Patented Gearing Technology

Palo Alto, CA—Ikona Gear International, Inc., headquartered in Coqutilam, British Columbia (Canada), has integrated its patented gear designs with high-temperature plastics to develop gears of plastic molded parts for engines and winches. Described in a recent analysis entitled, “Advances in High Temperature Resistant Plastics for Use in Motors & Gears,” the innovation was recognized by Frost & Sullivan as the winner of the 2005 Technology Innovation Award.

Ikona Gear received the award in July at Frost & Sullivan’s Excellence in Emerging Technologies Banquet, an annual event held in Boston to honor companies for pioneering the development and introduction of innovative technologies into their markets. The event recognizes the overall technical excellence of a company and its commitment towards technology innovation.

Ikona needed to design the tooth form in order for its gearing technology to qualify as a new invention. Because of a very high contact ratio and no tip interference, the Ikona gear teeth pair is reported to have zero backlash. Although most of Ikona’s earlier testing was done with standard stock metal, several partners—such as Aircast and Magna International—proposed the fashioning of gear assemblies from plastics. While most of this interest was driven by cost considerations, the Ikona gear profile is said to uniquely solve problems introduced by the characteristics of plastics.

“The Ikona gear design is more rigid, has a much higher contact ratio than standard planetary gear designs, and has lower friction as the gear rolls through its contact range rather than sliding with friction,” said Michael Valenti, research analyst for Frost & Sullivan. “This solves some of the problems with plastics being used in gearing.”

Ikona recently announced a development agreement to provide StarRotor Corporation, Houston, with its patented plsatic molded gear technology for third-generation StarRotor engines. According to the agreement, Ikona will incorporate its gear into the main drive mechanism of the StarRotor engine.

“This project will demonstrate the progression of technology from metal gears to high temperature plastic gears,” notes Valenti. “Ikona hopes to show that it provides a combination of the highest efficiency, compactness, strength, and the best sealing method of transferring energy from StarRotor’s engine into its main gear drive.”

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The Ikona applications will have to be further refined into a high-temperature plastic solution that can eliminate the need to introduce tolerances for metal expansion. Nevertheless, the company has already developed bold new gearing designs that will drive the use of high-temperature plastics.

This report includes information from wire reports.

Molds-free Fabrication Technology

White Bear Lake, MN—Design flexibility and shorter lead times are among the reported benefits of a “No Molds Required” (NMR) manufacturing technology that is enabling Envision Plastics & Design to fabricate custom plastic housings without using plastic tooling or molds. One of only a handful of companies that are currently employing NMR technology, Envision claims that its niche capability can save customers “thousands of dollars in tooling,” while shaving weeks or months from development time. The company uses common materials, such as ABS, polycarbonate, and high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), to fabricate custom enclosures and other plastic parts in quantities ranging from prototypes to short runs of up to 5,000 pieces. Other materials used include acrylics, PETG, and Kydex®, a high-performance thermoplastic sheet from Kleerdex Company.

“There comes a time in every part’s life cycle, whether at the beginning or the end, that a decision must be made on what manufacturing process to use,” says Doug Rosenthal, Envision’s vice president. “Sometimes, due to quantity, it makes sense to tool up right away. Other times, it makes more sense to use the NMR technology to set the first stage for the product’s life. This especially is the case for products that have not been thrown into the marketplace yet to test their viability or functionality. The NMR process can be of huge value when determining this important factor of a new product.”

The NMR technology permits design changes, ranging from simple product enhancements to complete makeovers, to be made throughout the entire life of a product. Production of parts requires a series of relatively simple steps, beginning with programming and progressing to CNC milling faceting/deburring, sawing, CNC bending, and solvent bonding. If necessary, parts can be silk screened or coated for EMI shielding. Envision can also incorporate gaskets or provide painting, miscellaneous hardware, and additional secondary assembly.

“NMR is a very unique technology, so the customer must be willing to consider another avenue of design to properly utilize the technology,” says Brian DuFresne, sales and marketing manager for Envision Plastics & Design.

Rosenthal says that the technology is suited to various markets, and has already established a presence in the thriving medical manufacturing community of the Twin Cities area. Orders from medical manufacturers for 25-50 parts per month are common, he says, because these quantities would not support the  injection molding cost. However, orders from customers in other industries sometimes total 400-500 parts per month. Besides the medical industry, Envision Plastics & Design serves manufacturers in the electrical/electronics, telecommunications, and computer peripherals industries. Additional markets include safety and security, traffic control, industrial controls, and point-of-purchase displays, according to the company.

Envision Plastics & Design is a spin-off of DuFresne Manufacturing, an ISO 9001:2000-certified sheet metal fabricator based in St. Paul, Minnesota.