Speed Reducers: The Unsung Heroes

Speed Reducers: The Unsung Heroes

Speed reducers are the under-appreciated workhorse of many industrial machines or processes.  They live in the shadows, doing the dirty work motors either can’t do on their own, or aren’t made to do.  They take little from the system, unless of course you’re a pesky high ratio worm, and give all they can to the operation.  They are selfless, unwavering, and will only bite back if you or your application fails them. Sized right, they will run for decades.  

Ok enough of the hyperbole and cryptic metaphors, speed reducers are just metal boxes with a bunch of gears in them, hence the name gearbox.  But gearboxes, gearmotors, speed reducers, drives, or whatever else you call them in your part of the world, are more important to production than the regular Bo knows.  And while Bo knows baseball, Bo probably doesn’t know speed reducers. For those of us in the power transmission industry, gearboxes are the things dreams are made of.

Shifts in Reducer Technology

For the last few decades, gearing and gearboxes, have seen a shift in technology.  Manufacturing technologies are improving, tolerances are getting tighter, quality is becoming the norm, and units are getting more compact and more precise and torque dense. The days of simply replacing that old gearbox in the corner, are dwindling, in favor of more technologically advanced solutions.  Add to this the fact that many of the legacy units are becoming obsolete and harder to obtain, and we find ourselves in this weird spot where it’s often cheaper to upgrade than it is to keep what you have.

Replacing a Reducer

Don’t get me wrong, keeping what you have has its benefits, and in some cases it might be the only option.  We see it time and time again, where the design of the machine is such that it’s impossible to put something other than the exact model in there without significant investment.  Call it lack of foresight on the part of the manufacturer or genius sales and marketing strategy, but either way it can put an operation in a pinch. Many times it just seems easier to read off a serial number, get a quote for that exact same unit, and say “I’ll take one of those”.  But in some cases, that might end up costing you more money in the long run.

Take a typical chain driven conveyor application as an example.  In these applications, you might see an inline unit with a sprocket mounted to the output shaft of the reducer, which is in turn driving a chain connected to a pulley shaft.  This set up works, and often allows you to limit the failure mode to the chain, which can be less expensive than replacing a motor or gearbox. But this “set-up” is often less efficient, costs more in maintenance, and can sometimes pose safety hazards.  You see more and more customers opting to remove all the chains and sprockets, and mount a hollow bore, right angle unit directly to the pulley shaft. As long as you have a foot or two of space, installation or removal of a right angle hollow bore unit is typically a breeze.  That is if you’ve opted for a product with a more flexible mounting method and have followed the manufacturer’s suggested installation procedures.

Cylco Bevel Buddybox: A better alternative

Sumitomo Drive Technologies’’ Cyclo Bevel Buddybox™ (BBB), is just the type of product that makes it easier on the customer during installation and removal.  With the patented Taper Grip Bushing™, you don’t need a custom or even keyed shaft, and as long as the installation process is followed, removal is simple. Additionally, the Cyclo BBB isn’t made like other right angle gearboxes.  For one, the Cyclo technology accounts for a majority of the ratio. (If you don’t know about Cyclo, you’re missing out.) This means we can oversize one of the weakest points of a right angle gearbox;, the pinion gear. We have also chosen to use ductile iron as the casing material, instead of the boring and puny cast iron typically seen in other gearboxes.  All this translates to a tough, robust, and easy to mount gearbox that can hold up in the most demanding applications. That being said, we often aren’t the cheapest on the market, but hey, you probably won’t find a Ferrari for the price of a Kia either.