July 26, 2023
One of the things I mention when teaching about gears is the long history of great minds who have contributed to our field. Early readers of Gear Technology will no doubt remember the wonderful Leonardo da Vinci sketches that were used as cover art. He is just one in a long line of geniuses that contributed to our shared understanding of toothed wheels. I bring this up in an effort to encourage more openness in our technical dialogue. While proprietary and commercial concerns are important, very few truly secret or “new” things are being protected. Whenever some new tooth form is announced it does not take much of an effort to find it has been touted before and found to not be so earth shattering. This came up a few years ago when I presented a paper on reverse engineering. There were people who thought this was an unethical activity that should be discouraged, not openly discussed; this despite hundreds of years of people taking things apart, studying them, and making replacement parts. Modern coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) are programmed to reveal even the most detailed microgeometry. 3-D printing is spurring advances in artifact scanning that will only make reverse engineering easier. Unless you can find a way to keep your products away from clever, motivated people, your “secrets” will be discovered. So what exactly are you accomplishing when you, or your firm, do not share information that might result in better standards? We live in a world full of competitors and still cooperate on topics that could benefit all of us. Good designs, competent engineering, and efficient manufacturing are rewarded in the marketplace; needless complication and untested claims are not.