demand for gears and gear assemblies in the U.S. is forecast to increase 3.9
percent per year to $30.1 billion in 2013, with gains supported primarily by
rebounding levels of motor vehicle production.
"Gear manufacturers will also benefit from
value gains derived from product improvements and upgrades, such as
transmissions with higher numbers of speeds," says Brendan Eyre, an analyst for
The Freedonia Group Inc., the
Cleveland-based industry research firm that recently completed the study.
Eyre says that concerns over fuel efficiency
and the environment is reversing a longtime trend, and passenger cars are accounting
for a growing share of the U.S. production mix relative to light trucks, vans
"Larger vehicles generally utilize more gear
products both because they are larger and because they are more likely to be
four-wheel drive. A decline in their popularity will hold back sales to some
degree," he says.
In 2008 more than three-quarters of all gear
sales were motor-vehicle-related, despite unusually low levels of vehicle
production. Trends within the automotive industry will also support increased
sales of higher-value gear products, as transmissions will generally feature
more speeds, power accessories will require more gearmotors, and more cars will
feature four-wheel-drive systems, which require the use of differentials.
Transfer case sales will also be boosted by strong
growth in medium and heavy vehicle production. However, several emerging trends
in the motor vehicle industry will limit gear demand increases. Continuously
variable transmissions, which do not require gears, are rapidly gaining a
foothold in the automobile segment of the industry.
Increased sales opportunities will also
present themselves in the relatively small but rapidly expanding wind turbine
market, in which large, high-value gearboxes are required. Output in the
aerospace equipment and machinery industries is expected to advance modestly
from its level a decade earlier, which will restrain gear demand in those
markets to some degree.
Within the individual gear category, helical
and bevel gears will register the strongest gains. Helical gears will continue
to displace spur gears in a number of applications, while bevel gear
manufacturers will take advantage of high-value sales opportunities in the
"Both helical and bevel gear demand
will be boosted by recovering levels of machinery production and by the ongoing
displacement of spur gears in a number of applications," says Eyre.
Compared to spur gears, he says helical
gears typically operate more smoothly and quietly, are capable of transmitting
greater loads and are more durable. Demand for these products is limited by
their higher cost and the higher level of manufacturing precision required in making
Increases in bevel gear sales will be
supported by many of the same factors as helical gears. In addition,
manufacturers of these products will benefit from the growing popularity of
higher-value spiral bevel gears in a number of applications because of their quiet
operation and ability to transmit higher loads at greater speeds.
Original equipment manufacturing
applications, which accounted for nearly 70 percent of all gear sales in 2008,
will outpace aftermarket demand increases through 2013 as motor vehicle manufacturing
recovers. Aftermarket demand will be restrained by the greater durability of
many newer gear products, as well as by moderating growth in the US motor
U.S. GEAR DEMAND (million dollars)
Annual Growth Rate
SOURCE: The Freedonia Group Inc. The Freedonia
Group study shows that motor vehicle production is driving annual growth rate
for gears and gear assemblies, with modest increases in aerospace and
With a better understanding of materials’ response to load and temperature, researchers could potentially use the knowledge to improve design. The research could even help geologists studying plate tectonics.
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