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Influence of the gear design on the meshing and the churning power

losses

Dr.-Ing. F. Concli, Bonfiglioli Mechatronic Research, via F. Zeni 8, 36068 Rovereto

(TN), Italy, R&D, franco.concli@bonfiglioli.com, Ph. +390464443295, Fax:

+390464443439

M.Sc. J. Coenen, Bonfiglioli Mechatronic Research, via F. Zeni 8, 36068 Rovereto

(TN), Italy, R&D, jan.coenen@bonfiglioli.com, Ph. +390464443438, Fax:

+390464443439

Abstract

In the field of automation, extremely accurate gearboxes are mandatory in order to ensure the

adequate precision required by the automatic processes. For these kinds of applications,

planetary gearboxes represent one of the most attractive solutions. This type of gear set

ensures at the same time high power density and high reduction ratios. The low backlash

required in the field of automation is obtained by changing the chordal thickness of the teeth.

This has the main disadvantage to increase the power dissipation and causing limitation due

to excessive temperature.

In order to overcome this problem new gear designs have been studied by means of analytical

and numerical approaches by Bonfiglioli Mechatronic Research S.p.A..

The efficiency increase is based on an extreme reduction of the module of the gears. This

change, together with other modifications of the tooth form (pressure angle, profile shift, etc.),

allows to reduce the relative sliding between the tooth flanks and therefore the power

dissipation. CFD simulations have shown that the sliding optimized design has a positive

impact also on the churning power losses. The global winning in terms of the reduction of the

gear meshing power losses can be assumed with about 50%, depending on the reduction ratio.

Besides an energy saving, the modifications imply a reduction of the operating temperature

which allows higher performances without reaching excessive temperatures.

The new design has been validated by means of experimental tests performed in the internal

laboratory of the Bonfiglioli Mechatronic Research S.p.A. (BMR). The results have fully

validated both the CAE approach and the new design.

Keywords: Low-loss gears, efficiency, CFD, planetary gears

Introduction

The increasing demand on more efficient and productive solutions represents a big challenge

for the gear manufacturers. In many application fields one of the most attractive solutions is

the planetary gearing. This configuration provides high power density as well as high reduction

ratios. The disadvantage is the thermal power limit of the gearbox. This characteristic is

enforced by the requirement of low backlash.

For this reason a new and more efficient solution that is able to improve the overheating

problem was studied by BMR (Bonfiglioli Mechatronic Research S.p.A.) for its low-backlash

gearboxes for mechatronic applications.

The operating temperature reduction was achieved not by increasing the heat exchange with

the surrounding environment but by reducing the power dissipation of the gearbox itself.

The power losses of a gearbox are classified according to the mechanical component that

generates them [1]: they are distinguished between losses generated by the gears (subscript

Z), by the bearings (subscript B), by the seals (subscript D) and by other components (subscript

X) like clutches or synchronizers if present.

= + 0 + + 0 + +

[1]

A further classification is made between the losses that are directly dependent from the

transmitted torque and the losses that result load independent (subscript 0).

The percentual distribution between the different sources is strongly dependent from the

specific gearbox configuration. In planetary gearboxes, for example, the major contributions

are given by the sliding between the teeth and by the churning losses of the planet carrier.

For this reason the approach adopted by BMR is the reduction of these two specific

contributions.

Gear meshing losses reduction

The meshing losses are attributable to the sliding under load that takes place between the

tooth flanks during the engagement.

Figure 1 shows the velocity vectors of a gear pair. In the pitch point C there is no tangential

velocity between the two flank surfaces (rolling). For all other points on the line of action there

is a tangential velocity between the surfaces in contact (sliding). By integrating the resultant of

the product between the sliding velocity and the force tangential to the flank ( = )

over the length of the contact the meshing power loss is calculated [2].

1

[2]

An easy way to limit the power dissipation is to reduce the sliding between the teeth. This can

be done by concentrating the path of contact as much as possible around the pitch point. The

sliding velocity , as shown in figure 1, increases linearly with the distance of the point of

contact from the pitch point .

A reduction of the length of the line of action can be achieved with a reduction of the teeth

height changing the addendum and dedendum coefficients or reducing the module. The last

way was adopted in this study.

