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Gearing: The Right Angle

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A Quick Nod to Oliver Saari, Godfather of Spiroid

For over 50 years now, the Spiroid family of gears have been serving a myriad of industries and applications. And while the pace of technological change has caused some technologies to fade away in the face of new innovation, Spiroid's right angle gearing has remained an important piece of the larger power transmission puzzle. In fact, one of the most exciting areas of innovation today - personal and professional robotics - has begun to recognize Spiroid as an important alternative to many of its most pressing mechanical needs. While a discussion on Spiroid's role in robotics will surely be a topic for another post, we'd like to use this post to remember the guy who gave life to this persevering gear form.

Oliver Saari was born in Helsinki, Finland on March 22, 1918.  In 1927, his family emigrated to the United States where, over a period of 8 years, they moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Rochester, Minnesota, and finally to Minneapolis. Between graduating from high school in 1936 and entering ITW’s workforce in 1945, Oliver Saari served in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), wrote and published several science fiction novels, learned tool and die making, studied mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, and served as a valued employee at General Motors, where he developed a keen interest in gears.

In 1945 Oliver joined ITW and by the early 1950’s, Oliver and ITW were well on their way to synergizing his interests in gears with ITW’s inventive culture, deep resources, and rich manufacturing history.  In 1954-55, the Spiroid family of gears were born – and initial patents granted. While Spiroid and Helicon remain Oliver's most successful innovations, he and his early teams were responsible for a host of others, as well. These ranged from innovative differential designs to Concurve and Endicon - both products that are still relevant and supported. 

Today, Oliver’s Spiroid family of gears are engineered and manufactured here, at ITW Heartland's Spiroid gearing facility. Spiroid gears and right angle actuators can currently be found in applications around the world ranging from naval weapons handling systems to nuclear power plants to commercial jet wing flap actuators to missile guidance systems to medical devices to commercial and military Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) and beyond.  

Perhap's Mr. Saari's best legacy of all, however, are a few of the folks he directly influenced and mentored. We at Spiroid are proud and fortunate to have a direct and ongoing friendship with a few of his earliest apprentices. Together, we current 'Spiroidians' and those important members of Spiroid's past, continue to reflect on Oliver Saari's life and accomplishments with a sense of appreciation, respect and admiration.