The How vs. Why Balance

We have faced this How vs. Why balance before in both the magazine and the blog. The technical papers published tend to be at the cutting edge of gear technology (no pun intended), as you would expect from the official journal of our industry. In between those peer-reviewed documents we have tried to answer readers’ questions and offer instructions on more “entry level” topics.

Unfortunately, our attempts to allow comments and responses here in the blog have been hampered by spammers. Otherwise, we would be doing more instruction here as well.

When I work with people just coming into the trade, I tend to spend lots of time on nomenclature. The beginning of wisdom, after all, is calling things by their proper name. Ours in an international business, with substantial operations on almost every continent and in dozens of languages. Throw in the “dialects” spoken in different companies and regions, and it is no wonder some find our conversations to be confusing. AGMA standards start with a table that lists all the variables, their definition, and where they are used in the document. A very inclusive nomenclature standard is employed to ensure consistency across all AGMA and ISO standards. The ISO effort to provide a multilingual variable sheet stalled years ago, perhaps due to the complexity of the task.

The next step I take with students is to encourage them to build a library of reference books, including my own publication [An Introduction to Gear Design, available for free download at]. Some are better at reading these tomes than others; you will not understand this field unless you put forth the effort.

Newbies also benefit from detailed, step-by-step instructions such as those found in Gear Design Simplified, by Franklin D. Jones. The U.S. Navy, with hundreds of years of experience in training up raw talent, is a big believer in having students make up their own “decision trees,” complete with detailed sketches of the machinery involved. You may know these exercises by another name, i.e. — flow charts. Back when we wrote our own computer code, the flow chart and variable list were keys to staying sane.

Next time we’ll consider the pros and cons of relying on “black boxes” to perform important design functions.

About Charles D. Schultz 655 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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