Gears are an essential part of most machine power transmission systems. Consequently, failure can spell both disaster and downtime for your products or equipment. With so much at stake, it’s important to know and understand the variables that can affect the service life of your gears, as well as proper maintenance techniques.
Optimize Your Gear Design
Design is the foundation of the gear’s working life. Factors that affect estimated life span include (but are not limited to):
- A duty cycle that is fully designed
- The lubrication system as well as the lubricant’s quality and bulk average temperature
- Quantified transient or shock loads, using the mean and alternating applied torque as the base
- Gear alignment as defined by the placement of shaft bearing support and any deflections of gearboxes and shafts due to applied loads
- The base material and its heat treatment
While a superior base design is important to the survival of the gear train, it is equally critical to develop the proper micro-geometry to ensure that the actual service life lives up to predicted standards.
When selecting a gear engineer, confirm that they have the right experience and expertise in designing gears, and will help you find a custom solution.
Apply Precision Manufacturing
Once the gear is designed, a custom gear manufacturer can craft them to your precise specifications. This is one factor that can really affect gear longevity. If they are not produced to the design-required specifications, the expected service life can be significantly lower.
Proper Gear Maintenance
Once optimized gear design and precision-level gear manufacturing have ensured a positive and satisfactory service life, it’s time to apply important and proper maintenance techniques. A proper gear maintenance regime includes the following:
- Careful monitoring of the overall condition of the lubricant. If it (or, more accurately, its additives) become depleted or overheated, failure of the gear is practically guaranteed. One way to avoid this mishap is periodic lubricant changes and, if you are able to do so, filter changes, which can help.
- Monitoring the condition of the bearings that hold the gear-supporting shafts. If one of these bearings starts to fail, an added vibration load is induced into the gear train, an event that the design does not account for. As a result, the expected service life of the gears will be shortened.
- Make sure that the rotational speeds and applied torque loads stay within the parameters of the design. Power requirements frequently increase or the capabilities of the machine system become enhanced without taking the system-wide effect on applied loads into consideration.
- Intermittent visual inspections of all gear teeth are recommended if the gear train system and / or the gearbox is on a mission critical application.
In conclusion, working with a trained and qualified professional is an essential part of extending gear life. Select an individual or company with extensive experience in both gear engineering and gear production, and you’ll have the resources and support needed to keep your system in shape for a long time to come.