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A Monumental Gear Reversal

If you ever interview with Industrial Kiln & Dryer Group, you’ll likely be told during the interview, by multiple IKD employees, that one of the exciting things about working here is the chance to encounter new challenges each day. It’s true. Every customer’s equipment and process is unique and every day we set out to solve problems through sound engineering principles and detailed, caring customer service.

Recently, we created a custom solution for a customer involving a gear flip, also commonly referred to as a gear reversal. A traditional gear flip involves removing the gear, “flipping,” it on its vertical axis and thus presenting the teeth of the less worn side of the gear to the pinion. This customer kept their gear well maintained and had gotten approximately 20 years of operation out of one side of the gear. After a gear reversal, with proper maintenance, our customer is hopeful to receive another 15-20 years out of the current gear before needing a replacement, giving them an excellent return on investment.

This gear reversal was no ordinary endeavor though. Our customer, the owner of a stainless-steel steam tube dryer, did not wish to remove the existing brackets adhered to the drum. Removing the brackets would be standard practice in almost all other similar situations; however, removal of the brackets would have introduced the risk of contamination to the shell by potential carbon exposure and/or possible damage to the stainless-steel. This was clearly an undesirable scenario, so the request was made that the brackets not be removed from the shell.  While this made the job more complicated, it also created for our engineers, project manager and crew the chance to take on an exciting and uncommon project. In addition to the bracket situation, this particular gear was 3 pieces, where most gears come in an even number of segments and had to be moved in and out of the building through the floor above it, another differentiator on this job.

Being obligated to use the existing bracket attached to the shell, successful completion of the job was realized, through utilization of templates and a long series of audits every step of the way. Here’s a general overview of how the job progressed:

  • Runouts taken
  • Old lugs used to mark cut lines and make cuts
  • Reviewed marks to make sure holes for lugs were in correct spot
  • Used templates to double check before cutting
  • Used three different provided templates, that our crew then modified, to make cuts and bevels
  • Used plasma cutter for making cuts
  • Prepped lugs
  • While prepping lugs, gear was sent to machine shop to have holes rebored (they had become elongated through use over the years)
  • Once gear was back from machine shop, the lugs were prepped and ready to go
  • New lug brackets were put on the gear
  • Gear was installed with temp adjustment software
  • Runouts taken
  • Adjustments made, gear aligned
  • Tack welded mounting brackets onto gear lugs
  • Runouts taken
  • Began welding procedure. This was a custom weld procedure developed by us for this job. It included test and quality measures as we progressed through the job.
  • Welded root passes on alternate sides of lugs, 90 degrees apart from each other
  • All root passes PT tested
  • Fill passes begun, alternated to maintain gear alignment.  (Prevent heat distortion from welding.)
  • Final cover passes PT tested
  • Shoulder bolts torqued and checked for any gaps, then shimmed accordingly
  • Runouts taken
  • Final torqued bolts
  • Runouts taken
  • Aligned pinion with the girth gear
  • Double checked contact of gear with “bluing”
  • Test ran unit and took runouts


It’s important to note that this job was a true partnership with our customer. Each step that we took in this process was documented, reviewed by the customer and approved before we moved on to the next step. Rich Roland, Project Manager, said that the job was not without complications as is expected with a job like this. However, the crew was able to work through these issues with relative ease and timeliness with the help of our in-office support staff who quickly was able to drop ship extra supplies when needed. Rich remarked that the performance of the crew was truly excellent. “Each step of the way, we all had a plan. We knew the plan and we executed it, working as a team. A well put together plan paired with teamwork made the project come together really well,” Rich said. Rich also explained that after completion of the welding portion of the job, it was found that tolerance expectations were exceeded. Rich was proud of his team for the dedication to accuracy and providing the customer with the best possible solution.

Julia Springer, Key Account Specialist for the job, said that Rich and crew worked very well with our customer that is both fastidious and knowledgeable. “There were a lot of moving parts with this job, and other non-rotary equipment specialist contractors involved in the success of this job. Rich and team communicated extremely well with me and all parties involved. I believe this was a huge part of making this project such a rewarding experience for both the customer and IKD,” Julia remarked.

Ultimately, because of rigorous planning between the IKD team and the customer, the hard work of the crew guided by Rich’s deep project managerial experience, this job was completed not only satisfactorily, but also two days ahead of schedule. We are grateful to have this monumental project under our belt and to carry the learning experience into future endeavors.

Do you have a unique problem requiring an innovative solution? Reach out to us, we’d love to partner with you and guide you down a path to creating the most optimal outcome!

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