This solution was already investigated by other authors like Hhn et al. [3] and Magalhes et

al. [4] but it was never applied to already small-module gears. In this paper the standard design

with module = 0.55 was optimized in order to reduce the meshing losses. Furthermore

the influence of the new design on the churning effects was studied with numerical simulations.

Classical vs. low-loss design

Traditionally, BMR produces low-backlash planetary gearboxes for precise applications. One

of the most diffuse size-ratio combination is the gearbox TQ070 with ratio i = 5. The TQ070i5

is a single stage planetary gearbox with an external diameter of the housing of approximately

70mm and is characterized with a nominal output torque of 70 that is transmitted with

module = 0.55 spur gears.

The goal of this research project was to maintain the nominal rating of the gearbox and the

external dimensions but to reduce significantly the power losses (increase in the efficiency)

and, as a result, to decrease the operating temperatures.

A mono-objective optimization was performed in order to find out the best compromise

between safety factors against pitting and bending and efficiency. The range of the gearing

data for the optimization is summarized in table 1.

Tab. 1: Range of the gearing data for the optimisation

Sun gear

Normal module

[mm]

Pressure angle

[]

Number of teeth []

Center distance

[mm]

Shift coefficient

[]

Planets

Ring gear

= 0.3 0.7

= 20 28

1 = 27 65

2 = 40 99

3 = 260 108

= 17.0 24.4

1 = 0.6 1.0 2 = 0.6 1.0

3 = 0.6 1.0

The most influencing parameters on the gear mesh efficiency are the normal module and

the pressure angle . Figure 2 shows the efficiency map with respect to these two parameters.

The standard gears charachterized by a normal module = 0.55 and a pressure angle

= 20 have a gear mesh efficiency of 98.8%.

The domain for the optimization was bounded and the the acceptable values for the different

geometrical parameters such as normal module, pressure angle or center distance limited in

a prescribed range in order to maintain the actual dimensions of the housing and to be able to

manufacture the gears. Even if a further reduction of the normal module under 0.2 can

potentially lead to a further increse of the gear mesh efficiency, the difficulties to manufacture

such small gears with an appropriate grade of quality suggest to limit the minimum acceptable

value for the normal module to 0.3 . Another limit for the optimization are the range of safety

factors against pitting and bending. In general, a reduction of the module and an increase of

the pressure angle leads to an increase of the safety against pitting. A different trend is instead

observed for the safety against tooth root bending (Figure 2) which increases both with

increasing normal module and pressure angle.

a)

b)

c)

Fig. 2: a) Efficiency map (); b) safety factor against tooth bending map ( ); c) safety

factor against pitting map ( )

Starting from this first analysis, the combinations = 0.4 = 28 was selected as the

best compromise able to conjugate a sensible gear mesh efficiency increase with acceptable

safety coefficients. In order to keep the same nominal rating of the original solution, the

standard material was substituted with a nitrided steel.

The macro-geometric properties of the final design are listed in Table 2.

Tab. 2: Macro-geometric properties of the low-loss design

Sun gear

Normal module

[mm]

Pressure angle

[]

Number of teeth []

Center distance

[mm]

Shift coefficient

[]

Planets

Ring gear

= 0.4

= 28

1 = 36

2 = 54

3 = 144

= 17.9

1 = 0.0565 2 = 0.1910 3 = 0.4385

a)

b)

Figure 3 shows the sun and planet gear contact of the standard design used on the TQ series

and the low-loss design.

Power loss calculation

The new geometry was specifically designed in order to reduce as much as possible the load

dependent power losses of the gears which, according to the calculations, were halved with

this new tooth shape resulting in an increase of the gear meshing efficiency from 98.8% to

99.4% (under nominal conditions).

Starting from the new design, a numerical approach was adopted in order to quantify the

influence of the new shape on the churning losses generated by the gears. Previous research

projects showed that CFD is a suitable tool for such kind of investigations [5 to 9]. CFD is

based on three governing equations that represent mathematical statements of the

conservations laws of physics. The governing equations are the averaged mass conservation

for non-stationary incompressible flows

=0

[3]

( )

( )

+

()

+

(

) ]

[

[4]

where is the Cartesian coordinate, is the velocity component, is the pressure and is

the density. The term that compares in the averaged equation is called unresolved term or

Reynolds term and can be expressed by using the eddy-viscosity hypothesis [10].

