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Mechanical genius — Local inventor's eco-friendly transmission has 23 foreign patents pending

Published: Thursday, Feb. 9 2006 3:14 p.m. MST

Detail of the cams inside a bicycle transmission. The SRAM cycling company has signed an agreement with Infinity Transmissions.

Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

For many people their dream is to develop new ideas to improve the nation's quality of life, and an 82-year-old Salt Lake inventor said he has accomplished his dream.

Laird Gogins, founder of Infinity Transmissions, has been an inventor all his life. "I've been doing inventions since I was half the size of my shoes," Gogins said. He has always been interested in creating things.

"Inventing is a learning process — it's working in a world that provides solutions," Gogins said.

His lifetime goal was to create a transmission that runs smooth, is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. After 35 years of experimenting, he came up with a prototype that fulfilled those requirements.

"I built the ultimate transmission so I don't have to bother with it anymore," Gogins said.

His son, Scott Fechner, decided to help Gogins with his project four years ago after seeing his prototype.

Fechner had not been working for Gogins for about seven years when Gogins called and told him about the transmission. Fechner said he saw that Gogins had accomplished what he had been working on over the years through his prototype.

"He's one of the few people that I would actually use the word genius," Fechner said.

Gogins said the transmission will change the world because it would increase mileage in a car from 20 mpg to 30 mpg. "We wouldn't even need a teacup of oil from the Middle East," Gogins said.

Mark Greer, marketing director for Infinity Transmissions, has been working with Gogins for four years.

"We were both looking for a solution toward making a much more simple compact mechanical transmission," Greer said.

He said the transmission can go in bikes, cars, helicopters and anything that has a motor. "Even a blender could benefit from this," Greer said.

"The man's a creative genius — he sits and dreams and these things just come to him," Greer said. "He's intuitive."

Greer said it has been an adventure trying to make the message simple.

"I think the joy of seeing this mechanical magnitude come to life was exciting," Greer said. "It's kind of a warm and fuzzy feeling for me."

The transmission is starting in the industrial speed ranges, and they are optimistic that it will move into cars soon after that.

Currently, Gogins said there are 23 foreign patents pending on the transmission. Fechner added the U.S.-based cycling company SRAM signed an agreement with Infinity Transmissions stating that when the product hits the market SRAM gets first dibs.

"I can see a wave effect happening, but change always takes an initial investment," Fechner said. "The most difficult part is convincing people that it's worth the adventure."

Chris Russell, chief scientist on the project, has been working with Gogins on the transmission since 1976.

"He (Gogins) came up with the ideas of how to build the thing physically, and I had to figure out the shape to make it work — there were many crucial factors that played into it but Laird's ideas were the starting point," Russell said.

According to www.auto.howstuffworks.com/transmission.htm, a transmission's primary job is to allow a car's engine to operate in four or five different speeds. The driver then pushes on the gas pedal to provide different in-between speeds. Without a transmission, a car would be limited to one gear ratio, and that ratio would have to be selected to allow the car to travel at a desired speed.