A Brief History of Gears

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Gears are considered as one of the oldest piece of equipment known to mankind, so old in fact that their origin can be traced back to The Chinese South-Pointing Chariot in the 27th century B.C – a vehicle built on two wheels which bore a movable indicator that always pointed South no matter how the chariot turned. The chariot, allegedly designed by mechanical engineer Ma Jun, possessed rotating wheels that were mechanically geared to keep the indicator pointing in a southern direction without the use of magnets. The earliest description of gears was written in the 4th century B.C. by Aristotle. He wrote that the “direction of rotation is reversed when one gear wheel drives another gear wheel”. In the 3rd century B.C., various Greek Inventors used gears in water wheels and clocks, and sketches of various types of gears of around this time were found in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks later on. For a long period after these discoveries, there were no major development concerning wheels until the 17th century, when the first attempts to provide constant velocity ratios (conjugate profiles) was recorded and there was mention of the utilization of the involute curve. The 19th century saw the first use of form cutters and rotating cutters and in 1835 English inventor Whitworth patented the first gear hobbing process. Various other patents followed until 1897 when Herman Pfauter of Germany invented the first hobbing machine capable of cutting both spur and helical gears. Through the 20th century various types of machines developed. But, the next major step came in 1975 when the Pfauter Company in Germany introduced the first NC hobbing machine and in 1982 the Full 6 axis machine was introduced.