Posts Tagged ‘gear train’

When Do You Need To Modify Gear Ratio?

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

      Last time we saw how the involute profile of spur gear teeth ensures smooth contact between gears when they rotate.   Today we’ll see why it’s important to be able to change the rotational speed of the driven gear in relation to that of the driving gear by modifying their gear ratio, the speeds at which gears move relative to one another.

      Why would we want to modify the rotational speeds of gears relative to one another?   One reason is to compensate for the fact that alternating electric current (AC) motors drive most modern machinery, and these motors operate at a fixed speed determined by the 60 cycles per second frequency of electricity provided by the utility power grids of North America.   By fixed speed I mean that the motor’s shaft revolves at a single, fixed rate.  It can’t run any faster or slower.   This is fine for some motorized applications, but not others.

      Basic machinery such as wood cutting saws, grinders, and blowers function well within the parameters of the AC motor’s fixed speed, because their working parts are intended to rotate at the same rate as the motor’s shaft.   As a matter of fact, in this instance there’s often no need for a gear train, because the working parts can be connected directly to the motor’s shaft, and the machinery will be powered and function correctly.   There are many instances however in which a fixed speed does not match the speed required for more complex machinery to correctly perform precise, specialized tasks.

      Take a machine tool meant to cut steel bars, for example.   It has a rotating part meant to cut through the steel during machining, and to properly do so its cutting tool bit must turn at 400 revolutions per minute (RPM).   If it turns any faster, the cut won’t be smooth and the tool bit will overheat and break due to increased friction.   If the AC motor driving the machine tool turns at 1750 RPM, a common speed for such motors, then the tool bit will be turning at a much faster rate than the desired 400 RPM, and this presents a problem.

      To solve the problem we need only add a gear train between the motor and the part containing the tool bit, meaning, we must connect the gear train’s driving gear to the motor’s shaft and a driven gear to the part’s shaft.   But in order for this arrangement to work a conversion must take place, that is, we must design the gear train to operate at a specific gear ratio.   By gear ratio, I mean the speeds at which the two gears will rotate relative to one another.

      Next time we’ll introduce the gear ratio formulas that make it all work.


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Spur Gears In Motion

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

      Last time we learned about forces generated when spur gear teeth mesh and move along a specific line of action.   Today we’ll see them in movement.

      Looking at the illustration below it might appear that there are three teeth in contact, but this isn’t the case.   As the gears rotate, only two teeth make contact at any given time, although the third tooth comes very close.   The actual point of contact between the teeth is represented by a black dot on the illustration below.   This is where two opposing forces, F1 and F2, meet.

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      Now let’s animate the illustration to see how the line of action remains constant the entire time the gear teeth are in motion.   By constant I mean that this imaginary line’s position and angle does not change relative to the gears throughout the course of their movement.

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      In the animation, the point of contact moves along the line of action as the gears turn.   Each tooth’s involute profile ensures that smooth contact is maintained along the faces and flanks of the gear teeth.   The involute profile’s unique shape facilitates opposing teeth remaining in constant contact along the line of action for the duration of their movement together.

      If the gear tooth profile wasn’t involute in its shape, say for example it was square or triangular, the forces acting upon the meshed teeth during movement would vary in direction and intensity as a result of uneven contact between the teeth.   For example, consider the square shaped tooth profile in the gear train below.

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      As the gears rotate, the pointed tip of one tooth strikes the flat face of another.   As they  continue to turn, the two flat faces of the teeth slap together, then the pointed tip of one tooth will strike the flat face of the other tooth, and so forth.   The result is movement that is jerky and destructive.   There would be excessive vibration and wear and tear on the teeth, resulting in rapid gear tooth erosion and decreased efficiency overall.

      Next time we’ll introduce the gear ratio, a formula which allows us to alter the rotational speed of the driven gear in relation to that of the driving gear, something which comes in handy when designing things that require this differential.


Overcoming Inertia

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

      Inertia.   It’s the force that keeps us in bed after the alarm has rung.   It seems to have a life of its own, and today we’ll see how it comes into play in keeping other stationary objects at rest.

      Last time we identified a specific point of contact between spur gear teeth in a gear train and introduced the opposing forces, F1 and F 2, generated there.   Today we’ll see what these forces represent, identifying one of them as inertia.

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      So where do these forces come from?   They’re forces generated by different means that converge at the same point of contact, the point at which gear teeth mesh.   They follow a very specific geometric path to meet there, an imaginary straight line referred to as the line of action.

      F1 is always generated by a source of mechanical energy.   In our locomotive example introduced earlier in this blog series that source is an electric traction motor, upon which a driving gear is mounted.   When the motor is energized, a driving force F1 is generated, which causes gear teeth on the driving gear to push against gear teeth of the driven gear.

      Force F2 is not as straightforward to understand, because it’s not generated by a motor.   Instead, it’s the resisting force that the weight of a stationary object poses against its being moved from an at-rest position, known as inertia.   The heavier the object, the more inertia it presents with.   Trains, of course, are extremely heavy, and to get them to move a great deal of inertia must be overcome.   Inertia is also a factor in attempting to stop objects already in motion.

      To get a stationary locomotive to move, mechanical energy must be transmitted from the driving gear that’s attached to its traction motor, then on to the driven gear attached to its axle.    At their point of contact, the driving force of the motor, F1, is met by the resisting force of inertia, F2. In order for the train to move, F1 must be greater than F2.   If F1 is less than or equal to F2, then the train won’t leave the station.

      Next week we’ll animate our static image and watch the interplay between gear teeth, taking note of the line of action during their movement.


Meshed Gear Teeth and Their Point of Contact

Monday, January 27th, 2014

      Last time we learned that the geometric shape specific to spur gear teeth is known as an involute profile.   Today we’ll look at the geometry behind this profile and the very specific place at which gear teeth meet, known as the point of contact.

