Rick Miller's technical paper featured in Gear Technology Magazine

Indianapolis, Ind. - Innovative Drive Solutions LLC proudly shares that Rick Miller, president and sole member's technical paper was published by Gear Technology Magazine. Miller's technical paper, "Designing Very Strong Gear Teeth by Means of High Pressure Angles" was originally presented by him at the American Gear Manufacturers Association's 2016 Fall Technical Meeting and reprinted in the June 2017 issue of Gear Technology.

Photo by AGMA

Photo by AGMA

Miller presents a method of designing and specifying gear teeth with much higher bending and surface contact strength (reduced bending and surface contact stresses). His paper shows calculation procedures, mathematical solutions and the theoretical background equations to do this. Read here.

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.

Gear Solutions magazine Q&A with Rick Miller

I was honored when the editor of Gear Solutions magazine, the number-one B2B publication in the gear industry, selected Innovative Drive Solutions LLC - my design consultancy business - to profile in its November 2016 issue.  

"As an inventor, I am always discovering a solution to every problem to the benefit of my customers," as told to Gear Solutions.

Read the full interview online here or download it here.

Miller to present at fall technical meeting

I look forward to presenting my technical paper at the American Gear Manufacturers Association's Fall Technical Meeting on Oct. 3 in Pittsburgh. By sharing with my industry peers the latest methods and cutting-edge technologies, 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.

    Hot job: Mechanical engineers keep things working

    Recently the Indianapolis Star identified my career field as a "hot job" and asked me a few questions to help illustrate how mechanical engineers blend technical skills, science knowledge and creativity to improve and advance mechanics. 

    Indy Star hot jobs 1-8-16

    For as long as I can remember, I knew I was going to be an engineer. For others, their talent, training and intellect opens many professional doors one of which might be engineering. To learn more about the career I love and the hot job others seek, click here.

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


    The Sharing Economy: Boats, Beds and Burials at Sea

    Uber and Airbnb are examples of what has come to be known as the “Sharing Economy.” Uber doesn’t own a fleet of cars, but they operate a widely successful ride service using privately-owned cars driven by their owners. Airbnb does not own any hotels or bed and breakfasts; they use local hosts in 190+ countries who rent out their own rooms, apartments and homes. One source of their success is being able to quickly and efficiently connect those desiring their services with those able to provide these same services.

    During a trip to Long Beach, California recently, I marveled at Captain Jonnie Lee’s entrepreneurial spirit. At night, Lee offers renters the opportunity to sleep on his yacht for a fee. By day, he uses the same watercraft for his burial at sea service. As an ordained minister, Lee can also be hired to perform marriages while sailing on his vessel. He’s cleverly found additional sources of income that would not have been captured.

    Shared access to products or services is a not new concept.

    A favorite and frequent destination of mine is the Volo Auto Museum located in Volo, Illinois - a suburb of Chicago.  As a lover of classic and muscle cars, I’ve long known about and admired Volo’s unique business model. Nearly all cars displayed are done so on consignment – the cars are owned by prospective sellers hoping to attract interested buyers who visit the museum. Volo charges the car owners a storage fee; collects an entrance fee to tour the museum and look at cars owned by others, and when a consigned car is sold the museum collects a 10 percent auction fee.  

    In its favor, Volo’s business plan is based on getting others to bear/share many of the costs normally associated with owning and operating a traditional auto museum while capturing significant additional income in the process. It’s a brush stroke of business brilliance; shades of Tom Sawyer getting his friends to whitewash the fence for him.

    The rise of social media platforms, Internet and alternate sources of information has enabled many industries and individuals to reinvent themselves, many times by connecting prospective buyers and sellers.  Recently I heard of a company that empowers its employees to be original and “blow sh!t up” by pushing beyond limits and do things in bigger, better and different ways. Many, if not most old line industries, are and will be subject to some level of disruption and innovation. If they don’t embrace it, their competitors will or already has.

