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Program: Arrow Gear’s Complete Gearbox Capabilities

Part 4 - Arrow's Expertise in the Gearbox Market

Bob Wasilewski, Arrow Gear Design Engineering Manager
Arrow Gear has specialized in spiral bevel gearing since 1947. We consider ourselves, if not one of the best, the best company in the world for spiral bevel gears. That includes not only manufacture but all the way up to all the machine settings and finite element on spiral bevel gears. This is rather unique – only a few companies in the world ever offer that as a service. If you go for finite element, you’re usually going to the manufacturer of the machine tools that make spiral bevel gears or you’re going to a finite element house that’s going to reconstruct something at an extreme cost. Either way, that’s a very expensive proposition.

We’ve learned enough about tooth contact patterns to use finite element as a tool to refine it even more. That puts us a step ahead of any of our competitors. We’ve been manufacturing spiral bevel gears so long and have produced so many unique designs we feel we’ve probably done over 120,000 unique setups for spiral bevel gears. We can’t think of anyone else who’s done that.

Joe Arvin, Arrow Gear President
When most people say Arrow Gear, they think spiral bevel gears. They don’t think spur or helicals or splines, well obviously we make quantities of all three of the others, the spur, helicals and splines. Furthermore, they don’t think of Arrow Gear when it comes to gearboxes. What most people don’t know is that we had a division in Lincoln, Nebraska which was called Johnson Right Angle Gear Drive, A division of Arrow Gear. That company produced over 200,000 gearboxes. So we’re not neophytes is what I’m saying.

Most of our competitors don’t offer design. Arrow Gear has been offering design for many years. Our competitors just want to manufacture components to a blueprint, where we feel we have to help a customer, not only with the parts he’s already got designed, but with new components. So we have a strong background in helping our customers based on the experience we’ve seen, fitting into industry standards, we participate in industry standards and international committees on gear design and gearboxes, so we have a wide background both from our customers and from our own work.

What we’re seeing in the industry is companies are tending to be specialized and stick to an area of expertise. Many of our aircraft customers for example have pretty much gotten rid of their gearbox designers. They don’t want to have numerous departments. They want to keep to their core product – their turbine blades, the engines themselves. So that leaves a large void in their design capabilities. They want to go outside and find that service. We want to be that service.

Last year, Arrow Gear produced almost 15,000 jet engine gears – not complete gearboxes, but accessory drive and power take-off gears. Last year we produced a total of almost 26,000 aerospace gears – wingflap gears, gears for helicopters. Most gear companies in the United States that are not captive houses produce anywhere from 2,000 to maybe 7,000 gears. And so what I’m saying is we produced more than twice the number of gears for jet engines than any other gear company in the world. So obviously for us to grow and to become an even bigger loose gear manufacturer, in other words not making complete boxes but individual gears, probably would be possible, but for us to have any significant growth we should go more into complete gearboxes.

We want to sell gears and we want to put them into a component where we know the gears are going to perform satisfactorily. That’s difficult to do today for other companies. They can’t do everything. So the gearbox is a natural expansion of our abilities since we understand how gears have to operate – what their requirements are.

It’s been said by numerous people that the most complex and hardest item to manufacture as far as the length of time and the manufacturing operational steps are the gears. It’s not the housing, it’s not the bearings, it’s not the tubing, it’s not the shims, and the bolts, etc., but it’s the gears. And since that’s our expertise, one would say then it’s a national evolutionary step for Arrow Gear to become a prime player in complete gearboxes.