regret it. Encouragement, advice, and even topic ideas are available if you ask around. Self-select as a technology leader.

The dividends will come to you over the years.

Not a Boys Club

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)


This is a belated post in support of the International Day of the Girl. Around the world girls have to risk abuse, sexual assault, and even death just to get an education. Here in the “civilized world,” they face additional roadblocks if they seek entry to scientific or engineering fields. This is illogical and wasteful of an incredible amount of human potential.

It has been my pleasure to work with some great engineers over the years who just happened to be women. One of the most prominent consulting engineers in the wind turbine gearbox field is a woman. The AGMA delegate to ISO is a woman. For many, many years, the primary, day-to-day technical contact for a large bevel gear company was a woman. We have some extremely talented women working in the “trenches” of the gear trade these days, and if we make a little bit more effort there will be more in the future.

I have written previously in this space about making an outreach to young people via internships for college students and classroom presentations to school children. Today I encourage you to think carefully before speaking to the young ladies in your life. Don’t chase them out of your garage or workshop. Let them get dirty alongside of you while you repair, tinker, remodel, or build. Let them know first-hand that engineering and mechanics have nothing to do with gender. Let’s stop discouraging half the brains on the planet from considering a career in technology.

In closing, I’d like to thank all the wonderful female engineers who put up with the hazing, pranks, and discouragement to join our ranks. We are lucky to have your often unique insights into this work. Hopefully the day is coming when ability and interest will be the primary factors in the selection of one’s life work.