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A study was conducted to isolate the influence of pre-rough machine processing on final dimensional distortion.
The proper control of distortion after thermal treatment of powertrain components in the automotive industry is an important measure in ensuring high-quality parts and minimizing subsequent hard machining processes in order to reduce overall production costs.
Induction hardening is widely used in both the automotive and aerospace gear industries to minimize heat treat distortion and obtain favorable compressive residual stresses for improved fatigue performance. The heating process during induction hardening has a significant effect on the quality of the heat-treated parts. However, the quenching process often receives less attention even though it is equally important.
Heat treating and quenching are arguably the most critical operations in the manufacture of gears. This article examines causes of distortion in heat treating and quenching.
This paper presents how low pressure carburizing and high pressure gas quenching processes are successfully applied on internal ring gears for a six-speed automatic transmission. The specific challenge in the heat treat process was to reduce distortion in such a way that subsequent machining operations are entirely eliminated.
Precision components (industrial bearing races and automotive gears) can distort during heat treatment due to effects of free or unconstrained oil quenching. However, press quenching can be used to minimize these effects. This quenching method achieves the relatively stringent geometrical requirements stipulated by industrial manufacturing specifications. As performed on a wide variety of steel alloys, this specialized quenching technique is presented here, along with a case study showing the effects of prior thermal history on the distortion that is generated during press quenching.
Most steel gear applications require appreciable loads to be applied that will result in high bending and compressive stresses. For the material (steel) to meet these performance criteria, the gear must be heat treated. Associated with this thermal processing is distortion. To control the distortion and achieve repeatable dimensional tolerances, the gear will be constrained during the quenching cycle of the heat treatment process. This type of fixture quenching is the function of gear quench pressing equipment.
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.
Graded hardening technology has proven over the years to yield very good results when used in the heat treating of carburized gears. It is especially advantageous for smaller companies, subject to higher competitive pressures. Unfortunately, despite the fact that graded hardening is a very well-known method, its use has been limited. We strongly recommend this technology to all of those who need to produce gears with high metallurgical quality.
Quality gear manufacturing depends on controlled tolerances and geometry. As a result, ferritic nitrocarburizing has become the heat treat process of choice for many gear manufacturers. The primary reasons for this are: 1. The process is performed at low temperatures, i.e. less than critical. 2. the quench methods increase fatigue strength by up to 125% without distorting. Ferritic nitrocarburizing is used in place of carburizing with conventional and induction hardening. 3. It establishes gradient base hardnesses, i.e. eliminates eggshell on TiN, TiAIN, CrC, etc. In addition, the process can also be applied to hobs, broaches, drills, and other cutting tools.
Grinding in one form or another has been used for more than 50 years to correct distortions in gears caused by the high temperatures and quenching techniques associated with hardening. Grinding improves the lead, involute and spacing characteristics. This makes the gear capable of carrying the high loads and running at the high pitch line velocities required by today's most demanding applications. Gears that must meet or exceed the accuracy requirements specified by AGMA Quality 10-11 or DIN Class 6-7 must be ground or hard finished after hear treatment.
In order to increase the load carrying capacity of hardened gears, the distortion of gear teeth caused by quenching must be removed by precision cutting (skiving) and/or grinding. In the case of large gears with large modules, skiving by a carbide hob is more economical than grinding when the highest accuracy is not required.
For over 50 years, grinding has been an accepted method of choice for improving the quality of gears and other parts by correcting heat treat distortions. Gears with quality levels better than AGMA 10-11 or DIN 6-7 are hard finished, usually by grinding. Other applications for grinding include, but are not limited to, internal/external and spur/helical gear and spline forms, radius forms, threads and serrations, compressor rotors, gerotors, ball screw tracks, worms, linear ball tracks, rotary pistons, vane pump rotators, vane slots, and pump spindles.
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.
In recent years, the demands for load capacity and fatigue life of gears constantly increased while weight and volume had to be reduced. To achieve those aims, most of today's gear wheels are heat treated so tooth surfaces will have high wear resistance. As a consequence of heat treatment, distortion unavoidably occurs. With the high geometrical accuracy and quality required for gears, a hard machining process is needed that generates favorable properties on the tooth surfaces and the near-surface material with high reliability.
Many people in the gear industry have heard of skiving, a process wherein solid carbide or inserted carbide blade hobs with 15 - 60 degrees of negative rake are used to recut gears to 62 Rc. The topic of this article is the use of neutral (zero) rake solid carbide hobs to remove heat treat distortion, achieving accuracies of AGMA 8 to AGMA 14, DIN 10-5 and improving surface finish on gears from 8 DP - 96 DP (.3 module - .26 m.).
Carburized gears have higher strengths and longer lives compared with induction-hardened or quench-tempered gears. But in big module gears, carburizing heat-treatment becomes time-consuming and expensive and sometimes cannot achieve good hardness due to the big mass-effect. Also, it is not easy to reduce distortion of gears during heat treatment.
Some years back, most spiral bevel gear sets were produced as cut, case hardened, and lapped. The case hardening process most frequently used was and is case carburizing. Many large gears were flame hardened, nitrided, or through hardened (hardness around 300 BHN) using medium carbon alloy steels, such as 4140, to avoid higher distortions related to the carburizing and hardening process.
High demands for cost-effectiveness and improved product quality can be achieved via a new low pressure carburizing process with high pressure gas quenching. Up to 50% of the heat treatment time can be saved. Furthermore, the distortion of the gear parts could be reduced because of gas quenching, and grinding costs could be saved. This article gives an overview of the principles of the process technology and the required furnace technology. Also, some examples of practical applications are presented.
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.
In the typical gear production facility, machining of gear teeth is followed by hear treatment to harden them. The hardening process often distorts the gear teeth, resulting in reduced and generally variable quality. Heat treating gears can involve many different types of operations, which all have the common purpose of producing a microstructure with certain optimum properties. Dual frequency induction hardening grew from the need to reduce cost while improving the accuracy (minimizing the distortion) of two selective hardening processes: single tooth induction and selective carburizing.
Rotary gear honing is a hard gear finishing process that was developed to improve the sound characteristics of hardened gears by: Removing nicks and burrs; improving surface finish; and making minor corrections in tooth irregularities caused by heat-treat distortion.
The purpose of gear inspection is to: Assure required accuracy and quality, Lower overall cost of manufacture by controlling rejects and scrap, Control machines and machining practices and maintain produced accuracy as machines and tools wear, Determine hear treat distortions to make necessary corrections.
Whether gear engineers have to replace an old gear which is worn out, find out what a gear's geometry is after heat treatment distortion, or just find out parameters of gears made by a competitor, sometimes they are challenged with a need to determine the geometry of unknown gears. Depending on the degree of accuracy required, a variety of techniques are available for determining the accuracy of an unknown gear. If a high degree of precision is important, a gear inspection device has to be used to verify the results. Frequently, several trial-and-error attempts are made before the results reach the degree of precision required.
The October 2011 issue of Gear Technology featured the article “Low-Distortion Heat Treatment of Transmission Components,” which covered the combination of low-pressure carburizing and high pressure gas quenching in an automotive environment. Here, heat treating expert Dan Herring explains why oil quenching is an appropriate choice for many applications.