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Corus Engineering Steels' formula for its new gear steels: Maintain achievable hardness while using fewer alloys, thereby cutting steel costs for gear manufacturers.
This back-to-basics article describes the main methods used for hardness testing of gears: Rockwell, Brinell, Vickers and Knoop.
In conventional gear grinders, grinding wheels with Alundum grains and a hardness of about 2000 HV have been used for finishing steel gears with hardnesses up to about 1000HV. In this case, the accuracy of the gears ground is greatly affected by wear of the grinding wheel because the difference in hardness is comparatively small when the gears are fully hardened.
In a very general sense, increasing the hardness of a steel gear increases the strength of the gear. However, for each process there is a limit to its effectiveness. This article contains background information on each of the processes covered. In each section what is desired and what is achievable is discussed. Typical processes are presented along with comments on variables which affect the result. By reviewing the capabilities and processes, it is possible to determine the limits to each process.
QuesTek Innovations LLC is applying its Materials by Design computational design technology to develop a new class of high-strength, secondary hardening gear steels that are optimized for high-temperature, low-pressure (i.e., vacuum) carburization. The new alloys offer three different levels of case hardness (with the ability to “dial-in” hardness profiles, including exceptionally high case hardness), and their high core strength, toughness and other properties offer the potential to reduce drivetrain weight or increase power density relative to incumbent alloys such as AISI 9310 or Pyrowear Alloy 53.
In his Handbook of Gear Design (Ref.1), Dudley states (or understates): "The best gear people around the world are now coming to realize that metallurgical quality is just as important as geometric quality." Geometric accuracy without metallurgical integrity in any highly stressed gear or shaft would only result in wasted effort for all concerned - the gear designer, the manufacturer, and the customer - as the component's life cycle would be prematurely cut short. A carburized automotive gear or shaft with the wrong surface hardness, case depth or core hardness may not even complete its basic warranty period before failing totally at considerable expense and loss of prestige for the producer and the customer. The unexpected early failure of a large industrial gear or shaft in a coal mine or mill could result in lost production and income while the machine is down since replacement components may not be readily available. Fortunately, this scenario is not common. Most reputable gear and shaft manufacturers around the world would never neglect the metallurgical quality of their products.
Using the DANTE software, a finite element simulation was developed and executed to study the response of a carburized 5120 steel helical gear to quenching in molten salt. The computer simulation included heat-up, carburization, transfer and immersion in a molten salt bath, quenching, and air cooling. The results of the simulation included carbon distribution of phases, dimensional change, hardness, and residual stress throughout the process. The predicted results were compared against measured results for hardness, dimensions and residual stress. The excellent agreement between predictions and measured values for this carburized 5120 steel gear provides a basis for assessing the various process parameters and their respective importance in the characteristics of not only these heat-treated parts, but of other compositions and shapes.
Nobody's sure what went on in Bolsa Chica, CA, when gear-shaped stones were used there 8,700 years ago, but a popular belief is that at least some activity revolved around manufacturing.
The Instrumented Factory for Gears (INFAC) conducted a metallurgical experiment that examined the effects of carburizing process variables and types of cryogenic treatments in modifying the microstructure of the material. The initial experiment was designed so that, following the carburizing cycles, the same test coupons could be used in future experiment.
The approximate tensile strength of any steel is measured by its hardness, Table 1. Since hardness is determined by both chemical composition and heat treatment, these are the two important metallurgical considerations in selecting gear steels.
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.
In recent years, improvements in the reliability of the vacuum carburizing process have allowed its benefits to be realized in high-volume, critical component manufacturing operations. The result: parts with enhanced hardness and mechanical properties.
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.
Carburized helical gears with high retained austenite were tested for surface contact fatigue. The retained austenite before test was 60% and was associated with low hardness near the case's surface. However, the tested gears showed good pitting resistance, with fatigue strength greater than 1,380 MPa.
The capabilities and limitations of manufacturing gears by conventional means are well-known and thoroughly documented. In the search to enhance or otherwise improve the gear-making process, manufacturing methods have extended beyond chip-cutting - hobbing, broaching, shaping, shaving, grinding, etc. and their inherent limitations based on cutting selection and speed, feed rates, chip thickness per tooth, cutting pressure, cutter deflection, chatter, surface finish, material hardness, machine rigidity, tooling, setup and other items.
Primitive gears were known and used well over 2,000 years ago, and gears have taken their place as one of the basic machine mechanisms; yet, our knowledge and understanding of gearing principles is by no means complete. We see the development of faster and more reliable gear quality assessment and new, more productive manufacture of gears in higher materials hardness states. We have also seen improvement in gear applications and design, lubricants, coolants, finishes and noise and vibration control. All these advances push development in the direction of smaller, more compact applications, better material utilization and improved quietness, smoothness of operation and gear life. At the same time, we try to improve manufacturing cost-effectiveness, making use of highly repetitive and efficient gear manufacturing methods.
Induction hardening is a heat treating technique that can be used to selectively harden portions of a gear, such as the flanks, roots and tips of teeth, providing improved hardness, wear resistance, and contact fatigue strength without affecting the metallurgy of the core and other parts of the component that don’t require change. This article provides an overview of the process and special considerations for heat treating gears. Part I covers gear materials, desired microsctructure, coil design and tooth-by-tooth induction hardening.
Often, the required hardness qualities of parts manufactured from steel can only be obtained through suitable heat treatment. In transmission manufacturing, the case hardening process is commonly used to produce parts with a hard and wear-resistant surface and an adequate toughness in the core. A tremendous potential for rationalization, which is only partially used, becomes available if the treatment time of the case hardening process is reduced. Low pressure carburizing (LPC) offers a reduction of treatment time in comparison to conventional gas carburizing because of the high carbon mass flow inherent to the process (Ref. 1).
Almost all machines or mechanical systems contain precision contact elements such as bearings, cams, rears, shafts, splines and rollers. These components have two important common requirements: first, they must possess sufficient mechanical properties, such as, high hardness, fatigue strength and wear resistance to maximize their performance and life; second, they must be finished to close dimensional tolerances to minimize noise, vibration and fatigue loading.
After shaping or hobbing, the tooth flanks must be either chamfered or duburred. Here it is paramount that the secondary burr produced will not be formed into the flank, but to the face of the gear, because during hardening, the secondary burr will straighten up and, due to its extreme hardness, will lead to excessive tool wear.
The phenomena of deterioration of surfaces are generally very complex and depend on numerous conditions which include the operating conditions, the type of load applied, the relative speeds of surfaces in contact, the temperature, lubrication, surfaces hardness and roughness, and the compatibility and nature of materials.
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.
A carburized alloy steel gear has the greatest load-carrying capacity, but only if it is heat treated properly. For high quality carburizing, the case depth, case microstructure, and case hardness must be controlled carefully.
News Items About hardness
1 Hardness Testing Machine Offers Enhanced Performance (November 22, 2011)
New HR-200/300/400/500 Series Rockwell hardness testing machines from Mitutoyo America Corporation offer enhanced performance with improv... Read News
2 Newage Testings Microhardness System Contains Multi-Specimen Fixture and Positioning Tables (February 14, 2007)
Newage Testing Instruments' introduced the new model CAMS-MSO multi-specimen microhardness testing system. The system can handle... Read News
3 Marposs? New Gear Tester Detects Correct Tooth Hardness (April 19, 2006)
The E59n from Marposs is a mechanical system where the gears are loaded and correctly referred before being tested. The integrated eddy c... Read News