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Worm Gear: What Are Worm Gear Used For? and Machining Method

Worm gears are crucial components in various mechanical systems due to their unique design and functionality. These gears consist of a worm (a screw-like gear) meshing with a worm wheel (a gear resembling a standard spur gear). This configuration enables worm gears to transmit motion and power between shafts at right angles efficiently.

In this article, we will explore the applications of worm gears and the manufacturing process involved in their production.

Worm Gear: A Brief Overview

schematic diagram of worm gear
schematic diagram of worm gear

A worm gear is a type of mechanical gear system that consists of a cylindrical screw-like gear called a worm and a toothed wheel called a worm wheel or worm gear. The worm gear meshes with the teeth of the worm, transmitting motion and power between non-intersecting, perpendicular shafts. This gearing system offers several advantages, including high gear reduction ratios, compact design, and the ability to transmit motion in a single direction.

The main components of a worm gear include:

  1. Worm: The worm is a cylindrical gear with a helical thread that resembles a screw. It is usually mounted on a shaft and rotates to drive the worm wheel. The angle of the helix determines the gear ratio and efficiency of the worm gear system.
  2. Worm Wheel: The worm wheel, also known as the worm gear, is a toothed wheel that meshes with the worm. It typically has a larger diameter than the worm and rotates perpendicular to the worm shaft. The teeth of the worm wheel transmit motion and power to the output shaft.

Worm gears are typically manufactured using materials such as steel, bronze, or cast iron, and undergo processes such as machining, heat treatment, and finishing to achieve the desired mechanical properties and dimensional accuracy. CNC machining techniques are often employed to ensure precise tooth profiles and smooth meshing between the worm and worm wheel.

The Working Principle of Worm Gear

working principle of worm gear illustration
Working principle diagram of worm gear

The working principle of a worm gear drive involves two shafts intersecting each other and being perpendicular to each other; the worm can be seen as a helix with one tooth (single start) or several teeth (multi-start) along the cylindrical body. The worm wheel acts like an inclined gear, but its teeth are enveloped by the worm. When engaged, the worm rotates, driving the worm wheel to rotate by one tooth or several teeth. Therefore, the speed ratio ( i ) of the worm gear drive is given by the number of starts of the worm divided by the number of teeth on the worm wheel.

Worm gears can achieve precise and small rotations, making them commonly used for indexing applications. When the helix angle of the worm is less than 3-6 degrees, the worm gear drive is self-locking.

What Are Worm Gear Used For?

What Are Worm Gear Used For

Worm gears are utilized in a wide range of applications across various industries due to their unique characteristics and advantages. Some common uses of worm gears include:

  1. Automotive Steering Systems: Worm gears are commonly found in automotive steering systems, where they provide precise and efficient motion transmission. The self-locking feature of worm gears ensures stable steering and prevents the vehicle from drifting when parked.
  2. Industrial Machinery: Worm gears are extensively used in industrial machinery such as conveyor systems, packaging equipment, and printing presses. Their ability to provide high gear reduction ratios makes them suitable for applications requiring slow and controlled movement, such as material handling and process automation.
  3. Construction Equipment: Worm gears are integral components in construction equipment such as cranes, excavators, and lifting mechanisms. Their compact design and high torque capacity make them ideal for heavy-duty applications requiring precise control and positioning.
  4. Robotics and Automation: Worm gears play a vital role in robotics and automation systems, where they are used for precise motion control and positioning. They are commonly employed in robotic arms, gantry systems, and CNC machines to achieve accurate movement and operation.
  5. Aerospace and Defense: Worm gears find applications in aerospace and defense systems, including aircraft actuators, missile guidance systems, and radar antennas. Their reliability and ability to operate in harsh environments make them suitable for critical applications in the aerospace and defense industries.
  6. Medical Equipment: Worm gears are used in various medical equipment such as surgical robots, diagnostic machines, and patient positioning systems. Their smooth and precise motion transmission capabilities make them ideal for applications requiring accurate positioning and control in medical environments.

