Business is finally starting to get back to usual in the big gear world, which offers us a chance to look back at the greatest lesson on how to survive an economic downturn. Includes the sidebar: "Brass Tacks with Klingelnberg."
Traditionally, high-quality gears are cut to shape from forged blanks. Great accuracy can be obtained through shaving and grinding of tooth forms, enhancing the power capacity, life and quietness of geared power transmissions. In the 1950s, a process was developed for forging gears with teeth that requires little or no metal to be removed to achieve final geometry. The initial process development was undertaken in Germany for the manufacture of bevel gears for automobile differentials and was stimulated by the lack of available gear cutting equipment at that time. Later attention has turned to the forging of spur and helical gears, which are more difficult to form due to the radial disposition of their teeth compared with bevel gears. The main driver of these developments, in common with most component manufacturing, is cost. Forming gears rather than cutting them results in increased yield from raw material and also can increase productivity. Forging gears is therefore of greater advantage for large batch quantities, such as required by the automotive industry.
Near-net gear forging today is producing longer life gears at significantly lower costs than traditional manufacturing techniques. Advances in forging equipment, controls and die-making capability have been combined to produce commercially viable near-net-shape gears in diameters up to 17" with minimum stock allowances. These forged gears require only minimal finishing to meet part tolerance specifications.
Traditional methods of manufacturing precision gears usually employ either hobbing or shaper cutting. Both of these processes rely upon generating the conjugate tooth form by moving the work-piece in a precise relation to the tool. Recently, attention has been given to forming gear teeth in a single step. Advantages to such a process include reduced production time, material savings, and improved performance characteristics. Drawbacks include complicated tool designs, non-uniformity of gears produced throughout the life of the tooling, and lengthy development times.