Making Gears for 100 Years, Continuously

July 24, 2012
A U.S. pioneer in worm gear manufacturing is celebrating 100 years of continuous production of gearing technologies during 2012.

A U.S. pioneer in worm gear manufacturing is celebrating 100 years of continuous production of gearing technologies during 2012. In 1912, Cleveland Gear was founded as Cleveland Worm & Gear by F.M. Gregg, C.J. Fitzpatrick, and David Fitzpatrick, the latter having brought from England his knowledge of worm gear design and production technology.

"Few companies get to experience a "Centennial Celebration" with the same name and in the same location,” noted Cleveland Gear president Dana Lynch, who noted that the average tenure of large American enterprises is less than 50 years. "When we think of the long list of big corporate failures in the last decade alone it makes us proud that Cleveland Gear is enjoying record sales and prosperity, celebrating its 100th year of operation."

In its first year of operation, Cleveland Worm & Gear’s 20 workers produced 2,000 gear sets. In just six years, the company reportedly employed 300 individuals and produced 80,000 worm gear sets for automotive applications. It also introduced the first standard worm gear speed reducers, earning recognition by the American Gear Manufacturers Assn., which established the Cleveland gear design as industry’s standard.

In 1920, David Fitzpatrick earned U.S. patents for material design concepts and production tooling and machinery that remain relevant today.

The company is still developing and introducing worm gearing and enclosed drive designs. Throughout its history, its innovations have included:

  • The first worm gear speed reducer designed specifically to handle high over-hung loads;
  • The first box-type housing, which increased heat dissipation during operation;
  • The CU unit, designed specifically to drive induced-draft cooling tower fans;
  • The Speedaire® line of fan-cooled worm gear speed reducers that established a new standard for worm gear performance by increasing the unit's thermal horsepower capacity while reducing its overall size;
  • The Cleveland "M" series Modular speed reducers, expanding Cleveland Gear's product range down to 1.33 in. CD; and
  • The Cleveland custom parallel shaft reducers.

Over the course of the century Cleveland Gear continued manufacturing at its E. 80th Street plant through two acquisitions: In 1959, it was acquired by Eaton Axle & Spring (no Eaton Corp.). The company was then known as the Industrial Drives Division of Eaton Axle & Spring until its acquisition in 1980 by Vesper Corporation, now called The Industrial Manufacturing Co.

Today, Cleveland Gear Co. manufactures worm gearing, speed reducers, standard and custom drives, and speed variators for a variety of industries, including construction equipment, steel production and processing, and oil and gas exploration and production. It maintains an inventory of more than 10,000 hobs and master worms, and it is able to duplicate accurately “virtually every worm and gear manufactured by Cleveland Gear over the past 100 years.”

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)