Helical or “dry fixed” gears offer a refinement over spur gears. The leading edges of the teeth are not parallel to the axis of rotation but are set at an angle. Since the gear is curved, this angling makes the tooth shape a segment of a helix. Helical gears can be meshed in parallel or crossed orientations. The former refers to when the shafts are parallel to each other; this is the most common orientation. In the latter, the shafts are non-parallel, and in this configuration, the gears are sometimes known as “skew gears”.
The angled teeth engage more gradually than do spur gear teeth, causing them to run more smoothly and quietly. With parallel helical gears, each pair of teeth first make contact at a single point at one side of the gear wheel; a moving curve of contact then grows gradually across the tooth face to a maximum, then recedes until the teeth break contact at a single point on the opposite side. In spur gears, teeth suddenly meet at a line contact across their entire width, causing stress and noise. Spur gears make a characteristic whine at high speeds. For this reason, spur gears are used in low-speed applications and in situations where noise control is not a problem, and helical gears are used in high-speed applications, large power transmission, or where noise abatement is important. The speed is considered high when the pitch line velocity exceeds 25 m/s.