The presence of more than one phase implies the need of additional equations. In particular,

a transport equation for the volume fraction is introduced. On the basis of the volume fraction

in each cell, the mean properties of the mixture are computed and used in the above

conservation equations for mass and momentum.

For this study an open-source code (OpenFOAM [11]) was adopted. The choice of an opensource tool was made because it allows more flexibility with respect to close-source

commercial software, making it possible to customise the code with the implementation of

specific models for the analysis of the physical problem of interest. In order to understand the

influence of the new gear geometry on the churning losses, a single gear was modelled inside

a quasi-infinite region and submerged up to the rotation axis with lubricant. It can be seen that

the module reduction leads to a benefit also on the churning effects.

a)

b)

Fig. 4: Lubricant circulation and power loss comparison for a) the classical design and b)

the low-loss design

Additional simulations were performed as well on the complete gearbox to capture also the

churning losses of the planet carrier. The aim was to be able to quantify the total load

independent power losses of the gearbox in order to determine the benefits at each load level

introduced by the new gear design. While reliable models for the load independent losses of

the bearings are available [12], literature is lacking in terms of prediction models for churning,

especially for planetary gearboxes.

The results of the numerical simulations are used to allow reliable efficiency predictions of the

complete planetary gearbox.

Experimental tests

Two prototypes were produced in order to validate the results of the calculations. The gears

were manufactured with a hobbing tool while the ring gears were produced with electroerosion. In order to have the same gear quality both prototypes were produced with the same

manufacturing technology instead of using the standard broaching process.

All other components such as the planet-carrier, the bearings and the seals are identical for

both prototypes.

The gearboxes have been tested on an energy closed-loop test rig. A schematic layout of the

test bench is shown in figure 6. An electric motor (9.) controlled by an inverter is connected to

the tested gearbox. The housing of the tested gearbox (6.) is fixed to a flange. The output shaft

of the tested gearbox is connected to a second gearbox used as multiplier (5.). It is connected

to a generator (10.) controlled by a second inverter. Torque measurement shafts (4. and 7.) at

the input and output of the tested gearbox measure the transmitted torque (0.05% F.S.) and

rotational speed to determine the transmitted power. The output torque is feedback controlled

with the measurement of the torque meter (7.), the input speed is feedback controlled with the

motor encoder. The shafts are connected with metal bellow couplings.

The gearbox surface and ambient temperature are measured by 5 sensors. Tests were

performed at the nominal input speed of 1 = 3000 with and without load. In order to

perform the test without load, the coupling at the output shaft of the tested gearbox was

disconnected.

Fig. 7: Results of the test and comparison with the expected values

Figure 7 shows the results of the experimental tests (dark columns) and the calculated values

(light columns). The standard design ( = 0.55 ) is in solid colour while the shaded refers

to the low-loss design ( = 0.40). A reduction of the losses was measured both in the

tests with and without load. The power loss measured in the no load test is lower for the lowloss design than for the standard design caused by the reduction of the churning power losses

and sliding between the gear flanks.

Under load ( = 40 ) the difference between the two measurements is more significant.

This result shows that the new gear design has a significant impact also in terms of gear

meshing loss reduction.

The graph on the right side of figure 7 shows the load dependent power losses. These losses

are attributable to the gear meshing losses and the losses due to sliding in the bearings. The

bearings are the same in both models and also the forces acting on them are the same so the

power loss reduction is completely due to the gear differences.

a)

b)

Fig. 8: Calculated power loss and temperature maps for the standard design (a) and for the

low-loss design (b) (Ambient temperature 25C)

The load dependent losses result lower due to the new gear design. The percentage loss

reduction is not reduced by 50% due to the presence of the bearing contribution that remains

the same.

Figure 7 shows also a comparison between the measurements and the theoretical predictions.

The prediction model provides accurate results for both designs and for each load condition

and shows differences to the measurement of about 5%.

After the theoretical model was validated a full factorial analysis was performed. Figure 8

shows the results in power loss and temperature maps for both designs.

