Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Understanding Gears, Gear Metrology, & Gear Measurement

Have you ever driven a car? Ever used an elevator? What about watching the wing flaps move up and down while staring out the window on a boring flight from Detroit to Des Moines?

Whether you know it or not, these things all rely on gears to translate forces into rotational motion.

The list doesn’t stop there. 

That electric toothbrush... The one you used this morning...

Gears inside an electric toothbrush.
That has gears too.

So does the coffee grinder you used to make that fresh pot of joe. The automatic door you walked through at the gas station? And the gas pump you filled up with a few minutes later? Escalators. And even your microwave.

Yep, they all run with gears as well.

Almost all the electro-mechanical devices around us use gears to get the job done.  Gears literally drive our world. They are actually a fascinating topic to explore.

With so many different types of gears where do you start? 

Well, it’s research right? So, let’s start with the gear entry on Wikipedia.

Not bad for Wikipedia. There’s quite a bit of good, reliable info here and it shows how broad the topic of gears can be. Just from there you can see the many different shapes of gears and different applications.

One of the most practical aspects you see and use daily without thinking about it are the hundreds of gears at work in your car.

Check out this 1937 video produced by Chevrolet on the gearhead blog, Jalopnik:

It’s probably the best and simplest video ever made on how car differentials work.

With so many types of gears and gear applications, how do we keep things straight? 

How do gear makers ensure that the products they design, produce, and deliver are of the quality, consistency, and performance the application requires?

How do manufacturers, machine tool shops using gears in their process ensure the gears they buy will work for the application they need?


Like most modern manufacturing industries, the Gear Industry has their own standards organization called the American Gear Manufacturers Association.  Founded in 1916, AGMA is a member and market-driven organization that conducts programs and provides services to the gear industry and its customers.

AGMA does everything from technical training to the development of standards and practices for the industry. To learn more visit the American Gear Manufacturers Association.

What does this have to do with a Coordinated Measuring Machine manufacturer?

More than a decade ago we took the same principles of mechanical accuracy, precision, and quality that go into our CMMs and applied them to gear metrology in our Geartec systems.  Starting with the same solid base of granite, we manufacture a complete line of gear inspection machines for all types and sizes of gears.

Then a couple years ago we took another step by joining forces with gear hobbing, shaping, and grinding machine experts at Liebherr Gear Technology Inc., who became our exclusive U.S. and Canadian distributor of the entire Geartec line. Together, we’re dedicated to bringing gear manufacturers a new level of dimensional quality in every gear they make - from design and manufacture all the way through final inspection.

Our two companies provide machines, software, and expertise for all gears - from smallest in the home appliance market to larger gears for wind turbines and even mammoth 20 foot diameter gears.
You can learn about many of our machines by visiting the Geartec product page.

We also made a one-page reference that shows details of gear tooth geometry:

Think something looks complex? Look a little deeper

The environment we live in - the tools, technology, and products that make up our daily lives - are all made from layers that often go unnoticed and unappreciated. The supercomputer in your pocket, the gas in your tank, and even the food on your table - each of these has layer upon layer of technology behind it.

It’s a little overwhelming when you think about it - what really makes up the items that form the fabric of our daily lives?

Being an expert on all technology is not possible in the complex world we live in. But looking a little deeper sometimes makes things less complex and less overwhelming. When you do, you just might begin to understand and appreciate things like gears and all they do to drive our modern world.

For more information about gear measuring machines contact Andy Woodward at 248.295.4300 or email us

An Ideal Partner for Gear Manufacturers: Liebherr Gear Technology

Family-Owned. Independent. Trustworthy. 

Innovative. Customer-Focused.

It’s no coincidence that the same words used by Wenzel America and its customers to describe Wenzel America, are the same adjectives that come to mind when describing one of their most important industry partners, Liebherr Gear Technology, Inc.

Liebherr's future proof LGG 180 Gear Grinding Machine

Founded in Saline, Michigan in 1986, Liebherr Gear Technology is part of the Gear Cutting Technology Division of Liebherr Group producing gear cutting machines and automation systems for customers in the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

The Saline plant also overhauls machines and gear tooling facilities. In addition to production operations, all sales, project management, servicing, and spare parts supply for gear cutting machines as well as the automation systems division are housed there.

How one invention becomes a $10 Billion global company

Hans Liebherr: His principles shaped the
company and form its core values today.
Their parent company, Liebherr Group, is a family-owned global manufacturer founded in 1949, by Hans Liebherr in the southern German town of Kirchdorf.  The Group is comprised of 11 company units, each operating independently in diverse product areas.

