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If someone were to tell you that he had a gear material that was stronger per pound than aluminum, as wear-resistant as steel, easier to machine than free-machining steel and capable of producing gears domestically for 20% less than those now cut from foreign made forgings, would you consider that material to be "high tech"? Probably. Well, throw out all the pre-conceived notions that you may have had about "high tech" materials. The high-performance material they didn't teach you about in school is austempered ductile iron (ADI).
Technology investments lead to product innovation at gear materials suppliers.
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.
Users of gear-cutting tools probably do not often consciously consider the raw material from which those hogs, broaches or shavers are made. However, a rudimentary awareness of the various grades and their properties may allow tool users to improve the performance or life of their tools, or to address tool failures. The high-speed steel from which the tool is made certainly is not the only factor affecting tool performance, but as the raw material, the steel may be the first place to start.
Traditionally, high-quality gears are cut to shape from forged blanks. Great accuracy can be obtained through shaving and grinding of tooth forms, enhancing the power capacity, life and quietness of geared power transmissions. In the 1950s, a process was developed for forging gears with teeth that requires little or no metal to be removed to achieve final geometry. The initial process development was undertaken in Germany for the manufacture of bevel gears for automobile differentials and was stimulated by the lack of available gear cutting equipment at that time. Later attention has turned to the forging of spur and helical gears, which are more difficult to form due to the radial disposition of their teeth compared with bevel gears. The main driver of these developments, in common with most component manufacturing, is cost. Forming gears rather than cutting them results in increased yield from raw material and also can increase productivity. Forging gears is therefore of greater advantage for large batch quantities, such as required by the automotive industry.
The last decade has been a period of far-reaching change for the metal working industry. The effect of higher lubricant costs, technical advances in machine design and increasing competition are making it essential that manufacturers of gears pay more attention to testing, selecting and controlling cutting fluid systems. Lubricant costs are not a large percentage of the process cost relative to items such as raw materials, equipment and labor, and this small relative cost has tended to reduce the economic incentive to evaluate and to change cutting fluids.
How do we know when the gear material we buy is metallurgically correct? How can we judge material quality when all gear material looks alike?
Plane strain fracture toughness of twelve high-carbon steels has been evaluated to study the influence of alloying elements, carbon content and retained austenite. The steels were especially designed to simulate the carburized case microstructure of commonly used automotive type gear steels. Results show that a small variation in carbon can influence the K IC significantly. The beneficial effect of retained austenite depends both on its amount and distribution. The alloy effect, particularly nickel, becomes significant only after the alloy content exceeds a minimum amount. Small amounts of boron also appear beneficial.
Ausforming, the plastic deformation of heat treatment steels in their metastable, austentic condition, was shown several decades ago to lead to quenched and tempered steels that were harder, tougher and more durable under fatigue-type loading than conventionally heat-treated steels. To circumvent the large forces required to ausform entire components such as gears, cams and bearings, the ausforming process imparts added mechanical strength and durability only to those contact surfaces that are critically loaded. The ausrolling process, as utilized for finishing the loaded surfaces of machine elements, imparts high quality surface texture and geometry control. The near-net-shape geometry and surface topography of the machine elements must be controlled to be compatible with the network dimensional finish and the rolling die design requirements (Ref. 1).
This paper introduces mandatory improvements in design, manufacturing and inspection - from material elaboration to final machining - with special focus on today's large and powerful gearing.
The manufacturing process to produce a gear essentially consist of: material selection, blank preshaping, tooth shaping, heat treatment, and final shaping. Only by carefully integrating of the various operations into a complete manufacturing system can an optimum gear be obtained. The final application of the gear will determine what strength characteristics will be required which subsequently determine the material and heat treatments.
Plastic gears are serious alternatives to traditional metal gears in a wide variety of applications. The use of plastic gears has expanded from low-power, precision motion transmission into more demanding power transmission applications. As designers push the limits of acceptable plastic gear applications, more is learned about the behavior of plastics in gearing and how to take advantage of their unique characteristics.
Surface-hardened, sintered powder metal gears are increasingly used in power transmissions to reduce the cost of gear production. One important problem is how to design with surface durability, given the porous nature of sintered gears. Many articles have been written about mechanical characteristics, such as tensile and bending strength, of sintered materials, and it is well-known that the pores existing on and below their surfaces affect their characteristics (Refs. 1-3). Power transmission gears are frequently employed under conditions of high speed and high load, and tooth surfaces are in contact with each other under a sliding-rolling contact condition. Therefore it is necessary to consider not only their mechanical, but also their tribological characteristics when designing sintered gears for surface durability.
In this study, limiting values for the load-carrying-capacity of fine-module gears within the module range 0.3–1.0 mm were determined and evaluated by comprehensive, experimental investigations that employed technical, manufacturing and material influence parameters.
The performance of carburized components can be improved simply by changing the alloy content of the steel.
Austempering heat treatments (austenitizing followed by rapid cooling to the tempering temperature) have been applied to nodular irons on an experimental basis for a number of years, but commercial interest in the process has only recently come to the surface.
Gear designs are evolving at an ever accelerating rate, and gear manufacturers need to better understand how the choice of materials and heat treating methods can optimize mechanical properties, balance overall cost and extend service life.
Hobs, broaches, shaper cutters, shaver cutters, milling cutters, and bevel cutters used in the manufacture of gears are commonly made of high speed steel. These specialized gear cutting tools often require properties, such as toughness or manufacturability, that are difficult to achieve with carbide, despite the developments in carbide cutting tools for end mills, milling cutters, and tool inserts.
The palette of thermoplastic materials for gears has grown rapidly, as have the applications themselves. Designers need to be aware of key properties and attributes in selecting the right material.
Corus Engineering Steels' formula for its new gear steels: Maintain achievable hardness while using fewer alloys, thereby cutting steel costs for gear manufacturers.
New material technology allows for more efficient and flexible hobbing.
This paper shows an experimental study on the fatigue lifetime of high-heat polyamide (Stanyl) gears running in oil at 140°C. Based on previous works (Refs. 1–2), an analysis is made correcting for tooth bending and calculating actual root stresses. A comparison with tensile bar fatigue data for the same materials at 140°C shows that a good correlation exists between gear fatigue data and tensile bar fatigue data. This insight provides a solid basis for gear designers to design plastic gears using actual material data.
The quality of molded plastic gears is typically judged by dimensional feature measurements only. This practice overlooks potential deficiencies in the molding process.
This paper addresses Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI) as an emerging Itechnology and defines its challenge by describing the state-of-the-art of incumbent materials. The writing is more philosophical in nature than technical and is presented to establish a perspective.