July 14, 2022
I belong to a number of online technical forums besides contributing to the occasional “Ask the Expert” column here at Gear Technology. Lately I have noticed a disturbing (at least to me) trend of questioners just wanting to be directed to an app or given the specific answer, rather than wade through an explanation or a reference book/paper. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon — or your old math teacher — sometimes you have to experience the trials of the journey to appreciate the wonders of the destination. To be perfectly blunt — there should be no helicopter rides to the mountain top. Early on I posted about the dangers of using computer software without understanding what was going on inside that “black box.” I am not saying everyone needs to write their own code; just that you have to understand the process and the influence factors before you can really know the answer provided is what you are looking for. The incident that inspired this particular rant concerned microgeometry modifications. I have no idea what kind of gears the inquirer was working on. The loads and duty cycle were as unknown to me as were his part quality. My friend Ray Drago (www.gear-doc.com) says the best answer for a consulting engineer always begins with “It depends.” So I guess “it depends” upon whether you want to understand why you are doing something, or just want to put numbers down on the drawing. I appreciate the pressure of deadlines and the desire to impress a supervisor, but over the span of a career you will never regret the time spent studying good references. Shortcuts are tempting, but often result in “answers” that don’t fit your particular problem. Going on a journey involves certain risks. So does copying answers without understanding how they were arrived at. The gear world needs more mountain climbers and fewer helicopter passengers.