Previous blogs here have celebrated the great advances made in gear industry design capabilities and machine tools. As the “paper of record” for the past several decades, Gear Technology’s digital archives are full of articles, technical papers, and press releases on those new methods and equipment; some of what was “revolutionary” in 1982 has been obsoleted once or twice in the later years.
My consulting practice covers a very wide swath of the gear trade so I am well positioned to point out areas that are in need of improvement. Hopefully someone, somewhere, is working on these issues:
- Super finishing for very big and very small gears. There is increased appreciation for the relationship of surface finish, lubrication, and improved gear life thanks, as is often the case, to our friends in the wind turbine gearbox sector. Very large gears cannot just use bigger versions of the current machines as the quantity of media and chemicals involved becomes massive, driving load and unload times through the roof while increasing costs. On the other end of the size spectrum, the need for better finish may be even greater yet the availability of appropriate media, equipment, and chemicals is just not there.
- Deburring of small gears. One client told me they spend as much money taking burrs off as they do cutting teeth. An added hazard is increased scrap if the deburring is more aggressive. What is a “small burr” on an 8 DP part approaches the size of a tooth on a 64 DP part.
- Fine pitch cutting and grinding equipment. The advances made in hobbing, shaping, and grinding of wind turbine gearbox components does not seem to have transitioned to smaller size gears. Designers of small gear mechanisms cannot just specify a tapered offset crown with a 16 AA finish; the capability is not there on very fine teeth. Combined with the problems noted above, this leaves precision gear companies locked into 1960s technology when their customers could really appreciate better products.
Many futurists are pinning their hopes on advances in 3-D printing to make conventional manufacturing obsolete. From what I have seen and read though, we are many years away from being able to have “Gearbot” in every shop that can instantly produce a high-power density component at the touch of a button. Until that day comes we need to keep working on our craft and our tools. As always, the magazine is eager to share the news of any “better mousetrap” with the worldwide audience.