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pockets of gas or oil. But what is the machinery behind this process? In many cases, it’s a fracturing drive, which relies on


spinning gears to deliver as much as 3000 hp (2237 kW) of pumping power. If that description reminds you a bit of an automobile engine, that’s no coincidence. Fracturing drive manufacturers are essentially bringing technology commonly found in high-performance automobiles and applying it to pressure pumping. Te gears in these drives matter because evenly spaced gear


ratios provide smooth shiſting for pumping. Tey also provide a much broader range of pumping speeds. A deep first gear ratio allows pumping at lower flow rates and pressure, giving greater flexibility. Applying torque smoothly throughout the horsepower


range optimizes productive horsepower and reduces stress on the entire powertrain. It also ensures that users have the appropriate amount of pressure to keep underground piping free of blockages—so that underground veins of gas can be explored more effectively.


Mining for Coal If you’re trying to transport coal from a mine in a remote


location to a power plant hundreds of miles away, chances are you’ll be using some type of heavy-haul surface mining truck. And that truck depends on a special type of gear known as an electric motor wheel planetary ring gear. Having the right gears in the truck enables higher grade-


ability: the ability to climb up steep continuous grades, which reduces the amount of time required to get from point A to point B. It also makes getting down the hill easier by provid- ing full retarding capability. Tis simply means that the truck can be fully stopped without applying the brake pedal, reduc- ing brake wear and lengthening the intervals between brake servicing. Once they’re off the hills and on to the roads, proper gears


ensure that the trucks can obtain higher overall speeds—fur- ther increasing productivity, which reduces the overall cost per ton of sourcing and transporting coal.


Gears and Renewable Energy Gears aren’t just used to harvest fossil fuels, of course. Tey also


play a critical role in renewable energy sectors such as wind. Wind turbines come in many different orientations—hori-


zontal axis and vertical axis being the most common—but they all work on the same general principle. Te energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. Te rotor is connected to the main shaſt, which spins a generator to create electricity. Te gearbox is at the heart of any wind turbine. Having


the right gears ensures excellent strength and torque capacity, surface durability and low noise performance as well as opti-


mum bearing life under specified loads, thereby contributing to the gear unit’s long, trouble-free working life.


Building the Perfect Gear Making such precise


components for devices that serve the fossil fuel and renewable energy sectors requires a com- bination of sophisticated hardware and soſtware. Te cornerstones of


ITAMCO’s gear manu- facturing facility are its gear grinders—giant machine tools for cutting the teeth of internal or external gears. Not only can these machines grind coarse pitch external gearing, but they can also grind internal helical gearing. ITAMCO uses this hardware in conjunction with Autodesk


This drive gear assembly is used in the hydraulic fracking process to extract oil and gas.


Product Design Suite, a comprehensive solution delivering 3D design, simulation, collaboration, and visualization tools to help companies complete their entire engineering process. Te Digital Prototyping capabilities of tools like Autodesk Inventor, which is part of Autodesk Product Design Suite, en- able ITAMCO to create digital models of the gears first, before anything is physically manufactured. Te result? ITAMCO is able to manufacture gears to


submicron tolerances. Tis precision is important because the more precisely manufactured a gear is, the better it will perform. A tighter tolerance and more accurate fit means less noise and vibration issues, which can cause other components to fail. Tink of a wind turbine with loose, vibrating gears. It probably wouldn’t be very long before one of the blades came loose and tumbled to the ground. Beyond producing less noise and vibration, a precisely


manufactured gear will last longer. It won’t prematurely fail, and it will be able to handle more torque, more reliably, during its lifetime—all critical aspects for the machinery that is devel- oped to serve the various sectors of the energy industry. Gears don’t generate the same level of excitement and


appreciation as, say, a shiny new smart phone with a built-in fingerprint scanner, but maybe they should. Tere’s hardly a person on the planet that doesn’t directly


or indirectly benefit from gears on a daily basis. Did you flip on a light switch or heat or cool your home today? Te energy might have been harvested by gear-heavy equipment like wind turbines or oil rigs. As long as the gears keep turning, the energy flows.


Energy Manufacturing 2014 71


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