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A Guide to Gear Manufacturing

The purpose of any production process is to create added value. A gear manufacturer’s objectives are defined by product costs, volumes, and deadlines. Production of gears involves an interlinkage of various manufacturing processes. Gear production processes include extrusion, blanking, powder metallurgy, forging, or casting. A wide array of gears are available for practically any mechanical application. The various kinds include worm gears, bevel gears, gear racks, spur and helical gears.

Gear manufacturers classify gear types by the positioning of intersecting shafts, parallel shafts, and non-intersecting shafts. Understanding the differences between gear types is critical in understanding how force is transmitted in different mechanical configurations. The selection process requires one to consider factors such as dimensions, precision grades (AGMA, DIN, or ISO), heat treatment or teeth grinding, torque and efficiency ratios.

Due to advances in gear manufacturing technology, producers can easily manufacture gears of varying complexity. A variety of machines are available that facilitate the manufacture of gears. Manufacturing processes are either manual, automatic or semi-automatic. As such, machining is the most populate gear production process involving two main methods: shaping or hobbing. A majority of gears are produced through a machine-based process. Hobbing employs dedicated machines to make gears by relying on vertical or horizontal spindles A rotating hob is used to create the right gear depth on a blank. Once the right depth is reached, a hob cutter is passed across the gears face until all gear teeth are complete. Grinding employs a gear cutter to achieve the required gear design and type. The majority of present hardened gears are produced using the grinding process. But the process is rather slow and only useful in the manufacture of high quality gears.
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Gear manufacturing requires the application of specialized knowledge of mechanical properties of gears. This is particularly the case even when using standardized designs. Production requires engineers to understand factors such as rotational directions, drive train speed ratios, the different kinds of gears, their sizes, and strengths. Additionally, factor such as backlashes, teeth forms and thicknesses, ISO and AGMA ratings play a significant role in gear manufacturing.
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The manufacturing process relies on defined industry standards to ensure optimal gear quality and performance. Accordingly, production of gears necessitates the need for benchmarking of manufacturers facilities and techniques. Reverse engineering gears is one of the most used of benchmarking standards. The procedure involves the calculation of primary parameters for unknown gear pairs. However, the standardization process is much more complex than calculating gear parameters and application variables. Data obtained by reverse engineering gears is typically accurate and useful in the production process. The process requires the performance of repetitive procedures to arrive at conclusive data. Acquired measurements provide information regarding design deviations, uncertainty in measurements, and wearing of gears in the application environment.