Hans Liebherr began the business with the invention and manufacture of the first mobile tower crane in Europe and over its 65-year history has become one of the largest family-owned companies in the world employing almost 40,000 people with over 10 billion dollars in annual revenue.

Seeing a problem and solving it with innovation was a keynote of the fast growth and diversification of the company from the invention of that first crane, which quickly became indispensable in the rebuilding of post-war Germany.

The rapid success of Liebherr’s mobile tower crane was soon met with the need for large numbers of parts from suppliers -- including precision-manufactured gears.

These were hard to come by in early 1950s Germany and so Mr. Liebherr decided to manufacture his own gear grinding machines - Liebherr Gear Cutting Technology was born.

First American arm founded after two decades of growth across Europe 

After almost 20 years of growth across Europe and Asia Liebherr-America was founded in 1970 to sell and manufacture mining equipment.

A few years later the first Gear Technology operations began in Ann Arbor, moving to the current headquarters in Saline in the 1980s.

Today, the 230,000 square feet Saline facilities are home to Wenzel America’s exclusive gear machine sales partner, Liebherr Gear Technology, Inc./Liebherr Automation Systems Co. as well as Liebherr Components North America Co., Liebherr-Aerospace Saline, Inc.

Liebherr partners with Wenzel to build largest gear checker available

Wenzel’s history with Liebherr actually dates back to 2008 when their German crane manufacturing unit began searching for a gear-measuring machine that could measure the massive gears that drive their largest construction cranes.

After an extensive search and thorough vetting of the gear checking and measuring systems from all major metrology companies, Liebherr only found one company who could not only meet their own commitment of quality, but could also make the large-size gear measuring machine they needed. Wenzel designed and installed a custom a WGT dual-arm gear checker capable of measuring gears of nearly 20 feet in diameter at the Liebherr Werk Bieberach crane manufacturing facility.

Family-owned, German-born, global manufacturers team up in America

Then, in early 2013 a series of fortuitous events led to Wenzel America’s current synergistic partnership with Liebherr Gear Technology here in Michigan.

As Liebherr Gear Technology’s Vice President of Sales, Scott Yoder said, We’re gear manufacturing engineers. We know gears and we know nearly everybody in North America who makes gears. ”

“Partnering with Wenzel America means we can offer complete solutions for our customers - starting with their design plans to gear cutting, hobbing and shaping, on through to their automation systems and final gear inspection with the Wenzel Geartec gear measuring machines.”

At the Saline plant, in addition to making precision gear cutting machines and automation systems for customers in the USA, Canada and Mexico, Liebherr also do overhauls for machines and machine tooling facilities.

Like Wenzel America, Liebherr Gear Technology is dedicated to offering innovative, flexible and complete solutions to all their customers.

It’s this level of customer care and engineering expertise that makes them the perfect partner for the Wenzel Geartec machines.

“We’ve taken our expertise in precision metrology and applied the same proven engineering principles and air bearing granite frames to our gear measuring and gear checking machines. That’s our core competency,” noted Wenzel America’s President Andy Woodward

“Liebherr are expert in gears and gear machining.  Gear manufacturers are specialized technicians that speak their own language, partnering with Liebherr means we have industry-experts who can speak that language and service those customers. Better than any metrology company could on their own.”

Both Liebherr and Wenzel America have very dedicated engineers and technology specialists with core competencies in gear manufacturing and gear inspection respectively, creating an ideal partnership for both companies.  The end result is that Liebherr Gear Technology is also the ideal partner for any gear manufacturer or machining expert.

Liebherr’s gear expertise, perfect fit for Wenzel gear measuring machines

Renowned for their gear shaping, hobbing and cutting machines as well as automation, Liebherr has relationships with nearly anyone who makes gears in North America.

As the exclusive distributor of Wenzel Geartec measuring machines in the U.S. and Canada that means their level of expertise now extends into part inspection and gear checking. Offering a complete solution and the expertise of two precision engineering teams for all gear manufacturers.

Liebherr Gear Technology’s VP of Sales went on to explain, theirs is not the only division partnering with Wenzel, as they now have an agreement between the two companies in Brazil and soon elsewhere.

Liebherr’s construction division has also purchased more Wenzel Geartec equipment for plants in Mexico and other divisional partnerships and purchases are on the horizon.

“We’ve been very impressed with Wenzel. The WGT and LHG gear measuring machines are mechanically superior to everything else on the market. Wenzel America is a great company to work with,” Yoder enthusiastically concluded.