      The transmission of mechanical energy between meshed gears may seem on its face to be straightforward, after all their gears are interlaced and interact with one another.   But their interaction involves some rather complex geometry, because forces are directed in a peculiar fashion between the teeth of the driving and driven gears.   Let’s consider the following illustration to get a better understanding.

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Meshed Gear Tooth Geometry

      As we learned previously in this series, the pitch circle of a gear is an imaginary arc passing through each tooth between their top and bottom lands.   The pitch circles of the driving and driven gears are represented by heavy red dashed lines in the illustration.

      To ensure proper alignment and smooth action between gear teeth during rotation, the gears are spaced so that their pitch circles just meet but never intersect.   This specific point is known as the point of contact.   It is the only point at which gears will come into actual physical contact with one another, and it provides just enough contact so that when the driving gear turns in one direction, say clockwise, its teeth exert pressure upon the driven gear teeth, forcing it to move in the opposite direction, counterclockwise.

      The forces which come into play at the point of contact are represented in the illustration by a black dot with oppositional blue arrows extending from it.   These arrows represent the opposing mechanical forces, F1 and F2 , which act upon the teeth when they make contact.

      We’ll learn more about the effect of those forces next time when we follow a locomotive from a stationary position into one of movement.


Spur Gear Tooth Geometry and the Involute Curve

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

      Last time we learned how spur gears mesh together to form a gear train and we examined a train consisting of just two gears, one being the driving gear, the other the driven gear.   Today we’ll take a look at the geometry behind the smooth functioning of modern spur gear teeth when we identify their peculiar shape to be that of an involute curve.

      The curved profile of spur gear teeth conforms to a type of mathematical curve found in geometry known as an involute.   The involute profile of a spur gear tooth is shown in red below.

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      The mathematical notion of the involute was first presented in 1673 by Dutch mathematician Christiaan Huygens, in his book, Horologium Oscillatorium.   Huygens’ book presents his studies on clock pendulums and the applied mathematics he used in an effort to predict their often erratic motion on ships at sea.   His book ultimately dealt with far more than this, resulting in a treatise on the mathematical properties of the involutes of curves.

      To see how an involute curve is formed, we’ll conduct a simple experiment.    One end of string is attached with a tack to a circular object, like the yellow rod shown in the following illustration.   The other end of string has a red ball attached to it.

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Forming An Involute Curve

      If we grab the ball and pull the string taught while wrapping the string around the rod, the ball’s path will form an involute curve due to the incremental shortening of the string that occurs as it wraps around the rod.

      Next time we’ll see how the involute profile of gear teeth contributes to efficient mechanical energy transmission in gear trains.


Gear Trains

Monday, January 13th, 2014

      Last time we covered the basic terminology of spur gears.   Today we’ll see how they interact with one another to form a gear train, such as the one depicted below.

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Meshing Spur Gears Form A Gear Train

      A gear train is formed when the teeth of two or more gears mesh and work together for the purpose of powering a mechanical device.

      A gear train can consist of as little as two gears, but trains can be so large as to contain dozens of gears, depending on the complexity of the device they are powering.   But no matter how many gears are employed, there are certain key features that are shared by every gear train assembly.   First, one gear within the train must be attached to a shaft  rotated by a source of mechanical energy, such as an engine or electric motor.   This gear is called the driving gear.

      The second requirement of a gear train is that at least one gear other than the driving gear is mounted to the shaft of a rotating machine part.   This gear is called the driven gear.

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Locomotive Gear Train Consisting Of Two Gears

      The illustration above shows an exploded view of a locomotive gear train assembly  consisting of two gears.   The driving gear is mounted to the shaft of an electric traction motor.   The driven gear is mounted to the locomotive’s axle.

      When a motor is attached to the axle, the two gears mesh together.   The traction motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy, which is supplied to the driving gear via the spinning motor’s shaft.   The teeth of the driving gear then transmit the motor’s mechanical energy to the teeth of the driven gear, which then turn the locomotive’s wheels.   It’s just one of countless operations that can be performed with gear train assemblies.

      Next time we’ll examine the geometry behind modern spur gear tooth design.


Gear Terminology

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

      Last time we reviewed the ancient origins of gears and saw how they’ve been around a lot longer than most people realize.    Now let’s familiarize ourselves with the terminology of modern gears by taking a look at the most basic and commonly used gear construction, the spur gear.

      A spur gear is shown below, so named due to its resemblance to spurs commonly found attached to horse riding boots.

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Spur Gear

      At their most basic gears are wheels containing many projections which resemble teeth.    These teeth are equally spaced around the wheel’s circumference and are designed to mesh, or fit together, with the teeth of other like gears.

      Looking more closely at the teeth of a modern spur gear, we see they have a rather complex and peculiar curved shape, along with their own terminology.

Gear Tooth Terminology

      There’s a pitch circle that intersects each gear tooth between the root of the tooth, or bottom land, and the tip of the tooth, or top land.    Above the pitch circle each tooth side bears a face.    Below the pitch circle and under each face is a flank.

      Spur gear teeth don’t necessarily have to have this shape.    All that’s required is that the teeth fit together in such a way so as to permit fluid interaction between them as they rotate.    As a matter of fact, some primitive gears consisted of wooden wheels with teeth made of wooden pegs.    These pegs were inserted into evenly spaced holes which were drilled around the circumference of the wheel.    The wooden pegs of each wheel would mesh with one another, and when one gear wheel was caused to rotate, its pegs would press against the pegs of the other gear, making it rotate along with it.

      So if simple pegs worked well enough, then why are modern gear teeth so specifically shaped?     We’ll see why next time when we join gears together to form a gear train.