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Helix Angle and Root Stress

By measuring the helix angle, the authorand founder of

the Ohio State University Gearlabstudied its effects on root
stresses in helical gears.
By Donald R. Houser
Have fOR SeveRal yeaRS Been COMpaR-
InG THe ReSulTS Of DIffeRenT RaTInG
MeTHODS fOR SeveRal SeTS Of GeaR
paIRS THaT Have SIMIlaR nORMal SeC-
TIOnS BuT DIffeRenT HelIx anGleS. THe
analySIS pReSenTeD In THIS papeR uSeS a
veRy SOpHISTICaTeD fInITe eleMenT CODe
THaT waS DevelOpeD SpeCIfICally fOR
GeaR anD BeaRInG COnTaCTS TO analyze
THe exaMple GeaR SeTS. analySeS aRe
alSO peRfORMeD uSInG a MORe COn-
venTIOnal lOaD DISTRIBuTIOn analySIS
GeaR SeTS SHOw THaT THe naRROw faCe
THuS MOvInG THe lOaD TO One eDGe Of
THe faCe wIDTH anD eSSenTIally SHOwInG
THaT THe exaMple GeaR SeTS aRe HIGHly
unRealISTIC. wHen analyzeD By THe ISO
an effORT TO COMe up wITH a valID COM-
paRISOn Of STReSSeS fOR DIffeRenT HelIx
anGleS, THRee aDjuSTMenTS uSInG wIDeR
faCe wIDTHS weRe aTTeMpTeD. THe fIRST
SCHeMe uSeS a wIDeR faCe wIDTH wITH
peRfeCT InvOluTeS. eDGe effeCTS ReSulT
In THe peak STReSSeS aGaIn BeInG neaR
THe enDS Of THe faCe wIDTH. THe SeCOnD
aDjuSTMenT uSeS a wIDeR faCe wIDTH
BuT wITH a naRROw lOaD paTCH In THe
uSeS THe wIDe faCe wIDTH TeeTH wITH
leaD CROwn anD TIp RelIef, GIveS THe
wIDTHS. THe papeR COMpaReS eaCH Of THe
ReSulTS TO eaRlIeR analySeS peRfORMeD
This paper reports on the effect of helix angle on root stresses, a topic of discussion for a number of years within
the ISO and aGMa Gear Rating Committees. Current rating methods use either the lewis form factor [1] or the
30-degree tangent method [2] applied to the transverse tooth section to locate the position of maximum root stress.
Corrections are then provided to account for the diagonal lines of contact that occur in helical gear tooth contact.
even though this topic has been discussed extensively for many years, there are still disagreements on how
these factors should be calculated. Gears present significant challenges when trying to come up with changes
in geometry that isolate one effect without affecting others. a geometry set that supposedly isolates helix angle
from all other variables by using a constant normal cross-section for each new helix angle gear was proposed in
documents of the ISO Rating Committee [3, 4]. In order to achieve this, the rack used to generate the normal
cross-section was kept constant. However, in order to change the helix angle and still keep the gears operating
at the same standard center distance, it was necessary to reduce the tooth numbers as the helix angle was
increased. Since tooth numbers must be integers, there are only a few possible helix angles that are possible.
Table 1 shows the variables that are held constant in this analysis, and Table 2 shows the relationship between
tooth number and helix angle for the sets.
FEBRUARY 2012 31
for these gear sets, fig. 1 shows the results for a variety of
methods that were used to calculate the root stresses. In this fig-
ure the stresses are first calculated for the spur gear (helix angle
= 0) and the values for the other helix angles are normalized to
the value calculated for the spur gear so that all curves start at a
value of 1.0 for a helix angle of zero degrees. previous work by the
ISO document authors shows calculations for two face widths, one
very narrow with the face width being equal to the module and the
Fig. 1: N367 normalized tooth form factor (root stress)
predictions (all data is from [3]-B: Method B from ISO
6336; N: Proposed Norwegian method).
Fig. 2: Transmission3D finite element mesh
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other for an infinite face width. Calculations
have been made using ISO 6336 method
B, aGMa 2001, and a proposed norwegian
method [3]. Some methods predict that
increasing the helix angle will continually
decrease root stresses while other meth-
ods show an ever-increasing trend in root
stresses with helix angle.
each of the methods used to calculate
the root stresses of fig. 1 use standards
type formulas that are used in conjunc-
tion with many other factors to come up
with a stress value. This papers authors
thought that calculations of the real
stresses that the gears experience might
shed some light on the differences in
Fig. 3: Transmission3D model
of the narrow face width mesh.
Fig. 4: Gear tooth load distribution
from Transmission3D for a narrow
face width spur gear tooth.
Fig. 5: Transmission3D load
distribution and root stress pat-
tern for the 42.833 helix angle
FEBRUARY 2012 33
each calculation method. Therefore, an
advanced finite element program that
is specifically designed to analyze gear
and bearing contacts, and a more stan-
dard load distribution prediction program
were employed to predict the actual root
stresses for the example gear sets. This
paper provides extensive analyses of
the example gear sets presented in the
original n367 document and also seeks
to provide a more realistic gear geometry
that isolates the effects of helix angle on
root stresses.
each of the gear sets presented in this
paper was modeled with two separate
programs to evaluate the root stresses,
the first being the high fidelity three-
Fig. 6: Predicted
normalized root
stress for narrow
face width pinion.
