The beautiful music called life

Many have compared life to an orchestra where everyone’s contribution is essential. To make beautiful music together, it’s important to find out what instrument you are best suited for, play it to the best of your ability, and don’t try play a musical instrument you simply are not good at.

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Be true to yourself. If you’re an oboe player, be an oboe player, but be the best one you can be. Don’t try to be a saxophone player as there are others who are better suited for it. Find out what instrument you are and play it – only it. We all were created to play a part and to play only our part.

For me, my contribution to the orchestra of life is to be an engineer, something I’ve known for a very long time.

When I was in junior high school, I loved to build plastic model kit cars. My grandmother recognized my bent for all things mechanical and encouraged my hobby by letting me keep the model cars at her house. My 20-plus model car collection resided safely on display in one of grandmother’s spare bedrooms. Had they been in my own bedroom across town, my older brother probably would have smashed them all with a hammer.

My grandmother saw something within me that I hadn’t yet recognized and she nurtured it. She knew I was not necessarily bound for a different career, but one as an engineer or in a related technical field. Perhaps I reminded her of her late husband, my grandfather, who was a mechanical engineer.

So, a lesson here is that even small acts of kindness, caring, generosity and encouragement can make a tremendous impact in a young person’s life. Fifty years later, I still remember hanging out with my model cars at grandma’s house and the significant impact her mentoring had on me.

Grandma knew I was not born to be an oboe player, but would be a darn good saxophone player, and eventually, an engineer.

Sometimes little things can help us to figure out what instrument we are in the orchestra of life, and it may and probably will take others to help us recognize this.

Once you find our niche - your instrument - resist those who say, you can’t do that, it will never work, or we tried that once before and it didn’t work.  People kill ideas if we let them. Don’t let anyone kill your dreams and ideas, and don’t be a dream or idea killer yourself.

Don’t break someone’s spirit, whether that person is an employee, a child, or anyone else. Everyone is an expert at something and you are good at something. Don’t put people in a box and put artificial limits on them.

So, find your part in the symphony orchestra of life. Find your instrument, what you are best suited for, learn to perform it to the best of your abilities and encourage this in others. Accept what your instrument is and don’t despair that you would rather it be something else. Embrace it whatever it is and know everyone’s contribution to the beautiful music of life is needed. This is what you were created for.

Rick Miller issued patent for invention of a dual rack output pinion drive

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Indianapolis, Indiana - Rick Miller announces the issuance to him by the U.S. Patent Office of a patent for a dual rack output pinion drive. 

Issued on December 27, 2016, patent No. 9,531,237 is an invention intended to be used for the lifting and lowering of the legs of off-shore oil rig platforms. This patent is Miller’s third and the second in the last 15 months.

This patent describes a device which enables a single motor to drive a gearbox with two outputs, each one of which is a spur gear pinion which then drives a rack. The invention allows for and helps assure torque and load sharing so that near equal torque is applied to each of the two output pinions.

Rick Miller is president of Innovative Drive Solutions, LLC, an Indianapolis-based mechanical engineering design consulting firm.

Miller has 40 years of experience in the gear industry, including 37 years with Oerlikon Fairfield Mfg. Co. in Lafayette, Indiana, the last 16 years as chief engineer. With more than 300 original designs, Miller helps clients in the United States and around the globe with his gear and gearbox design and analysis expertise, creativity and out-of-the-box problem solving abilities. Visit InnovativeDriveSolutions.com.

Giving back to the profession that has given me so much

Each year, the American Gear Manufacturers Association Fall Technical Meeting provides an outstanding opportunity to share ideas with others in the gear industry on design, analysis, manufacturing and application of gears, and gear drives and related products, as well as associated processes and procedures.

Photo provided by American Gear Manufacturers Association.

Photo provided by American Gear Manufacturers Association.

And last week in Pittsburgh, the founding location of AGMA, I was among the selected authors to present the results of their work to an audience of knowledgeable professionals from the United States and around the world and to participate in discussions with that audience.

 

It was a career highlight for me to contribute to the engineering profession as a whole, especially during AGMA’s Centennial Year (1916-2016), while enlightening my peers on a subject I know well.

My technical paper, Designing Very Strong Gear Teeth by Means of High Pressure Angles, illustrates a method of designing and specifying gear teeth with much higher bending and surface contact strength than that of conventional gear teeth. To obtain the abstract, go here.

Rick Miller issued latest patent for invention of a torque sharing drive and torque sharing process

Indianapolis, Indiana - Rick Miller announces the issuance to him by the U.S. Patent Office of a patent for a torque sharing drive and torque sharing process.

The patent is for invention No. 9,145,956 issued on September 29, 2015. Miller’s invention is intended to be used for the lifting and lowering of off-shore oil rig platforms.

The latest patent is the second of Miller’s inventions and a third patent is pending. The U.S. Patent Office issued Miller Patent No. 4549449 in 1985 for his original design of a gear reducer. This invention is a two-speed hydraulically shifted planetary speed reducer serving industries such as construction equipment, road building and general industrial.

