Q&A with Jack Nowlin

President, C-B Gear


What does C-B Gear specialize in?

We started business in 1952 as a job shop, doing mostly replacement gears, and we’ve been providing the industry with quality products and services at a competitive price since then. Over the years we’ve grown into a precision gear facility relying on customer satisfaction. We’ve developed into gear design—we design gearboxes and build gearboxes to other people’s design. C-B Gear and Machine has established itself in many markets of the “heavy-duty” gear industry. We can cut gears up to 20 ft. and grind gears up to 4 meters.

C-B Gear is a complete gearbox repair facility. We do bearing replacements to complete overhauls. We have the capability to manufacture gears when OEM parts are not available. We determine a cost-effective and high quality repair of your gearbox.

Tell our readers about your facilities.

We have about 100,000 square foot facilities all under one roof, 25-ton crane capacity, and more machine tools than you can count. With the latest technology and highest skilled employees in the industry, C-B Gear and Machine is able to meet high quality product standards. We have about 75 employees. We look mostly toward larger parts, in our open gearing. Our niche starts around a meter—anything over 40 inches is where we specialize. The gearboxes are mostly first-time manufacture of boxes, where the OEM either has a long delivery or no longer makes the part. The gearboxes that we design are high-speed gearboxes. One that we designed, together with a customer, has an input speed of 20,000 RPM and an output speed of about 500. We make close to 2,000 gearboxes every year.

We also do some redesign of existing gearboxes, where the customer is putting in a new ratio and designing a new gear set. C-B Gear does all the gearing and bearings to match the new horsepower. That’s a good business for us. We do well in breakdown and repairs also. We have parts for cooling tower gearboxes and we do a nice little business in that. We can turn a box around in one or two weeks.

C-B Gear services virtually every brand of gearbox. We do everything from a bearing replacement to a complete overhaul of a gearbox, and we service a wide variety of industries. We have complete machining and gear cutting capabilities.

If a gearbox is failing before the expected life, we can work to extend its life. We use information and examine the unit for items such as pitting, overload, misalignment, fatigue, and soft foot.

Things have changed quite a bit, I would think, over the past 60 years.

In the late 70s, we did a lot of work with other machine shops. During the 80s there was a big downturn. A lot of those guys went out of business. We still do work for other machine shops, but more for OEM’s and end users now.

We have a couple of gear programs. Our gear engineer runs all the calculations with most and a lot of the boxes that we’re upgrading. If they don’t already have hardened and ground gearing, it’s pretty simple for us. If they already have hardened and ground gearing, it’s a little more difficult depending on how much more horsepower they want to run through the box and how much more torque they want to run. Sometimes it might be the challenge of “How many teeth do we put on, and what pitch size and face width can we go to?” We consider things other than material and hardness.

Of course, a lot of times there is room for material and hardness upgrades. Then you have the challenge of the bearings also—making sure they’re able to handle the new loads they’re going to see.

Recent technology has allowed us to give our customers the full benefit of better gearing. Gear quality is increased on older gearboxes through the use of CNC form grinding, which improves gear contact by allowing for tooth form modification.

We have a quality program that follows all the ISO guidelines, and we’ve always got a project or two going through. Being in Houston, the oil field’s been good to us. Over the years, we’ve made equipment for different manufacturers in Houston and other places. Right now, probably 40 percent of the products we make are going outside the country, which is a nice change of pace: Instead of people bringing stuff into the country, we’re shipping stuff out.

What kind of equipment do you use?

Most of our gearing is hardened and ground. We have a Gleason 1.8 meter grinder. We have three 1.2-meter Niles grinders and we have a 4-meter Niles grinder. We have a stand-alone M&M gear checker and a Zeiss CMM and a Romer portable arm for checking gears.

Expertise is involved in this, but after numerous years, we feel like we have that expertise. We have a quality manager and we have five inspectors all working to make sure that what goes out the door is good. We check everything on the way in and the way out.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit cbgear.com or call (281) 449-0777.