Gear Production

MAR 2015

Gear Production

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March 2015—7 machine, then hobbing and shaping, requiring multiple moves and repeat setups. The decision to make the investment involved the desire both to simplify this process and to have a backup plan for busy periods. "We initially intended to use the machine for fnish grinding and to have a way of getting gears out the door when other equipment was tied up or down for maintenance," he says. "As we grew more familiar with the machine, though, we started thinking about ways we could really explore its capabilities in terms of what we could accomplish without pushing it too hard and causing unnecessary wear." Rory Tagle, a longtime employee who spent nine years working in his father's gear shop in Texas before joining L&H, took the lead on learning to program and operate the machine. Accustomed to working on manual equipment, he welcomed the opportunity to step up to CNC machining and has taken full advantage of the training the Höfer engineers have provided. "They have visited us here for hands-on training, and I'm in constant contact with their engineers in Germany," Mr. Tagle says. "For instance, whenever we mount a large workpiece on the grinder, a Höfer engineer will access our controls and help calibrate the machine before we begin grinding the teeth. The engineer can't take full control of the machine for safety reasons, so we work together at this stage of the process." Such a scenario was occurring on the day of my visit, in fact, with the engineer monitoring the controls of the huge Höfer from his offce in Germany and communicating with Mr. Tagle via onscreen text boxes. The 206-inch-diameter gear rotated slowly on the worktable, coordinates displayed on the control monitor were adjusted, and only when a passing grade was issued on each step would the virtual operator signal that it was time to move on to the next. Mr. Tagle says this calibration is required for gears weighing 50,000 pounds or more, or measuring larger than about 170 inches in diameter. "The engineer is looking at the mass and motion of the workpiece, making sure that it will stop in the right position for the wheel to make contact," he explains. "The last part we had on the grinder before we loaded this gear was a tiny 17-tooth pinion, L&H still uses its '70s-vintage, custom-built pre-gasher to rough out some gear teeth, which "just shovels out the chips" like these (inset), while the company's profle grinder produces swarf similar to steel wool.

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