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gear making Business is booming, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple or easy


Automotive Gears and Their Opportunities and Challenges


Bruce Morey Conributing Editor


I


t’s a good time to be supplying the automotive powertrain sector,” said David Goodfellow, CEO of Star SU (Hoffman Estates, IL), refl ecting the impact of record setting vehicle sales in 2015. Gears are Star SU’s business. The company provides cutting tools, machine tools, and servicing for practically any industry needing gears. “About 50% of our business today is supplying the automotive powertrain sec- tor,” he said, not including off-highway customers. While business is good, it does not mean it is easy.


Samputensil SG160 Sky Grind features two spindles, one for skiving hobbing, the other for generating grinding. Generating grinding is becoming a common process for gears post heat treating. The grinding wheel as shown resembles a wormgear.


“The trends in the automotive sector are achieving higher performance and better fuel economy,” he explained. He has observed high horsepower engines in the 300- to 500-hp range mated to transmissions boasting up to 10 speeds. More speeds translate into better fuel economy by allowing the engine to operate at its most effi cient load point more of the time. There is also an increasing demand for all-wheel drive, which means more transfer cases with even more gears. Competitive pressures require all these gears to be quiet and robust over a long time. That puts pressure on machine tool makers to deliver machines that cut gears faster to an almost unbelievable tolerance level. A good example are automatic transmissions. These often use planetary gear sets, composed of a set of ring, sun, and pinion gears. “We’re producing some of these pinion gears in four or fi ve seconds today,” he said. “Ten years ago, they were being produced in a minute or two.” That translates into obvious savings for the customer, requiring fewer machines. Faster cutting means a much more rigid machine tool combined with effi cient automation and associated gaging. “Robust, noise-free gears mean


53 — Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing 2016


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