Rick Miller is president and sole owner of Innovative Drive Solutions, LLC, and Indianapolis-based mechanical engineering design consulting firm. Miller has 40 years of experience in the gear industry, including 37 years with Oerlikon Fairfield Mfg. Co. in Lafayette, Indiana, the last 16 years as chief engineer. With more than 300 original designs, Miller helps clients in the United States and around the globe with his gear and gearbox design and analysis expertise, creativity and out-of-the-box problem solving abilities.

Miller earned a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering technology from Purdue University. He is a member of Society of Automotive Engineers International, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and vice-chairman of the Vehicle Gearing Committee of the American Gear Manufacturers Association.

Innovative Drive Solutions, LLC is proud member of the American Gear Manufacturers Association. To learn more, visit InnovativeDriveSolutions.com.

Advice I Would Give To My 15 Year Old Self

Consider the life of this younger Rick. As a teenager, I loved cars – really loved cars. I owned my first car at age 15 before I even had a driver’s license. I enjoyed anything that moved under its own power and especially if it went fast, hence, the go-cart.  I can still remember the thrill of having some g-forces against my back while driving my go-cart with the wind in my face and a feeling of utter freedom without a care in the world.

As much as I admired a good ride in its totality, I also enjoyed taking things apart and rebuilding them. One day I decided my go-cart needed to go faster, so I purloined the engine from my father’s lawn mower. The next time my dad went to mow the lawn, I heard “Hey, where’s my lawn mower engine?”

I had three siblings - two brothers and a sister, but he knew the answer to this mystery lied with me. I told him I needed it for something more important and re-purposed it, as we would say today. At the promise of returning said engine to my dad’s lawnmower, which I did, my co-cart and I rode fast that day while the grass grew a bit taller.   

* * *

So my advice to my 15 year old self would be as follows.

Your possibilities in life are endless and limited only by you and your imagination. Be flexible. Be true to yourself and your values and don’t compromise them.

Stay optimistic; don’t get discouraged. Be patient.

Life does not move in a straight line. Be prepared for the unexpected because it will happen often if not daily. Learn to embrace and be comfortable with change because change will be a constant in your life.

Set personal and professional goals and you will achieve them. Do know it may take more time than you thought and not be achieved in the exact way that you thought.

Be prepared to take notice and advantage of opportunities as they arise. Always believe in yourself and know that you are capable of much more than you think. Seek out opportunities that stretch you and where you can learn from others. Never stop learning and growing.

Just like when you were a teen, never stop being curious.

All of us have been given gifts and talents; things that we uniquely can do well. Use these gifts to the best of your ability. Don’t dissipate them or let them go to waste. As for a job, do what you love and are passionate about.

Have some fun in life and be funny. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Set up the processes, work habits and practices, work ethic and environment where success can flourish. Develop and keep a long term time perspective and timeline. Do not fall for the trap of instant gratification. Some choices in jobs and in life can pay off in the short term but not be best in the long run.

When I graduated from Purdue University in the recession year of 1975, I had two job offers; one from a large, multinational corporation, and one from a small 100-employee gear company. Upon my father’s advice and recommendation, and with much personal reflection, I took the job at the small gear company that paid a salary that was 23 percent less than the other offer. While working at the multinational company may have appeared best in the short term, and certainly paid more, the job I chose with the gear company was by far best in the long term. It formed the basis for what I am today and led to my current path.

Be a person of honesty and integrity and have “do the right thing” as your main philosophy.

Find a mentor and listen to and learn from him/her. Much of what you learn will be outside of your job, and many times outside of your chosen profession. Pay attention to these things as they will truly set you up for success. Then, pay it forward when you can by mentoring someone else.

* * *

Both of my grandfathers were mechanical engineers. One grandfather started a gear company in 1934 called Schafer Gear Works/Schafer Industries that is still in business today and is successful, and the other was Chief Engineer for the Stromberg carburetor/Bendix Fuel Control division of Bendix Corporation with responsibilities for hundreds of people.

Early in my career, I set goals for myself that were a combination of both of my grandfathers - to be successful in the gear industry, to rise to Chief Engineer, to be an inventor who obtains patents, and to  continue their legacy by excelling in a career in which they could be proud of me. As it happened, all of this came to fruition but neither grandfather lived to see it. 

Never in my young man’s dreams did I think my 3 HP teenager’s go-cart would be replaced by a 620 HP supercharged Corvette convertible as my favorite mode of transportation. 
 

I was of course aware of my grandfathers at age 15, but had only a vague sense of their powerful legacy, the examples they set and the depth and breadth of their professional achievements. Even so, the influence and impact that they would ultimately have on me was significant. As the grandson of two great engineers, what I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to either one of them today.

Did I know as a car-loving and go-cart driving 15 year old that I would carry on my grandfathers’ legacy? No, but I do know the engineering profession chose me as it did my grandfathers and for that, I’m thankful.    

Rick Miller is president / sole owner of Innovative Drive Solution LLC, an engineering consulting firm specializing in gears and power transmission devices.

Unleashing Creativity

Creativity doesn’t just happen. It’s a discipline. It’s intentional and when invited in, it’s a tool you can use to help solve simple and complex problems.  As a design engineer, I tap into my creative self on every project.  This includes gathering ideas, tools and methods needed to solve problems in an imaginative manner. 

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