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Cracks initiated at the surface of case-hardened gears may lead to typical life-limiting fatigue failure modes such as pitting and tooth root breakage. Furthermore, the contact load on the flank surface induces stresses in greater material depth that may lead to crack initiation below the surface if the local material strength is exceeded. Over time the sub-surface crack propagation may lead to gear failure referred to as “tooth flank fracture” (also referred to as “tooth flank breakage”). This paper explains the mechanism of this subsurface fatigue failure mode and its decisive influence factors, and presents an overview of a newly developed calculation model.
In the last couple of years, many research projects dealt with the determination of load limits of cylindrical worm gears. These projects primarily focused on the load capacity of the worm wheel, whereas the worm was neglected. This contribution presents investigations regarding damages such as large scores and cracks on the flanks of case-hardened worms.
When gears are case-hardened, it is known that some growth and redistribution of stresses that result in geometric distortion will occur. Aerospace gears require post case-hardening grinding of the gear teeth to achieve necessary accuracy. Tempering of the case-hardened surface, commonly known as grinding burn, occurs in the manufacturing process when control of the heat generation at the surface is lost.
The phenomenon of white layers, which arises from high stress, can be observed under a microscope after the white layers have been treated with a weak nitric acid solution. Their occurrences in zones of high shear stress can provide qualitatively valuable indications of the size and direction of the stress, and they can point out possible starting points for flank damage. An investigation of this phenomenon is described.
In the field of large power transmission gear units for heavy machine industry, the following two development trends have been highly influential: use of case hardened gears and a branching of the power flow through two or more ways.
Carbon steels have primarily been used to manufacture aerospace gears due to the steels' mechanical characteristics. An alloyed low carbon steel is easily case-hardened to obtain a hard wear surface while maintaining the ductile core characteristics. The microstructure achieved will accept the heavy loading, shocks, and elevated temperatures that gears typically experience in applications. The carbon steel machinability allows for general machining practices to be employed when producing aerospace gears versus the more advanced metal removal processes required by stainless and nickel-based alloys.
The market demand for gear manufacturers to transmit higher torques via smaller-sized gear units inevitably leads to the use of case-hardened gears with high manufacturing and surface quality. In order to generate high part quality, there is an increasing trend towards the elimination of the process-induced distortion that occurs during heat treatment by means of subsequent hard finishing.
Compared to non-heat-treated components, case-carburized gears are characterized by a modified strength profile in the case-hardened layer. The design of case-carburized gears is based on defined allowable stress numbers. These allowable stress numbers are valid only for a defined "optimum" case depth. Adequate heat treatment and optimum case depth guarantee maximum strength of tooth flank and tooth root.
Much of the existing guidelines for making large, high-performance gears for wind turbine gearboxes exhibit a need for improvement. Consider: the large grinding stock used to compensate for heat treatment distortion can significantly reduce manufacturing productivity; and, materials and manufacturing processes are two other promising avenues to improvement. The work presented here investigates quenchable alloy steels that, combined with specifically developed Case-hardening and heat treatment processes, exhibits reduced distortion and, in turn, requires a smaller grinding stock.