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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) 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.
Laird Gogins says his transmission will increase mileage and help vehicles produce fewer emissions. It is designed for everything from cars to helicopters. (Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News) Laird Gogins says his transmission will increase mileage and help vehicles produce fewer emissions. It is designed for everything from cars to helicopters. (Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News)
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.
Laird Gogins, founder of Infinity Transmissions, displays a prototype of an improved transmission he has designed at his office in Salt Lake City. Gogins has spent decades fine-tuning his revolutionary invention, which has two identical cams and can be sized for any application. (Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News) Laird Gogins, founder of Infinity Transmissions, displays a prototype of an improved transmission he has designed at his office in Salt Lake City. Gogins has spent decades fine-tuning his revolutionary invention, which has two identical cams and can be sized for any application. (Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News)
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.
Detail of the cams. (Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News) Detail of the cams. (Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News)
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.
The transmission uses gears to make more effective use of the engine and keeps the engine operating at an appropriate speed. Today's four- and five-speed automatic transmissions need torque converters with coolant, radiators and hoses — all of which cause loss of power and efficiency. Gogins invented a transmission that needs none of those parts.
Gogins' transmission has two identical cams 180 degrees across from each other on the input shaft. The first pair of cams provides engine drive and the second pair of cams provides load drive. The first pair drives the output shaft and the second pair drives the engine for engine braking.
Output speeds are varied by moving a rack gear's power takeoff along cam-driven oscillating levers. When the PTO is at a pivot point, the output speed is zero and in principle, Fechner said, Gogins' transmission will have an infinite number of gear ratios.
Fechner added the transmission will lead to cleaner air and longer-lasting vehicles.
Gogins attended the University of Minnesota where he majored in physics. He taught countermeasures electronics in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Gogins has interests outside the scientific field. He has invested a lot of his time supporting the arts.
Gogins founded the Contemporary Gallery and School of Arts around 1980. The gallery had concerts and exhibits.
Fechner was raised by Gogins from the time he was 8 years old. Growing up with Gogins, he said he ended up with a very interesting perspective on life.
"I was raised looking at the world with much bigger eyeballs," Fechner said.
Fechner said along with being an inventor, Gogins studied philosophy and was an accomplished artist.
He said working with Gogins has given him the opportunity to make things better.
"He taught me how to trouble-shoot and be able to apply those skills in different areas of my life," Fechner said. "I'm not an inventor, I've just picked up a variety of skills by helping him."


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