Worm gears are versatile mechanical components that offer unique advantages in terms of gear reduction.

What Are The Machining Method for Worm Gear?

The machining methods for manufacturing worm gears typically involve precision processes to ensure accurate tooth profiles and smooth meshing between the worm and worm wheel. Some common machining methods used for worm gears include:


Hobbing is a machining process used to cut gear teeth using a hob, which is a cylindrical cutting tool with helical teeth. In worm gear manufacturing, hobbing machines are equipped with a hob that is specially designed to produce the helical profile of the worm gear teeth. The hob is fed axially into the workpiece to cut the teeth progressively, ensuring precise tooth geometry and spacing.

How to Make a Worm Gear (Hobbing Process)


Milling is another common machining method used for worm gear production, particularly for small batch or custom-made gears. In milling, a rotary cutter with multiple teeth removes material from the workpiece to create the desired tooth profile. Worm gears can be milled using specialized milling cutters or fly cutters to achieve accurate tooth profiles and dimensions.

CNC milling machining picture
CNC milling machining picture


Grinding is a precision machining process used to achieve tight tolerances and surface finishes in gear manufacturing. In worm gear production, grinding is often employed to improve the surface finish and accuracy of the gear teeth. Gear grinding machines use abrasive grinding wheels to remove material from the workpiece, resulting in precise tooth profiles and minimal surface roughness.

4.Thread Grinding

Since worm gears have a helical tooth profile similar to a screw thread, thread grinding can be used to produce accurate worm gears with high precision. Thread grinding machines use specialized grinding wheels to create the helical profile of the worm gear teeth, ensuring tight tolerances and smooth meshing between the worm and worm wheel.

5.CNC Machining

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is widely used in worm gear manufacturing for its versatility and ability to produce complex geometries with high accuracy. CNC milling, turning, and grinding machines equipped with specialized tooling and software can be used to produce worm gears with precise tooth profiles and dimensions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Worm Gear

The advantages of worm gear transmission mainly include the following aspects:

  1. Compact Structure: Worm gear transmission devices have a small volume and compact structure, making them suitable for applications where space is limited.
  2. High Gear Ratio: Worm gear transmission can achieve a large gear ratio, meeting the needs of some applications requiring reduced speed and increased torque transmission.
  3. Smooth Transmission: Worm gear transmission belongs to multi-tooth meshing transmission, resulting in smooth transmission and low noise, suitable for applications requiring high precision and stable transmission.
  4. Self-locking: When the lead angle of the worm is smaller than the equivalent friction angle between the meshing teeth, worm gear transmission exhibits self-locking characteristics, meaning that the worm can only drive the worm wheel and not vice versa. This feature makes worm gear transmission applicable in situations requiring one-way transmission, such as self-locking worm mechanisms in lifting machinery.

However, worm gear transmission also has some disadvantages:

  1. Low Transmission Efficiency: Due to the significant meshing friction, worm gear transmission typically has lower efficiency compared to gear transmission.
  2. High Heat Generation: The low transmission efficiency leads to the generation of significant heat during power transmission, necessitating appropriate heat dissipation measures.
  3. Severe Wear: The relative sliding speed between the meshing teeth in worm gear transmission is high, leading to significant tooth surface wear and requiring regular maintenance and replacement.
  4. Large Axial Force: Worms generate significant axial forces during transmission, necessitating appropriate support and fixation measures.

In practical applications, it is necessary to choose the appropriate transmission method based on specific usage scenarios and requirements.

How to Improve the Transmission Efficiency of Worm Gears?

How to Improve the Transmission Efficiency of Worm Gears

Improving the transmission efficiency of worm gear can be considered from the following aspects:

1.Selecting High-Quality Materials: Choose materials with excellent mechanical properties and wear resistance, such as high-strength alloy steel, stainless steel, or special alloys, to enhance the strength and wear resistance of the worm gear. These materials can maintain good stability and durability under high loads and high-speed operation, thereby improving transmission efficiency.