    The Dead tree media is another example. The newspaper industry is dying right before our eyes. Competition has arisen digitally online where the content is free and no subscription is required. As a result, traditional newspapers are either going digital themselves or ending publication.

    Friction is being eliminated in the marketplace because information is easy and instantly accessible and removes the need for gate keepers and third party sources. Information asymmetry, where one party has more or better information than the other, creating an imbalance of power in transactions, is also being eliminated for the same reasons.

    The on-demand or ‘gig’ economy provides labor flexibility. These ideas and others lead to what some are calling the “post ownership economy”.

    Today an author can publish his or her own book for almost no cost and as low of a print quantity of one. And there are many options to fund a project’s start-up costs through crowd funding and crowd sourcing.  So an inventor is able to create or manufacture a product or provide a service using other people’s money.

    Many items that used to require a large company to manufacture can be created with a 3D printer or other type of additive manufacturing device.

    The heavily vertically integrated company of the past is or should be experiencing the effects of these changes in the capabilities available in the marketplace at all stages of the process. Those that are smart and successful will take advantage of these opportunities as they arise and embrace new technologies and new ways of thinking and doing business.  

    As a consulting engineer, I’m often called in to help an organization navigate its future through engineered solutions. It takes a lot of creativity and staying abreast of novel ideas and new technologies which can be applied.

    You may not aspire to have a yacht for rent with a unique business plan, but no matter the size, every organization can and should evolve and improve their methods of providing and selling their goods and services. How are you and your company using new technologies and finding new ways of doing business?

    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.

    My mentor and me

    My mentor and I never discussed entering into a mentoring relationship. I never asked and he never offered. But years ago he saw something in me that he deemed valuable, that I was teachable and worthy of his efforts to impart in me lessons of immense value.

    He believed in me and showed it by giving me increasingly difficult design projects. He knew how and when to stretch me.  

    From his lead-by-example tutelage of me and by me doing the work, I grew personally and as a professional engineer. I anticipated that my mentor would teach me the technical side of the business and help me to be a better engineer which he did.  What I didn’t know then was how valuable the technical and non-technical intangible lessons learned would be and how often I would use them in the years that followed.  

    These are the things I learned from my mentor.

    • Create things that are as simple as possible. Anyone can design a complicated device, but it takes skill to reduce a concept to its most simplified and acceptable form.

    • Develop an ability to explain complicated technical concepts in a clear and concise manner. This is the mark of an intelligent person who thinks and communicates clearly verbally and in writing.

    • Less bureaucracy and red tape is better than more bureaucracy. Excessive bureaucracy enables and encourages incompetence and poor performance.

    • Stretch yourself. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Avoid doing things automatically the same way that they have always been done. Don’t copy or have “me-too” designs.

    • Be creative; be original.

    • Don’t limit yourself. Ultimately, you hold the keys to your own performance and success.

    • Find your niche in your organization. People become uniquely valuable, and in a supportive environment, shape their own jobs.

    • Look for and find ways to do things better, faster, more efficiently and less expensively.

    • The primary rule is “Do the right thing.” Don’t worry about lines of authority, even if it’s not your area of responsibility. In the end, very few additional rules are necessary.

    • Never say “That’s not my job.” If someone asks you for help, help them if you can. If you aren’t able to help them, find someone who can.

    • Always put the interest of the company first.

    • Act with honesty and integrity.

    • Try to achieve work/life balance.

    • Effort does not equal success; quality and effectiveness does. There are lots of busy failures in life. Don’t be one of them.

    • Don’t worry about organizational titles. Instead, pay attention to the informal lines of authority and getting results. Work with and value the people who best enable you to achieve your objectives, not those who are insincere or full of themselves.

    • Be reliable. Be a doer, not a talker. Be a person who gets things done and surround yourself with go-to people who also get results.

    • Never forget your employer’s ultimate purpose, the goals of the organization you are serving, and who your end customers are.

    Have you had a mentor or been a mentor?  If so, what lessons did you learn?  What advice did you offer?  

    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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