Three Cheers for Gears

As a class of workpieces, gears may be one of the most important, and certainly one of the most interesting, in the manufacturing industry.

Columns From: 3/1/2014 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Mark Albert

Mark has been writing his Mark: My Word column every month since January, 1981.

As I study gears and learn more about what they do and how they are made, I find myself almost falling in love with these fascinating objects. Surprised by this infatuation, I had to jot down my current impressions, however naive and wide-eyed they may be.
 
Gears are complex. By nature, even the simplest of gears consists of numerous physical features and a pattern of repeated shapes, most notably the teeth. Gear nomenclature is extensive, the definition of each term worth remembering. There seems to be no end to the types and variations of gears that have been invented, with one geometry more complex than the next.
 
Gears help move some of the largest devices ever created by mankind. Gears on the submicroscopic level enable nanomachines to function inside the human body.
Many mechanical objects that move have gears. Vehicles from automobiles to spacecraft rely on gears for power transmission. Gears link the rotation of an engine or motor shaft to the turning of wheels that propel the vehicle. Traditional timepieces such as clocks and watches rely on gears—gears are the essence of clockwork. In fact, the word clockwork is a synonym for efficiency and precision, thanks to the highly refined and effective coordination of the movement of gears.
 
Gears are characterized by patterns of symmetry and concentricity that make them pleasing to the eye. The visual rhythm of a single gear is enjoyable and gratifying. Gears are fun to look at. When gears are combined in mechanical structures, perceiving and contemplating the interrelationship is endlessly fascinating. Their appeal is mysterious and visceral.
 
The science behind gear technology is substantial and well-developed, yet ongoing in 
its theoretical discoveries and practical applications. Based on the laws of physics and rooted in mathematics, the science of gears is a powerful force driving gear technology forward. Engineers who work with gears will never be at a loss to exploit this technology in new and 
marvelous ways.
 
Gear manufacturing is a dynamic and rapidly evolving field. Currently, it is undergoing a number of significant transformations. The who, when, where and how of gear production are changing. New opportunities and fresh challenges abound.
 
New gear-making processes are emerging as CNC machines, cutting tools and programming software advance. At the same time, they are also reshaping our machines, cutters and software, and taking them to a new level.
 
The wheel may be the most important human invention of all time. The gear, which is basically a wheel with cogs, is surely the most important type of wheel ever developed.
Gears are great. Gears are cool. Gears are wonderful. If you’ve been working with gears for a long time, take a moment to rethink your appreciation for gears and renew your own sense of wonder and astonishment at how interesting and fascinating these inventions really are.
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