Materials Guide

2.Optimizing Lubrication Methods: Implement effective lubrication management to ensure that the worm gear transmission device operates under appropriate lubrication conditions. Use high-quality lubricating oil or grease to reduce friction coefficient and wear, and reduce energy loss. At the same time, regularly check and replace lubricating oil to maintain the cleanliness and effectiveness of the lubrication system.

3.Reducing Friction Loss: By minimizing friction loss between the worm gear, transmission efficiency can be improved. For example, optimizing the tooth profile design of the worm gear, reducing tooth surface roughness, and selecting materials with good friction properties can help reduce adhesive wear and friction loss.

4.Enhancing Manufacturing Precision: Improving the manufacturing precision of the worm gear, and reducing tooth surface errors and assembly clearances, can decrease energy loss caused by poor meshing and thereby enhance transmission efficiency.

5.Optimizing Transmission Parameters: Selecting appropriate parameters such as the number of starts, lead angle, and helix angle of the worm according to actual usage requirements can reduce the equivalent friction angle and improve transmission efficiency.

6.Advanced Manufacturing Processes: Utilizing advanced manufacturing processes such as CNC machining and laser quenching can enhance the machining precision and surface quality of the worm gear, further improving transmission efficiency.

By optimizing design and manufacturing processes, as well as implementing appropriate maintenance measures, the transmission efficiency and lifespan of worm gear transmission can be effectively improved.

Materials Used for Manufacturing Worm Gears

The materials mainly used for manufacturing worm gears include the following:

  1. Tin Bronze: Tin bronze is a commonly used material for worm gears, known for its excellent anti-seizure and wear resistance properties. Among them, 10-1 tin bronze is a type with better anti-seizure and wear resistance, suitable for applications with high sliding speeds. However, it tends to be relatively expensive. For applications with lower sliding speeds, such as worm gear drives with Vs≤12m/s, a lower tin content tin bronze, such as 5-5-5 tin bronze, can be used.
  2. Aluminum Iron Bronze: Aluminum iron bronze also possesses good anti-friction and anti-seizure properties, although slightly inferior to tin bronze in terms of anti-seizure performance. The advantages of aluminum iron bronze include high strength, good castability, impact resistance, and relatively lower cost. It is typically used in transmissions with lower sliding speeds, such as applications with Vs≤6m/s.
  3. Cast Iron: Cast iron is another common material for worm gears, especially in low-speed and less critical transmissions. Cast iron exhibits characteristics of both gray cast iron and ductile iron, but may require aging treatment to prevent deformation.

Additionally, worm gears can be made from nylon or reinforced nylon materials. These materials are lightweight and offer characteristics such as wear resistance, self-lubrication, and good impact resistance, making them suitable for some specialized transmission applications.


In conclusion, worm gears are versatile mechanical devices with a wide range of applications across various industries. Their efficient power transmission capabilities and compact design make them indispensable in systems requiring precise motion control and high torque transmission.

Machining worm gear through CNC machining technology is a common practice at Boyi. If you are interested in us, you can view more information about CNC machining.


What is the difference between worm gear and spur gear?

Worm gears have helical teeth and transmit motion between perpendicular shafts, offering high gear reduction ratios and smoother operation. Spur gears, on the other hand, have straight teeth and transmit motion between parallel shafts, providing simpler design and more efficient power transmission.

Are worm gears inefficient?

Worm gears can have lower efficiency compared to some other gear types due to friction and sliding action between the worm and gear teeth. However, efficiency can be optimized with proper lubrication, materials, and design.

What are the types of word gears?

Worm gears can be classified into single-start and multi-start types based on the number of helical teeth on the worm. Additionally, they can be categorized as single-thread or double-thread based on the number of helical threads on the worm. Other classifications include non-throated and throated worm gears, which differ in the presence of a concave throat on the worm. These variations offer different gear reduction ratios, load capacities, and operational characteristics to suit various application needs.

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