Wittenstein AG walked away with the Hermes Award for innovation at the opening ceremony of the Hannover Messe trade fair. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, chairman of the awards jury and head of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), called the award the "Oscar for engineers." It wasn't for a sexy new robot or a solar breakthrough. Instead, the company won for a revolutionary -and counterintuitive - gearhead.
The high-performance gearhead, “Galaxie,” has independently movable gear teeth arranged so that all surfaces of each tooth are able to engage with the teeth of the fixed outer ring gear. This results in the Galaxie having force-transmitting surface contact more than six times greater than that of conventional gearheads. The teeth are driven by a combination of a polygon on the input shaft and, on the output side, a segmented antifriction bearing and a tooth carrier with segmented outer bearing ring. The meshing pattern is a logarithmic spiral. The gearhead also features network connectivity, a major theme at the fair with its focus on Industry 4.0 and a theme of "Integrated Industry - Join the Network."
"The Galaxie outperforms all other gearbox designs in terms of torque density, torsional stiffness, zero backlash and compact form," the fair noted. "It is also more energy-efficient and is suitable for a range of applications, including machine tools, robots, wind turbines and textile machinery.
“The Galaxie high-precision gearhead is an outstanding development and a prime example of Germany’s innovative drive,” said Dr. Johanna Wanka, the German federal minister for Education and Research. “Wittenstein AG has proved that with courage, creativity and determination a completely new kind of gearhead can be created. The company has also succeeded in embodying the future of industry – the networking of production and services – in its gearbox.”
Wahlster said this year's award demonstrates that "even in the digital age, springboard innovations are still possible, even when it comes to the basic fundamentals of motion in industrial drives."
Other companies nominated for the Hermes award were: ABB Automation, ContiTech, Next Kraftwerke and SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG.