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European Inventor Award

Getting into gear

Although the technical description of a reduction gear may send one's head proverbially spinning, in layman's terms, it's simply a gear that slows things down. Bartolomej Janek, the 52-year-old engineer, inventor, and co-founder of the Slovakian company SPINEA, revolutionised the way gears are made by designing a compact reduction gear that maximises a motor's torque at sustained speeds.

Bartolomej Janek

At a glance 

Inventor: Bartolomej Janek (SK)

Invention: Reduction gear systems

Sector: Machinery

Company: SPINEA

Janek, a pioneer of the robotics industry, discovered in 1999 a way to enhance the overall performance of reduction gears - gears that reduce the number of turns a motor makes - so that they achieve a constant, reduced speed while dramatically increasing the force of rotation (torque). These enhancements meant that Janek's new reduction gears achieved greater torque at sustained speeds and were considerably smaller than traditional gears with comparable force.

Janek believed there had to be a way to increase the durability and productivity of machines, particularly those with large-load capacities. His idea was that by concentrating the torque on the outside of the reduction gear, machines could be tougher, stronger and faster.

Beginning his work in the late 1980s, with spare time spent tinkering in his garage, Janek designed a number of prototypes to test his theory. In a final trial, Janek tested a cross-like mechanism that exerted increased force while concentrating torque outwards. The resulting gear was a "bearing reducer" more durable and stronger than those available from famous gear-producers such as Japan or Germany.

Janek's bearing reducers, marketed by SPINEA as "TwinSpin", combine a high-precision, high-torque gear reduction system with heavy-duty radial bearings that save space by providing more than twice the torque and stiffness capability than competitors' gearboxes of a similar size. TwinSpin bearing reducers are used for mechanical applications whose specifications need to meet the highest standards of modern mechanics. These include robot joints, automation equipment, military industrial applications, machine tools and more.

SPINEA, a private engineering company, was established in Eastern Slovakia in 1994 to produce Janek's gears, with commercial production beginning six years later. Today SPINEA produces 22 000 gears annually, 60 percent of which are used in robotics. In fact, virtually every major robot maker in Europe including KUKA, COMAU and ABB robotics uses the company's gears.

Janek's TwinSpin bearing reducers single-handedly revolutionised the way gears are made, bringing forth a new generation of power transmission systems.