What is a gear ?

gear or cogwheel is a rotating machine part having cut teeth, or in the case of a cogwheel, inserted teeth (called cogs), which mesh with another toothed part to transmit torque. Geared devices can change the speed, torque, and direction of a power source. Gears almost always produce a change in torque, creating a mechanical advantage, through their gear ratio, and thus may be considered a simple machine. The teeth on the two meshing gears all have the same shape.


Two or more meshing gears, working in a sequence, are called a gear train or a transmission. A gear can mesh with a linear toothed part, called a rack, producing translation instead of rotation.

A gear is a kind of machine element in which teeth are cut around cylindrical or cone shaped surfaces with equal spacing. By meshing a pair of these elements, they are used to transmit rotations and forces from the driving shaft to the driven shaft. Gears can be classified by shape as involute, cycloidal and trochoidal gears. Also, they can be classified by shaft positions as parallel shaft gears, intersecting shaft gears, and non-parallel and non-intersecting shaft gears. The history of gears is old and the use of gears already appears in ancient Greece in B.C. in the writing of Archimedes.

History Of Gears

Gears are considered as one of the oldest equipment known to mankind. The origin of gears goes down to the Chinese South-Pointing Chariot in the 27th Century B.C. This chariot was known to pointing to the south no matter how it was turned.

Aristotle has the credit to his name of giving the earliest description of gears in the 4th century B.C. According to his definition, the direction of rotation is reversed when one ear wheel drives another gear wheel. Gears have been used by the Greek Inventors in water wheels and clocks. The sketches of various types of gears of this time can be found in the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.

Even after these ground-breaking discoveries, no major development concerning wheels was made until the 17th Century. In this time, first attempts were made to provide constant velocity ratios. These attempts utilized the involute curves. This was just the beginning of something that changed the world for all the good reasons. However, in the 19th century, form cutters and rotating cutters were first used and it was then in 1835 when the English inventor Whitworth patented the first gear hobbing process.

Various other patents followed until 1897 when Herman Pfauter of Germany invented the first hobbing machine capable of cutting both spur and helical gears. Through the 20th century, various types of machines developed. But, the next major step came in 1975 when the Pfauter Company in Germany introduced the first NC hobbing machine and in 1982 the Full 6 axis machine was introduced.

Types Of Gears

Types of Gears

Spur Gear

Spur gears have straight teeth and are parallel to the axis of the wheel. Spur gears are the most common type of gears. The advantages of spur gears are their simplicity in design, economy of manufacture and maintenance, and absence of end thrust. They impose only radial loads on the bearings.

Spur gears are known as slow speed gears. If noise is not a serious design problem, spur gears can be used at almost any speed.

Helical Gear

Helical gears are used with parallel shafts similar to spur gears and are cylindrical gears with winding tooth lines. They have better teeth meshing than spur gears and have superior quietness and can transmit higher loads, making them suitable for high speed applications. When using helical gears, they create thrust force in the axial direction, necessitating the use of thrust bearings. Helical gears come with right hand and left hand twist requiring opposite hand gears for a meshing pair.

Herringbone Gear

A herringbone gear, a specific type of double helical gear, is a special type of gear that is a side to side (not face to face) combination of two helical gears of opposite hands. From the top, each helical groove of this gear looks like the letter V, and many together form a herringbone pattern (resembling the bones of a fish such as a herring). Unlike helical gears, herringbone gears do not produce an additional axial load.

Herringbone gears resemble two helical gears that have been placed side by side. They are often referred to as “double helicals”. In the double helical gears arrangement, the thrusts are counter-balanced. In such double helical gears there is no thrust loading on the bearings.

Bevel/Miter Gear

Intersecting but coplanar shafts connected by gears are called bevel gears. This arrangement is known as bevel gearing. Straight bevel gears can be used on shafts at any angle, but right angle is the most common. Bevel Gears have conical blanks. The teeth of straight bevel gears are tapered in both thickness and tooth height.

Straight bevel gears

Straight bevel gears have conical pitch surface and teeth are straight and tapering towards apex.

Spiral bevel gears

Spiral bevel gears have curved teeth at an angle allowing tooth contact to be gradual and smooth. In these Spiral Bevel gears, the teeth are oblique. Spiral Bevel gears are quieter and can take up more load as compared to straight bevel gears.

Zero bevel gears

Zero bevel gears are very similar to a bevel gear only exception is the teeth are curved: the ends of each tooth are coplanar with the axis, but the middle of each tooth is swept circumferentially around the gear. Zerol bevel gears can be thought of as spiral bevel gears, which also have curved teeth, but with a spiral angle of zero, so the ends of the teeth align with the axis.

Hypoid bevel gears

Hypoid bevel gears are similar to spiral bevel but the pitch surfaces are hyperbolic and not conical. Pinion can be offset above, or below,the gear centre, thus allowing larger pinion diameter, and longer life and smoother mesh, with additional ratios e.g., 6:1, 8:1, 10:1. In a limiting case of making the “bevel” surface parallel with the axis of rotation, this configuration resembles a worm drive. Hypoid gears were widely used in automobile rear axles.

Worm Gear

Worm gears are used to transmit power at 90° and where high reductions are required. The axes of worm gears shafts cross in space. The shafts of worm gears lie in parallel planes and may be skewed at any angle between zero and a right angle.In worm gears, one gear has screw threads. Due to this, worm gears are quiet, vibration free and give a smooth output.Worm gears and worm gear shafts are almost invariably at right angles.

Rack and Pinion

Pinion And Rack Gear

A rack is a toothed bar or rod that can be thought of as a sector gear with an infinitely large radius of curvature. Torque can be converted to linear force by meshing a rack with a pinion: the pinion turns; the rack moves in a straight line. Such a mechanism is used in automobiles to convert the rotation of the steering wheel into the left-to-right motion of the tie rod(s). Racks also feature in the theory of gear geometry, where, for instance, the tooth shape of an interchangeable set of gears may be specified for the rack (infinite radius), and the tooth shapes for gears of particular actual radii then derived from that. The rack and pinion gear type is employed in a rack railway

Internal & External Gear

An external gear is one with the teeth formed on the outer surface of a cylinder or cone. Conversely, an internal gear is one with the teeth formed on the inner surface of a cylinder or cone. For bevel gears, an internal gear is one with the pitch angle exceeding 90 degrees. Internal gears do not cause direction reversal.


Sprocket And Chain
Sprocket And Chain

A sprocket or sprocket-wheel is a profiled wheel with teeth, or cogs, that mesh with a chain, track or other perforated or indented material. The name ‘sprocket’ applies generally to any wheel upon which radial projections engage a chain passing over it. It is distinguished from a gear in that sprockets are never meshed together directly, and differs from a pulley in that sprockets have teeth and pulleys are smooth.

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