Figure 9 shows that the gearbox efficiency has significantly increased thanks to the new gear

design. Even if the efficiency was already 97.28% (figure 8a) under nominal conditions ( =

8 , = 3 ), the improvement in the design has allowed to obtain an efficiency of

about 97.86% (figure 8b) with an increase of about 0.6 percentage points (figure 8c). This

increment is more significant for lower loads and lower rotational speeds were the efficiency is

lower. Figure 8d shows that even if the gear meshing power loss reduction decreases with a

reduction of the transmitted torque, the total power loss differences remains more or less

constant confirming the positive impact of the module reduction on the churning power losses,

especially for low temperatures (related to low transmitted torques) this balances the lower

impact of the new geometry in terms of meshing losses for low loads.

a)

b)

c)

d)

Fig. 9: Efficiency maps for the standard design (a) and the low-loss design (b); efficiency

differences between the two designs (c); power loss differences between the two

designs (d)

Conclusions

Efficiency and the related operating temperatures are a main issue in the field of precision

planetary gearboxes. In order to improve its standard production, BMR conducted a research

project in order to investigate new gear geometries and their impact on the gearbox efficiency.

A module reduction seems to give good results in terms of gear meshing loss reduction. This

was validated by the measurements. Furthermore a prediction model based on analytical and

empirical equations as well as on numerical simulations was developed and the results

converged with the measurements. The difference between calculation and measurement is

always less than 5%. The theoretical analysis showed that the power loss reduction at a fixed

rotational speed does not increase linearly with a torque increase. This can be explained with

the help of the numerical CFD simulations: while the benefit in terms of gear meshing losses

decrease if the transmitted torque decrease, the churning power losses usually increase with

a reduction of the transmitted torque due to lower operating temperatures and the consequent

change of the fluid properties. This is reflected in a constant power loss reduction due to the

new design considering the transmitted torque. For low temperatures the distribution of the

losses gives more weight to the churning while for high loads it is more towards sliding.

The research has pointed out the potential benefits that can be achieved by adopting a lowloss design and has confirmed the accuracy of the prediction model that was developed by

BMR.

Bibliography

[1]

Niemann, G., Winter, H., Maschinenelemente Band 2: Getriebe Allgemein,

Zahnradgetriebe Grundlagen, Stirnradgetriebe 2. Auflage , Springer, Berlin 2003

[2]

ISO 14179-1 and -2

[3]

Hhn B.-R., Michaelis K., Wimmer A., Low-loss gears Gear Technology Vol. 24, Issue

4, pp. 28-35, 2007

[4]

Magalhes L., Martins R., Seabra J., Low-loss austempered ductile iron gears:

Experimental evaluation comparing materials and lubricants, Tribology International Vol. 46,

pp. 97-105, 2012

[5]

Gorla C., Concli F., Stahl K., Hhn B.-R., Michaelis K., Schulthei H., Stemplinger J.P., CFD Simulations of splash losses of a gearbox - Advances in Tribology, Article n.616923

Hindawi 2012, DOI: 10.1155/2012/616923

[6]

Concli F., Gorla C., Computational and experimental analysis of the churning power

losses in an industrial planetary speed 9th International Conference on Advances in Fluid

Mechanics Advances in Fluid Mechanics IX, AFM2012, (WIT Transactions on Engineering

Sciences), Vol. 74, pp 287-298, Wessex institute of technology 2012, UK, DOI:

10.2495/AFM120261

[7]

Gorla C., Concli F., Stahl K., Hhn B.-R., Michaelis K., Schulthei H., Stemplinger J.P., Hydraulic losses of a gearbox: CFD analysis and experiments Tribology international,

Vol. 66, pp 337-344, Elsevier 2013, DOI: 10.1016/j.triboint.2013.06.005

[8]

Concli F., Conrado E., Gorla C., Analysis of power losses in an industrial speed reducer

- Measurements and computational fluid dynamics calculations, Proceedings of the Institution

of Mechanical Engineers, Part J: Journal of Engineering Tribology. Vol. 228, Issue 1, pp. 1121, 2014, DOI: 10.1177/1350650113496980

[9]

Concli F., Gorla C., Della Torre A., Montenegro G., Churning power losses of ordinary

gears: a new approach based on the internal fluid dynamics simulations Lubrication Science,

John Wiley and Sons Ltd 2014 DOI: 10.1002/ls.1280

[10]

Versteeg HK, Malalasekera W., An introduction to computational fluid dynamics the

finite volume method, Longman Group, London 1995. ISBN: 9780131274983

[11]

The open source CFD toolbox, official documentation. http://www.openfoam.com

[12]

SKF General Catalogue

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