Wenzel America’s President, Andy Woodward echoed those sentiments when he said, “We fit together superbly. Two global, family-owned companies dedicated to precision engineering and manufacturing with roots in Germany.”

“We couldn’t have asked for a better company to represent our Geartec machines - they understand the complete needs of the gear industry, speak their language and are 100% customer focused.”

Using Big Data to Drive Manufacturing Sales

by Andy Woodward

How can USMTO Reports help drive sales and your bottom line?

The United States Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) data report is compiled monthly by the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT).

Who is Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT)?

If you attended or exhibited at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (aka IMTS - gotta love all these acronyms!), then you know AMT. They’re the folks that put that on every two years.

The Association’s stated purpose is to promote US-based manufacturing technology and its members—the companies who design, build, sell, and service that manufacturing technology.

Based in Virginia, AMT was founded in 1902 and specializes in providing targeted business assistance, extensive global support, and business intelligence systems and analysis to its members and industry as a whole. They communicate the importance of policies and programs that encourage research, innovation, and the development of educational initiatives to create future manufacturing technologists. 

What is the USMTO data report?

The United States Manufacturing Technology Orders data report is compiled by AMT on a monthly basis and is based on the totals of actual data reported by companies participating in the USMTO program (about 200 as of 2013).

The full data set is reported by eligible equipment builders and distributors and is provided to all participants in the program at no cost.

Why we use the USMTO data reports

AMT also release much of the most important data in the reports publicly on their website and in press releases for the whole industry. So, anyone can access most of the relevant right online.

We find it really helpful for Wenzel America to track our sales performance against industry measures like the USMTO data.

The reports are also an interesting measure of how well US manufacturing, as a whole, is performing and shows us geographically where the largest equipment buyers are located across the United States.

What the reports tell us

So, onto the data – the monthly totals are reported in millions of dollars.

The average orders received by the participant companies are about $409 million per month over the last 4 years.

Now, let’s look at the sales data in the last 4 years and see how that fits into the trends for the previous 15 years in the graph below. As we all remember recovery was in full swing in 2011, but since then we see a slow downward trend in equipment sales.

We can also see a seasonal variation and some notable spikes in over all machine orders.

If you look at the data even more closely, you can see pretty big spikes in September 2012 and September 2014 – Those were the months of the IMTS show in Chicago.

Maybe, the “reports of death of the trade show” have been a bit premature. Obviously, a lot of manufacturing equipment buyers wait for the show before committing to purchase and of course a lot of orders are set up to be taken at the show as well!

Representing that same data in quarters rather than months also shows us some interesting patterns:

Q3 in 2012 and 2014 are bolstered by IMTS numbers in the September as we saw in the previous graph, but apart from 2012 we always see a strong Q4.

Most manufacturers and manufacturing equipment buyers have budgets that end in December and it would seem that many either wait until the last minute to spend their budgets, or they may purchase ahead of need to burn budgets, so as not to lose them - kind of like the flex-spending health accounts that send everyone to get dental work or eyeglasses in December.

Q1 and Q2 seem to be the traditionally slower quarters.

How does $400,000,000 per month equipment sales compare to the last 15 years?

If you look at where we’re at right now, the current average of $409 million in monthly sales is pretty healthy even looking at 15-year trends. But, the effects the last two recessions had on technology and machine tools sales were pretty dramatic as you can see below:

A glance back to get some perspective and focus ahead on the future

At the trough of the recessions in 2003 and 2009, only $100 million worth of equipment were being purchased.

This obviously shows how deep and terrible the recessions were, not only for US manufacturers, but for the sellers of manufacturing equipment and machine tools as well.

We can also see that the ‘shape’ of the last two recessions was very different. According to our USMTO data the 2003 recession really started in 2001 and didn’t really end until 2005 or even 2006. It was, however, slower in and slower out. So, its effects were probably a little easier to handle than the deep, sharp recession of 2009.

Sales peaked in early 2008 at over 500 million a month and were over $450 until mid-2008 and then plunge down to $100 million in just two months! You could say that was “shock and awe” for the manufacturing and machine tool equipment builders and distributors.

US Manufacturing equipment and machine tool sales at all time highs

Looking at the over $400 million monthly average sales for US-based companies shows a pretty healthy situation, especially compared to just five years ago, but it gets even better when you realize the right side of the graph shows four years of steady growth in manufacturing equipment and machine tools and at a higher average than any time in this century, even before the recession! That’s good news for all of us.

What does the USMTO data show from geographical perspective?