Table 1: Variables held con-
stant in study 1.
Helix angle, degrees Number of pinion teeth Number of gear teeth
0.000 30 120
14.83 29 116
21.04 28 112
25.84 27 108
29.93 26 104
33.56 25 100
36.87 24 96
39.95 23 92
42.83 22 88
Parameter Variable Value
Gear ratio u 4
Normal module, mm m
Center distance, mm a 750.0
Hob addendum, mm h
Hob tip radius, mm
Protuberance, mm p 0.3
Normal pressure angle, degrees 20.0
Face width, mm 1 m
Normal tooth thickness, mm t 15.7
36 gearsolutions.com
dimensional finite element program known
as Transmission3D [5, 6]. The second
program is a more conventional load distri-
bution program (lDp) that has been devel-
oped by Houser, et al. [7, 8].
Transmission3D is a linear finite ele-
ment contact analysis program specifically
designed for analyzing gear and bearing
contacts and is based on the Calyx contact
analysis solver. The program has the ability
to model complex gear geometries including
tooth micro-geometries that include lead
and profile modifications. The program uti-
lizes a hybrid algorithm that combines finite
element analysis with the application of a
semi-analytical surface integral solution at
the contact region to produce compliance
terms. These compliance terms are then
used in a Simplex-type solver to evaluate
the load distribution across the tooth.
using Transmission3D, each of the pre-
sented gear sets is modeled as a single
mesh with all non-rotational degrees of
freedom fixed to ground. a tooth mesh tem-
plate (fig. 2) with high resolution in the root
Fig. 8:
display of load
distribution and
stress contour
of the 42.833
helix angle, 100
mm face width
Fig. 9:
Predicted nor-
malized root
stress for 100
mm face width
pinion (perfect
Fig. 10: Flat lead crown applied
to narrow contact patch gears.
Fig. 7: Transmission3D model of
the 100 mm face width mesh.
Table 2: Gear pairs used in
study 1.
Helix angle, degrees Number of pinion teeth Number of gear teeth
0.000 30 120
14.83 29 116
21.04 28 112
25.84 27 108
29.93 26 104
33.56 25 100
36.87 24 96
39.95 23 92
42.83 22 88
Parameter Variable Value
Gear ratio u 4
Normal module, mm m
Center distance, mm a 750.0
Hob addendum, mm h
Hob tip radius, mm
Protuberance, mm p 0.3
Normal pressure angle, degrees 20.0
Face width, mm 1 m
Normal tooth thickness, mm t 15.7
Fig. 11:
predicted load
distribution and
root stresses
for the narrow
contact patch
25 helix angle
FEBRUARY 2012 37
region is used to accurately capture the
stress gradients within the entire root fillet.
each simulation is then run for one mesh
cycle (one base pitch of rotation). The
root stresses are found by searching the
entire root fillet for the maximum principal
stresses across the face width. while most
tooth root stress calculation procedures
only evaluate stresses for one tooth pair at
a time, this method evaluates all lines of
contact simultaneously and also includes
the deflections of the entire gear blank.
The second program used to model the
gear sets is the load Distribution program
(lDp). lDp is a program that analyzes
single mesh gear pairs using a finite plate
compliance calculation in conjunction with
the inclusion of Hertzian deflections and
deflections of the tooth base [7]. The root
stresses for each gear set are computed
using a two dimensional boundary element
[9] that has been extended to the third
dimension using a procedure developed by
jaramillo [10]. lDp also has the ability to
use finite element created compliance func-
tions as well as performing finite element
calculations of the root stresses.
Study 1: narrow Face
wIdth gearS [n367]
The original study was based on the n350
and n367 documents from the ISO Rating
Committee proceedings [3,4] that presented
Fig. 12:
root stress
plot for
the nar-
row contact
patch pin-
Fig. 13:
etry modifi-
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nine gear sets with varying helix angles as given in Table 2. The
face width is equal to the normal module, m
, which provides a
very narrow gear with a pinion face width to diameter (F/d) ratio of
0.031. It was assumed that this was done in order to essentially
create a helical gear tooth form that acts like a spur gear, since
one can literally define a highest point of single tooth pair contact,
even for the highest helix angle gear pair.
The gear sets of this study have perfect involute profiles, a nar-
row face width of 10mm, and constant normal tooth thickness.
By holding the normal tooth thickness constant and keeping the
face width narrow, the effect of the diagonal line of contact on
the moment arm distance to the root centerline is reduced. This
allows the results to be normalized and compared to the spur
gear geometry where the lines of contact are parallel to the shaft
axis. analysis was performed on each of the nine sets using both
Transmission3D and lDp.
figure 3 shows the finite element mesh used in Transmission3D
while fig. 4 shows both the predicted load distribution at the high-
est point of single tooth pair contact and the root stresses for a
single spur gear tooth. Initial observations showed that the normal-
ized root stress never reduced and increased much more rapidly
than the 1/cos() path that is similar to the upper curve of fig. 1.
further investigation showed significant twisting of the loaded
tooth as the helix angle increased. This twist can be seen in fig.
