Brad Foote Seeks New Abrasive Grain Technology

Efficiency improvements, cost savings and better quality production are goals that any gearing company strives to achieve. However, it ca...


Efficiency improvements, cost savings and better quality production are goals that any gearing company strives to achieve. However, it can be difficult and time-consuming to find routes to meet these goals. Nonetheless, the potential benefits are enticing enough to justify investment in testing and redesigning materials and technologies in order to ensure a competitive advantage. This article will describe the testing carried out by Brad Foote Gearing in its search for a better abrasive wheel.

Brad Foote Gearing makes fully integrated precision gearing solutions, from design and engineering to specialty weldment and testing. With a long background in tight-tolerance gearing for wind turbines, the company is now expanding into broader energy and infrastructure markets. The company applies precision down to the fraction of a millimeter or micrometer to meet the tightest tolerances and the highest industry standards, which of course places significant demands on its abrasive materials.

The Challenge for a New Wheel

Brad Foote recently conducted testing on abrasive wheels for the production of low speed pinions and bull gears used in wind turbines. These two jobs were selected due to the fact that they are on the high end of difficulty for the parts that are ground at Brad Foote. The high quality standards for these parts, as well as the materials used and modifications required, mean that these jobs are difficult to mass-produce quickly. In the competitive gearing market, any innovation that reduces cycle time has the potential to help increase profitability, so this testing was performed with an eye toward uncovering opportunities for improved efficiency. Furthermore, any potential to improve the quality of the gear being produced was of course welcome as a way to demonstrate added value to the customer.  

The parts being produced in the test were made of CrNiMo material, which cracks very easily in grinding, similarly to glass. Additionally, the specifications for the parts are extremely tight. Therefore the tooling and grinding strategies used for these parts are critical. The existing two wheels that had been in longtime use for the pinion and bull gear will be hereafter referred to as wheel A (a finer wheel used for both parts) and wheel B (a coarse wheel that was used for the bull gear prior to finishing with wheel A).

Although wheels A and B were part of well established procedures, Brad Foote conducted testing to attempt to find a wheel solution that could achieve a number of different goals, chiefly reducing cycle time and tool usage. Achieving these goals had a strong potential to create cost savings, even if the abrasive cost per part was higher than the existing wheels (Ed's note: The full Brad Foote Gear case study will be published in the March/April issue of Gear Technology in our Grinding/Abrasives round-up).

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Brad Foote Gear Works, Inc.