Posted in | News | Industrial Robotics

New Compact Gearbox for Industrial Robots, Lifting and Positioning Devices

A compact gearbox powered by smart sensor technology that enables twice the gear ratios of earlier gearboxes and powers new, smart services has been developed bu Philipp Eisele, a doctoral student at Graz University of Technology.

TU Graz PhD student Philipp Eisele with a plastic model (scale 1:1) and the prototype of “Smart Gear” placed in the test stand: Pre-series production is scheduled to start this year. © Frankl—TU Graz.

Philipp Eisele proposed the idea of a collaborative robot in 2019 as part of his master’s thesis at TU Graz. The collaborative robot is an industrial robot that works with humans. While being a doctoral student at TU Graz’s Institute of Production Engineering, he further developed the concept and eventually invented “Smart Gear.”

This is a novel, patented drive system that is now being implemented as a prototype and could prove to be a turning point in drive technology.

Lightweight with Smart Interior

Thanks to the use of pistons by Eisele for power transmission rather than revolving gear wheels, the novel gear principle enables transmission ratios twice as high as earlier coaxial gears.

Compared to conventional gear units, the patented system allows the transmission ratio to be doubled while increasing the transmitted torque.

Philipp Eisele, Doctoral Student, Graz University of Technology

The size and weight can be halved when compared to current gear units without any impact on the effect. The Smart Gear prototype is made of aluminum and steel. The structure is modular, implying that it is possible to mass-produce the individual components at a lower cost while covering an extensive range of products through different combinations.

In practice, this means drives will become smaller, lighter and cheaper,” stated Eisele, summing up the benefits. Smart Gear can be used with industrial robots, positioning equipment, and lifting devices.

Smart Gear’s main strength is the space available in the housing, which was achieved by removing the revolving gears, as Eisele notes: “We can use the empty space for intelligent sensor technology to enable completely new services.”

For instance, it is possible to connect the gear to cloud services or local company networks, enabling companies to track performance data and transmission status apart from the mechanical system. This enables them to efficiently handle production processes.

Worthwhile Payment Models

Moreover, the networking of the gear paves the way for new business models that can be used to bring down the acquisition costs.

Three types were named as examples:

As in pay-by-use models, only those hours during which the gear is used are charged for. In fact, the company only pays for the actual duration of use. The system also allows for predictable maintenance. This maximizes uptime and reduces costs for the company. In addition, the maximum power can be limited by software and can be unlocked as needed, allowing a power upgrade without having to replace the gearbox.

Philipp Eisele, Doctoral Student, Graz University of Technology

This business model enabled Smart Gear to win the 12th edition of the Start-Up Garage in 2019—a collaborative project between TU Graz and the University of Graz that trains students to turn founders of tomorrow—and gain investment.

System to be Further Developed with Business Partners

Pre-series production of Smart Gear is slated to begin this year; initial talks are already ongoing with robot manufacturers and companies from the manufacturing industry who intend to integrate Smart Gear into their products.

Eisele has already conceived a step ahead. He intends to make production much more efficient and cost-effective by using new materials and novel manufacturing processes.


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