October 5, 2023
[starbox] In the most recent issue of Gear Technology, the Publisher’s Page recounts the inaugural issue’s coverage of “transformative technology,” titanium nitride-coated cutting tools and CBN/Form grinding. While commonplace today, these new developments had an instant impact on the gear trade and set into motion changes that completely changed the way our industry operates. The increased life of hobs and shaper cutters had a huge impact on the number of tools needed by high-volume users. Tool makers who once could count on shipping pallets of hobs to an automotive transmission plant every week had to cut staff quickly because orders plummeted. Tool shops were downsized, companies reorganized or merged, and experienced tool makers found themselves needing to retrain. No matter how you tried to spin it, increased tool life couldn’t be ignored in the marketplace. CBN/form grinding, on the other hand, made ground tooth gears affordable in a much wider range of machinery. I was working in a shop with no gear grinding capability at all in May of 1984; no amount of political maneuvering was going to open up our parent corporation’s wallet for gear grinding equipment. We were soon unable to be competitive in special gearboxes for metal processing. A year later I relocated to a family-owned shop in the Philadelphia area where we attempted to revive a long-dormant Sheffield spur gear grinder. It didn’t take long to learn why it was mothballed; wheel prep was a nightmare and part quality wasn’t much better than well-hobbed, through-hardened components. When the local grapevine started buzzing with news that Philadelphia Gear was getting more parts off a single form grinder than four well maintained MAAG grinders, old hands were skeptical. Those rumors were true and ground gears suddenly started to be designed into general industrial equipment. Over the next ten years, job shops all over the country added gear grinders to their capabilities. Experienced gear grinders found themselves in high demand — the exact opposite of hob makers. So two “transformative technologies” had far different, “transformative” consequences for gear industry employment.