Many shops shy away from manufacturing jobs involving parts that require some form of gear machining. They assume that such work is very complicated and requires specialized expertise and equipment, including individual machines dedicated to operations like gear skiving or hobbing. In reality, the highly capable, full-five-axis multi-tasking machines available now take the complexity out of gear machining and allow shops to produce the occasional gear (or gear) feature quickly and easily. Rather than refusing gear work or farming it out to a gear specialist, job shops can keep gear work in-house -- and also may use those machining capabilities to attract new customers.
Unlike dedicated, high-volume gear-cutting systems, multi-tasking machines offer flexibility for performing other part operations. For instance, shops can turn a part’s I.D. and O.D. as well as cut its other mating features all on the same machine that will mill, hob, or power-skive the part’s gear-tooth pattern. This improves overall part accuracy significantly because all the machined features run true to the gear teeth.
Also, the same multi-tasking machine that cuts a gear one day can machine completely different, non-geared components the next day.
However, not all multi-tasking machines possess the necessary gear-machining capabilities to generate truly high-quality precision gears. Specifically, they must have the high-resolution rotary-scale feedback required for precise synchronization of their milling and main spindles, which is especially critical for gear skiving. Machines also need through-coolant capability with proper flow and pressure. But, the most important tool for simplified gear machining is software.
To simplify gear production Mazak developed its Hybrid Auto Gear (AG) multi-tasking platform among its Integrex and Variaxis machine models. In addition to all the necessary machine capabilities, this platform combines Mazak’s Done In One® machining concept with specialized Smooth Gear user-friendly software that eliminates the complexities and challenges of gear machining on a multi-tasking system.
User-friendly interfaces and production-data input processes go a long way toward making gear production approachable for shops that may have avoided such projects. Mazak's Smooth Gear software for conversational input of project parameters on the company’s SmoothX CNC machine controls makes it easy for virtually any operator to handle gear-related projects. Integrex e-Series and i-Series machines, for instance, use Smooth Gear milling, hobbing, and skiving functions to machine parallel-axis O.D., I.D. and spline type gears.
These advanced gear-making applications with Smooth Gear software require no 3D models or CAD/CAM programming steps. Instead, operators simply enter workpiece parameters into a conversational dashboard interface, and the software creates the necessary machine instructions. Operators can then modify tooth profiles and leads, set up edge tapers and take advantage of Smooth Gear's sub-micron profiling capability.
Like gear milling, hobbing is a complex process that often forces shops to subcontract the work or rely on equipment that requires long sequences of tool and fixture preparation before any actual processing takes place. Creating these gears on a hobbing machine or on a multi-tasking machine with a hobbing cutter can take weeks. To avoid long setups and time-intensive preparations, Mazak Smooth Gear Milling lets shops use off-the-shelf milling tools to cut O.D. spur and helical gears from machine preparation all the way to delivery within three days or less, all without using CAD/CAM expertise or software.
Once gears are machined, shops need to check them, but most of these lack the ability to create gears, let alone check them. Add to this the problem that moving workpieces/gears among a number of machines and processes to produce them introduces the risk of error with each subsequent setup. On the Mazak Hybrid AG platform, these tasks become single-setup jobs, including measurement and deburring, thanks to Smooth Gear Check.
Mazak's optional Smooth Gear Check software/hardware integration uses a built-in probe to measure tooth profile, trace, and pitch, and to conduct phase detection in preparation for automated deburring or the use of additional machine features. Like the other Smooth Gear features, Smooth Gear Check uses conversational on-screen programming to set up scanning operations. With this optional combination of Hybrid AG hardware and software for gear measurement, shops can limit and even eliminate the need to move workpieces among a number of machines to measure and refine them, increasing production accuracy and efficiency.
With Done In One® capabilities, specialized software and refined hardware, Mazak Hybrid AG machines take the guesswork out of cutting gears. Shops that used to turn away from jobs involving some gear cutting can now make easy work of the task and expand the processing capabilities they offer customers.