October 12, 2022
While 3-D printing looks for its place in the manufacturing world, other non-traditional methods are finding their way into our gear shops. Some, such as electro-discharge machining (EDM), were once confined to specialty shops. Today it is not uncommon for gear makers to add an EDM machine to their in-house capabilities so they can quickly put keyways in carburized and hardened parts. We used to try to anticipate how keyways would distort in heat treat and attempt to put them in before heat treating. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. When it didn’t, the rework was tedious and expensive. If I had access to EDM I would be experimenting with using it to rough machine gear teeth; one early effort (1993) resulted in teeth that were equal in quality to hobbing. Similarly, a water jet cutter can do much more than cut up heat treat samples. Applications like cutting keyways, roughing teeth, and preparing parts for fabrication come to mind. The use of live axis attachments in turning machines was widely demonstrated at the recent International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). How many gear hobbing machines can be mothballed if the teeth or splines can be done during the turning operation? Will general purpose machines eventually displace dedicated, single-function ones? The advances in milling bevel gear teeth on multi-axis milling machines amazes me. The complex movements needed to make spiral bevels made them among the first single-purpose machines and now software is poised to surpass over a hundred years of process development. What “emerging technology” will you be bringing into your shop?