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A common design goal for gears in helicopter or turboprop power transmission is reduced weight. To help meet this goal, some gear designs use thin rims. Rims that are too thin, however, may lead to bending fatigue problems and cracks. The most common methods of gear design and analysis are based on standards published by the American Gear Manufacturers Association. Included in the standards are rating formulas for gear tooth bending to prevent crack initiation (Ref. 1). These standards can include the effect of rim thickness on tooth bending fatigue (Ref 2.). The standards, however, do not indicate the crack propagation path or the remaining life once a crack has started. Fracture mechanics has developed into a useful discipline for predicting strength and life of cracked structures.
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.
Effective gear designs balance strength, durability, reliability, size, weight, and cost. Even effective designs, however, can have the possibility of gear cracks due to fatigue. In addition, truly robust designs consider not only crack initiation, but also crack propagation trajectories. As an example, crack trajectories that propagate through the gear tooth are the preferred mode of failure compared to propagation through the gear rim. Rim failure will lead to catastrophic events and should be avoided. Analysis tools that predict crack propagation paths can be a valuable aid to the designer to prevent such catastrophic failures.
The performance of metal surfaces can be dramatically enhanced by the thermal process of rapid surface melting and re-solidification (RMRS). When the surface of a metal part (for instance, a gear) is melted and re-solidified in less than one thousandth of a second, the resulting changes in the material can lead to: Increased wear and corrosion resistance, Improved surface finish and appearance, Enhanced surface uniformity and purity, and Sealing of surface cracks and pores.