Hypoidal ring and pinion gears are the most efficient way to transfer rotational power at right angles, from a vehicle’s engine to its wheels. These gears, having curved, angled teeth, were conceived over a century ago. In the 19th century, The Gleason Works invented a machine tool capable of cutting hypoidal gears, using complex mechanical linkages to rotate cutting tools and the gear being cut simultaneously. Hypoidal gears are still used today in the axles of rear- or four-wheel drive vehicles, connecting the drive shaft to the wheels through the axle. Such gears maintain maximum tooth contact, making the axle smaller, lighter, and more efficient.
Today, as sports utility vehicles and light trucks have increased the demand for hypoidal gears, Gleason has inventively applied basic physics, structural design, and electronics knowhow to producing hypoidal gear cutting machines with six independent computer numerically controlled (CNC) axes.
Gleason’s PACE award is for two new innovations. PowerDryCut™ re-engineers the cutting tools, using the latest materials to take advantage of faster CNC speeds. UMCUltima™ makes use of CNC to program a change in gear tooth geometry, resulting in the fabrication of much quieter gears. Combined, these innovations produce a hypoidal gear cutting system that requires less investment, less manufacturing space, and produces quieter axle gear sets at lower cost. Further, the new system eliminates the need for environmentally undesirable and costly cutting oils, and replaces a difficult-to-control lapping process with precision grinding.
Machine tool companies generally focus their research and development on machine tool products, not on enhancing the consumer’s experience with the vehicle. Gleason took the initiative to become the leading expert on automotive axle noise, vibration, and harshness, testing cars to understand axle noise and what their machines could to do about it. The result is the combined innovation of UMC Ultima™ for quiter gears and PowerDryCut™ for lower costs.