Choosing Gears and Gearboxes

In our industry, the issue of what kind of gear to use for which application comes up all the time. It’s frequently hard to choose from spur gears, helical gears, bevel gears, and other options. So it’s always pretty cool when we can come across an article or resource that offers some contribution to that important decision.

I recently came across an interesting article in Machine Design from back in February of this year. It’s called “Getting The Most Out of Gearboxes“.

I read it back when it came out, and after re-reading it recently I still find it is very instructive. It provides a basic overview of how to choose the right gearing for an application and what the pros and cons are of some popular kinds of gearboxes.

There are various approaches to deciding how and why to choose between, for example, worm gears and spur gears. There are even more extenuating factors in deciding between harmonic and helical gearing. You have to take into account noise, efficiency, ‘backdrive’, heat, and durability – among a host of factors that come into consideration during the design phase of a gearing application.

Adam Mellenkamp, the author of the piece, offers some sage advice:

“Still, gearboxes remain widespread and popular because, as one of the tried and true rules of thumb in the power-transmission industry says, “Speed is cheap, torque is expensive.” And relying on motors to generate the torque required by many loads (called direct-drive technology) is usually more expensive than generating the torque with a motor/gear reducer combination. So most engineers specify gearboxes in their designs. Plus, gearboxes can eliminate other mechanical components, such as bearings, belts, chains, and pulleys, thus simplifying and bringing down the cost of motion-control applications.”

The advantages of using gearboxes are clear: they offer unsurpassed torque for a relatively low cost, and less long term frustration. But you still want to optimize your efforts. I’d advise clicking through to the original article for Machine Design’s take. And if you have any more specific questions, feel free to get in touch with one of our engineers. Gear Motions has decades of collective knowledge about precision and ground gearing, as well as lots of experience to offer during the design phase of your gearboxes.

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