Gear Training Then and Now

Blogging about gear training brings to mind the widely attended Illinois Tool Works Gear School that Bob Moderow operated on behalf of his employer. When I attended in 1979, ITW was one of the largest suppliers of gear cutting tools and gear inspection machines in the world. Times and technology have changed since then and most of ITW’s gearing assets are disbursed to other firms now. Coatings on hobs and shaper cutters greatly increased their useful life so the volume needed by industry declined. New computer assisted gear inspection machines displaced the analog devices ITW made while providing more accurate and reliable inspections.

The ITW Gear School provided the first industry-wide instruction in gear theory, manufacturing, and inspection. We owe a big debt to Bob Moderow and his co-workers for standardizing the terminology used. Thousands of engineers, foremen, and operators “graduated” from the school with an understanding of what a “good” chart looked like on a lead or a profile. Perhaps more importantly, they also knew how to adjust the process to make a bad chart become a good chart. The training materials developed for the course are still being used in shops all over the world. With modern gear grinding equipment we don’t often have to know how a mis-sharpened hob changes the involute shape but I keep the diagrams in my personal “book of knowledge.”

AGMA has picked up the torch on industry-wide gear training in recent years. Ray Drago and Bob Errichello provide top-notch courses in a wide variety of areas. Do yourself and your company a favor by attending an AGMA seminar soon. Both instructors are unsurpassed in their understanding of gear technology and are wonderful teachers as well. Those two attributes are not often found in the same person and their willingness to conduct these classes several times a year is laudable. I count myself lucky to have learned from them in the classroom. If you can’t attend a seminar in person you can find many contributions from these legends in the Gear Technology archives.

About Charles D. Schultz 678 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.


  1. Chuck is quite right about the fantastic work done by Bob Moderow to advance education and training in the gear industry. I would like to add that Bob was instrumental in getting the AGMA Basic Training for Gear Manufacturing School started at Daley College in 1993, where he was the lead instructor until 2006. Taking up the torch from Bob in 2006 are top notch instructors, Dwight Smith, Al Bird and Pete Grossi, who currently teach two classes each year that sell out every time the courses are offered. Their knowledge of gears and dedication to sharing that knowledge makes this a great course for anyone new to the gear industry – from machine operators to executives, sales representatives and quality control managers.

    I echo Chuck’s praise of Ray Drago’s and Bob Errichello’s AGMA classes and would only add that each of them have created a video course which is available through AGMA. However, there is nothing like a face-to-face course with these legends!

    It is a personal pleasure to work with each of these gifted instructors that AGMA has been fortunate to engage for all of our basic to advanced courses.

  2. This blog is of high interest to me as an educator and author of the textbook, Machine Elements in Mechanical Design. Certainly the work of Drago, Errichello, and others mentioned earlier in this blog are worthy of praise, particularly for practicing gear designers/manufacturers. I would like to hear more about what should be the emphasis of undergraduate machine design courses with regard to gear design. My book stresses the AGMA standards and brings those standards together in a design methodology. It would be good to hear what gear design and manufacturing professionals feel is the most needed education and training expected from undergraduate college courses.

    • I had a long discussion about this very topic with my friend Dr. Dick Johnson when he was heading up Northern Illinois University’s outreach to industry. He fought the good fight with the engineering department for more gear info in the mechanical engineering program but was told their hands were tied by the accreditation authorities. Apparently to be accredited you have to stick to the “authorized” content and that content is detailed down to lecture hours per topic.

      Dr. Don Houser at THE Ohio State University has been running a graduate program in gears for 20+ years. He too would like to see more gear content at the BSME level.

  3. As an industrial ad/PR agency that’s worked around the gear biz for all 38 years of our existence, we’ve seen many scenarios, including the great work done by Forest City Gear with local trade schools, the Euro-style apprentice programs used by EMAG and Advanced Machine & Engineering (Goellner Group in Rockford) and the student group learning support done by GMTA (Germany Machine Tools of America). MANY companies are keenly aware of the need to nurture the next generation of machinists and gear designers. Much like that of our bearing accounts, this technology is vital to America, for myriad reasons.

  4. Ray Drago’s upcoming seminars are in February (Clearwater Beach, FL) and March (Philadelphia):
    Gear Materials: Selection, Metallurgy, Heat Treatment and Quality Control.

    Gearbox CSI: Forensic Analysis of Gear and Bearing Failures.

    Bob Errichello’s upcoming Gear Failure Analysis seminars (Big Sky, MT) are scheduled for June and September.

    Also, past seminars by both Ray Drago and Bob Errichello are available as Online Video Training through the AGMA. For more information, visit

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