USMTO breaks the US into 5 regions:

  • North East (NE)
  • South East (SE)
  • North Central East (NCE)
  • North Central West (NCW)
  • South Central (SC) 
  • West (W) as per the map here:

Some questions we can ask

Are Midwest factories, traditionally the industrial heartland of America,  buying more manufacturing equipment? Are newer factories in the Southeast buying more? Or the dot coms out West?

So much for “rust belt” states.

Call them what you want, but based on the NEW manufacturing equipment purchasing, a lot of Midwestern factories are looking pretty shiny and not rusty at all.

The last 32 monthly reports from USMTO, show that the Midwest (NCE and NCW) buys, on average, 44% of the nation’s manufacturing technology equipment with 26% from NCE’s five states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The share in the 5 regions hasn’t changed much, apart from a sharp decline in South Central in the last few months, presumably caused by the uncertainty surrounding the oil prices in Texas.

Our three biggest takeaways from USMTO data reports

  1. The last 4 years of manufacturing equipment sales growth show that US manufacturing is doing well and companies are investing in new technology and machine tools. 
  2. When we have a recession it is extremely painful for the manufacturing sector, but perhaps even more painful for producers and sellers of manufacturing technology and machine tools.
  3. Midwestern industry (particularly Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee) is still the largest consumer of machine tools and manufacturing technology.

Thanks to the AMT and USMTO for the use of their data.


  1. The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT)
  2. U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO)

Wenzel America - A Unique Open House from a Unique Company

Join us June 17th or 18th in Wixom, Michigan at the Wenzel America Headquarters

Are you Registered?
The world of Quality, Inspection, and Metrology is a broad one, with different meanings to almost everyone you talk to.

Calipers, air gages, laser mics and CMMs all fall under this description, each with their own strengths and weaknesses for any given task. When you add in the popular term 3D Scanning, it can be daunting to try and quantify how these different tools can be used to solve a particular measurement problem. Which is a bit ironic, since the whole point of a measurement tool is to quantify a particular thing and take the guesswork out of it.

On June 17th from 7am - 3pm and again on June 18th from 10am - 7pm we are hosting a unique Open House designed to put an end to this mystery of metrology and measurement.

We'll perform demonstrations of all our measuring equipment products and technologies in a groundbreaking event that will fully quantify the advantages and disadvantages of different measurement systems for certain applications.

Sure - Product Demos - that’s what everyone does at their open houses, right? What makes the Wenzel America Open House so unique… and did you say groundbreaking?

Yes, a Unique and Groundbreaking Open House

Pre-Register Now for a Chance to Win!
At this event we will pull back the curtain and take you inside the technologies by measuring the exact same part on each of our metrology systems.  You’ll get an impossible side-by-side comparison of completely different machines and technologies showing actual measurement results.  You will get to see the differences between tactile probing, 5-axis scanning, and non-contact measurement systems and the results each produces on the same part.

You’ll get to see in a single demonstration, how a laser scanner may be ideal for one set of part features, but not for others.

You’ll see the differences not only in the measurements, but also cycle time, so you can see the true impact these tools can have on your processes.

The metrology technology you’ll see you includes:

Touch-Trigger CMM
Tactile-Scanning CMM
5-Axis Scanning CMM
White Light Inspection
Laser Scanning
High Speed Scanning
CT Inspection

But each of those technologies is so different how can you have one part that lends itself to being compared by all those different measurement machines and systems?

No one makes a part like that... Do they? 

Technically, no, but we found someone who can, Fisher Unitech. Along with their nearly 20 years providing IT solutions to manufacturing, they’ve partnered with a leader in the 3D Printing market, Stratasys for the last 15 years. They are uniquely qualified to help us design our part.

We combined our knowledge of metrology applications and their experience with Solidworks CAD software, and Stratasys 3D Printers to design and manufacture this one-of-a-kind hybrid part. As a team we were able to conceive of a part that represents many of the challenges faced in manufacturing today - including how 3D printed parts can best be measured.

Which brings us to another unique aspect of our Open House - Any part that is going to be this challenging to measure, must be equally challenging to manufacture - unless you use 3D Printing. So, armed with a Stratasys 3D Printer and their decade and half of experience, we were able to easily make the part and quickly iterate the design to meet our needs.

Whether designing, manufacturing or inspecting, finding the right tools for your job can be a tough task. Our goal at this Open House is to give you the data and the insight you need to understand all the metrology technologies and measuring tools available, so you can make the best choice to support your products and processes. Manufacturing and Inspection and Quality are moving so fast, if you blink you might miss it. Our goal is to make sure you don’t.