When Boston Gear developed the 2000-Series helical-gear drive, the Charlotte, N.C.-based manufacturer of power-transmission products had one timeless principle in mind.
"The development and launch of the 2000 Series was an extension into the helical-gear-drive and gear-motor market of our belief that energy-efficient and prolonged-life products are in high demand and present the user with tangible value," says Mike Stegmann, product manager for Boston Gear.
Building on its experience making "some of the most efficient worm-gear drives on the market today," the company embarked on a two-year development process that explored "thousands of possible configurations."
"Boston Gear was careful and deliberate about how we proceeded throughout the project," Stegmann tells New Equipment Digest. "Along the way, we had cross-functional team involvement and employed lean principles to maximize productivity."
NED: Why did Boston Gear decide to market this product?
MS: Boston Gear already manufactures some of the most efficient worm-gear drives on the market today. The development and launch of the 2000 Series was an extension into the helical-gear drive and gear-motor market of our belief that energy-efficient and prolonged-life products are in high demand and present the user with tangible value.
A detailed voice-of-customer study preceding development uncovered gaps between customer needs/wants and the market offering.
The 2000-Series helical-inline and helical-bevel product offering integrates design features that drive enhanced performance, quick and easy installation, and prolonged product life at a cost-effective market price.
NED: How is this gear drive different from similar products?
MS: With decades of experience in gear and gear-drive analysis and design, our engineering team was able to maximize critical tooth-tooth contact surfaces to maximize torque throughput.
We also introduced two new features that are unique to the marketplace.
The first is the machining of mounting registers into the housing. By banking these reference surfaces up against the machined framework of the user's equipment, the installer will be able to quickly and accurately align their equipment with the center line of the output shaft.
The second is the incorporation of rare-earth magnets into the natural-oil churn of the gear train. Through normal operation of the gear drive, any metallic-wear debris is automatically removed, which prolongs the life of all gear and bearing elements.
NED: What problems did you encounter during the development process?
MS: Most of the challenges that we faced centered on the size and scope of the project. For this reason, we decided to divide the project into two sequential phases that focused on a helical-bevel and helical-inline design, respectively.
NED: How long did it take from conception to final production?
MS: The project included a total of 10 frame sizes with thousands of possible configurations. The full development process took over two years.
Boston Gear was careful and deliberate about how we proceeded throughout the project. Along the way, we had cross-functional team involvement and employed lean principles to maximize productivity.
NED: Did cost factors play a role in changing the final design of this product?
: Global supply chain management has been an area of strength for Boston Gear over the last 20 years. Several practices we have adopted over the years – such as value engineering with our vendors – have allowed us to drive cost out while still ensuring traditional Boston Gear Quality Standards (ISO 9001:2008) and meeting or exceeding market-availability expectations.
To this end, we worked together with our supply partners and our internal manufacturing production team to engineer out unnecessary cost and at the same time making sure not to sacrifice quality.
NED: Who do you consider your target audience to be and what benefits will they realize from using this product?
MS: One of the nice aspects of the 2000 Series is that it is suitable for use across industries and has thus become our general-industry helical product platform.
That being said, we have had particular success in the food and beverage market. Part of this is attributed to the lessons learned from prior NPD projects.
Strong demand for our revolutionary housing features – i.e. domed crown, rounded edges – and O-ring mounting interfaces drove the integration of these features into the 2000-Series design. The benefits of these features include superior 'cleanability' (better water runoff to prevent pooling and bacterial formation) and effective sealing.
The recent launch of a stainless-exterior model of the 2000-Series helical bevel has driven further customer value and demand by enhancing protection against aggressive washdown chemicals.
NED: Please add any other interesting sidelights.
: In addition, these products are designed as dimensional drop-in replacements for common European models, to provide North American customers with an alternative domestic manufacturing source.