The winds of change are blowing throughout Asia. Hungry for new sources of clean energy to power their fast-growing markets China, India, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines are all making enormous investments in their wind power capacity. Innovative gear manufacturers like Iwasa Tech Co., Ltd., of Tokyo, Japan, are reaping the rewards. The company has steadily risen higher on the strength of Asian wind power currents to become Japan’s leading manufacturer of the large internal gears used in wind turbine gearboxes. In fact, the company has a near 100-percent market share of the gears domestically produced for wind power.
Quickest Production, Highest Quality
Today’s wind power turbine gears must run with extraordinary reliability. Installations are often in inaccessible areas and operating in adverse conditions that make repair and maintenance both difficult and expensive. Increasingly important is the need for quiet-running wind turbines, particularly for wind towers in close proximity to populated areas. As a result quality requirements have never been more stringent, approaching those once required only by products like aircraft. At the same time the demand for these large, highly accurate gears has never been greater, with consumption doubling year to year in markets like China and India. (Figure 1)
Meeting all of these requirements can only be done by a relative handful of companies around the world. Iwasa Tech has managed to meet the insatiable Asian demand for gears of this type and maintain its market share dominance by investing not only in production capacity, but also in the ability to thoroughly inspect all the critical features on 100 percent of its product. This is no easy task, given that Iwasa Tech’s internal gears are 1.5M to 2.0M in diameter, Module 12 to 20, with 400 mm face widths and weigh upwards of 3 metric tons. In addition, Iwasa Tech produces close to 100 gears of this size every month. Fortunately, help has just arrived, in the form of a second Gleason 3000GMM analytical gear tester.
Iwasa Tech bought the world’s first production-ready 3000GMM in 2007. They liked it so much that they ordered another, which, according to company officials, they like even better because of a host of new features that improve measurement speeds and day-to-day performance. Iwasa Tech believes that, for the work they do, the Gleason 3000GMM is unmatched in every critical category, particularly speed, accuracy, and ease of operation.
It’s a super-rigid, column-type gear measurement machine with a solid granite base that provides considerably more stability for a 4 metric-ton gear than competitive models with cast-iron bases. Its Meehanite® cast iron slide assemblies provide vastly better damping characteristics than conventional cast-iron fabrications too. The design allows for the stability required for even the very long probe lengths used for measuring the 400 mm face widths. (Figure 2)
Like all the Gleason GMM Series, the 3000GMM is equipped with the Renishaw® SP80H probe—an advanced, 3-D scanning probe with the largest probe travel in the industry: +/- 2.5 mm in Y and Z and +/- 1.5 mm in X. This is critically important since it enables the GMM to inspect the complex and highly modified profiles that are common in today’s gear designs using just the extremely accurate probe travel, rather than less accurate machine axes.
It comes equipped with GAMA (Gleason Automated Measurement and Analysis) software to greatly improve the man/machine interface. It’s a true Windows VB.NET application, fully compatible with Iwasa Tech’s LAN network so inspection data can be easily transmitted across the network for refinements to parts processing. In addition, it’s particularly easy to learn and use, with a highly intuitive graphical user interface and a host of features including help menus, language translation, multiple security levels, and even online support.
These and other features make the 3000GMM highly versatile, as well. In addition to large internal gears, Iwasa Tech uses the inspection systems for external gears, worm gears, rotor gears, and even bevel gears across a very wide range of sizes and configurations. For those companies producing bevel gears with Gleason bevel gear cutting and grinding machines, it’s important to note that the GMM Series is fully compatible with Gleason G-AGE, CAGE, and GEMS bevel gear software, enabling inspection information from the GMM to be used to quickly optimize gear designs and modify part programs in a truly closed loop system. The time required to both develop new gear designs, and produce gears of the highest quality, can be greatly reduced as a result. Figure 3
GearTec’s Secret Weapon
On the other side of the world, in Willoughby, Ohio, GearTec is on a similar mission, according to company president John Grazia: use GMM technology to gain a competitive advantage, and gain more market share. GearTech is the large gear arm of United Stars Company specializing in the custom fabrication of heavy-duty, precise industrial gears up to 2.5 meters in diameter. Most are manufactured primarily for OEMs and users serving a wide range of industries and product applications including tunnel boring, mining, movable bridges, and offshore drilling. With plans to expand their customer base in the medium to large gear market, Grazia realized that his company’s one “Achilles Heel” was the increasingly important need to supply documented quality components to his new and existing customers. Until now GearTec was having documented inspections performed under contract by outside vendors—an expensive, time consuming and, according to Grazia, a logistical nightmare. (Figure 4)
“With order levels increasing and the demand for documented quality growing even through the 2009 business climate, we realized that investment in our own gear inspection system would actually reduce overall costs, improve logistics, and provide a tool to gain marketshare,” says Grazia. “We made the decision to move forward with the purchase of a Gleason 1500GMM (with 1.5 meter gear capacity), equipped with a full suite of software for the measurement of parallel axis gears, GD&T prismatic geometry software, and cutting tools software for hobs, shapers, and so on. (Figure 5)
“The learning curve was much faster than anyone anticipated,” he continues. “Quality staff and machine operators both quickly understood and began using the system to drive process improvements as well as quantify items like cutting tools to insure a quality product is shipped every time. With this investment, GearTec has steadily advanced its business and widened its customer base within the medium to large gear jobber market.”
GearTec is also pursuing ISO 9000 quality management system registration, a process that the company believes has been greatly augmented by the purchase as well, since qaulity data now flows seamlessly across the GearTec network. The use of GAMA also offers a graphical operator interface that not only assists in insuring the correct part number is selected, it also offers complete work instructions to the operator, and stores the completed analysis in digital (.pdf and .svg) formats for easy communications with customers. The actual discreet data can be recalled and re-analyzed under different parameters and or standards, with out having to physically re-inspect the gears. (Figure 6)
“Armed with the 1500GMM, we at GearTec are a better supplier choice to many of our customers that have a strong emphasis on quality and reliability,” Grazia concludes. “In the industries we serve, it’s all about reliability and commitment to exceeding customer expectations.”