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.
Gears are manufactured with thin rims for several reasons. Steel gears are manufactured with thin rims and webs where low weight is important. Nonmetallic gears, manufactured by injection molding, are designed with thin rims as part of the general design rule to maintain uniform thickness to ensure even post-mold cooling. When a thin-rimmed gear fails, the fracture is thought the root of the gear, as shown in Fig. 1a, rather than the usual fillet failure shown in Fig. 1b.
This article discusses the relationships among the fillet stress on a thin rim planet gear, the radial clearance between the gear rim and the gear shaft, the tooth load, the rim thickness, the radius of curvature of the center line of the rim, the face width and the module.