I have a wonderfully complex gearbox to reverse engineer. It is a critical component for a thriving company that is the only known gearbox of its type; the few drawings that exist are as old as I am. Reverse engineering is the only way to insure that the company’s future is not harmed by a sudden failure of a 63-year-old gearbox.
While this gearbox is most certainly a “one-off,” there are certainly other companies in similar situations around the world. This global gear slowdown we are suffering through may be the best opportunity ever to have back-up drawings or spare parts prepared. When business is good, few salesmen want to approach management with speculative and time consuming projects.
As a veteran of some of these turf battles, I sympathize with both sides. Salesmen and saleswomen need orders; customers need to think strategically. Gear companies are looking for shop hours to keep their people working — not science projects with questionable commercial prospects.
I favor a graduated approach to these tasks. The customer needs to carefully consider the risk his factory takes on by relying on an obsolete gearbox and think about his options for the future. If a more modern device is not available, it makes sense to review the drawings on hand and get a quote for the reverse engineering only. Once the reverse engineering is complete, an accurate estimate can be prepared for replacement parts or a spare gearbox. If special tools or castings are needed, they can be waiting to reduce the eventual lead time.
We have made parts for very old and complex machines that fit in like original equipment. Other “old soldiers” have been replaced by modern gearboxes that bolted right up to the old foundation. Customers much preferred these solutions to interrupted service.
So don’t waste a perfectly good slowdown! Contact your customers for the tough projects no one else wants to do.