5 for the 42.83 helix angle gear pair. This twisting shifts the load
to one side of the tooth and thus causing an unusual stress pat-
tern in the root with the maximum root stress being located oppo-
site to where the tooth is loaded. This twisting induces increased
stresses in the root due to the shift in load distribution to one
side of the tooth causing what seem to be the highly unrealistic
results shown in fig. 6. The lDp predictions, which do not include
the twisting effect, show increasing root stress with helix angle,
but to a much lesser degree than the 1/cos() curve.
Study 2: 100 MM Face wIdth gearS
while the previous gear sets presented in the n367 document
had a novel idea for isolating the effects of helix angle, the narrow
face width prevented the current analyses from producing realistic
results more common to most gear applications that have much
wider face widths. To reduce the tooth twist effect, the face width
was simply increased from 10 mm to 100 mm (F/d = 0.31 with
the face contact ratio varying from 0 to 2.16, depending on helix
angle) with all other geometry data being kept the same as for the
previous gear sets. The pinion torque was increased by a factor of
10 in order to remain at the same load per unit face width as in
the previous narrow face width study. perfect involute profiles were
assumed so some localized twisting is still expected at the corners
while tip interference due to tooth deflection is also expected.
although not of infinite face width that is plotted for the second
set of data in fig. 1, the results for this face width were expected
to be comparable to the infinite face width gear pair.
again, the nine gear sets were modeled and analyzed using the
two programs. figure 7 shows the finite element mesh used in
Transmission3D, and fig. 8 shows the loading and stresses for
one mesh position of the 42.83 helix angle pinion. although the
tooth twist has been reduced, the predicted peak helical gear
Fig. 15: Root stress distribution
for the 36.87 helix angle pinion
using the three analysis meth-
ods: a) Transmission3D load and
root stresses at one meshing
position; b) LDP finite element
composite root stresses; 3) LDP
boundary element root stresses
at nine difference face width
Fig. 14: Contact stress distribution for 36.87
helix angle.
40 gearsolutions.com
root stresses shown in fig. 9 still occur at the edge of the tooth
face width and seem abnormally high relative to the gear rating
models. It is interesting to note that the highest fidelity model,
Transmission3D, predicted the highest stresses since it still
shows the twisting effect as well as having increased stresses
due to the reduced tooth backing because of the angled tooth
edge. The lDp fe model predicted less twist and hence less
stress and finally, the simple lDp model that does not model the
twist, predicts stresses that are slightly lower.
Study 3: narrow contact
Patch gearS
In order to isolate the effects of helix angle, while at the same time
eliminating the edge effects, it was decided to try analyzing a gear
pair that had features of each of the two previous studies. In this
study, the face width was kept at 100 mm, but a contact patch
only 10mm in width was applied down the center of the tooth. This
patch was achieved by applying abnormally high-end relief across
45 percent of each end of the face width, leaving only 10 percent
of the face width in contact. figure 10 shows the end relief speci-
fication. The Transmission3D finite element mesh is the same as
that used in Study 2. In order to make the gear set act like a spur
gear pair, the outside diameters were reduced so that the profile
contact ratio was kept close to 1.0. figure 11 shows the load dis-
tribution and root stress pattern for the 25 helix angle pinion. The
effects of helix angle on root stress that are shown in fig. 12 are
now much better behaved, with all of the models giving somewhat
similar results and each of them roughly following the inverse of
the cosine of the helix angle plot. However, if one stops to think
about this a bit, the tooth normal cross-sections are very similar,
but the normal load increases by the cosine of the helix angle, so
following the inverse of the helix angle trend is expected.
Study 4: tyPIcal gear PaIr
each of the previously studied gear pairs has some feature that
makes the gear set unrealistic. In order to get a more realistic
gearing situation, the face width was kept at 100 mm and circular
profile and lead modifications were applied such that end effects
and tip interference were reduced. The typical micro-geometry of
the pinion is shown in fig. 13. The earlier finite element model
was used for the Transmission3D analysis.
The contact stress distribution plot of fig. 14 shows complete
contact across the tooth flank with a rolling off of stress at
the extremes of the tooth face width and the profile. figure 15
shows the root stress patterns of the three models, namely,
Transmission3D, lDp-finite element, and lDp boundary ele-
ment, respectively. The lDp boundary element results show root
stresses plotted in 11 percent increments across the face width.
Results are fairly similar in load distribution and also show similar
root stress trends with all models showing the highest stressed
region being on one side of the tooth. as seen in fig. 16, the root
stresses are less than the reference spur gear for helix angles
less than 25, which shows that this model not only captures
the effect of helix angle, but also incorporates the effect of the
helical factor that is part of the effect predicted by the rating
standards. It is interesting to note that Transmission3D and the
lDp finite element give almost identical results with the exception
of the highest helix angle data. at low and medium helix angles,
the inverse of the helix angle is higher than any of the predictions.
although the aGMa prediction shown in fig. 1 is for a different
face width set, its values would lie beneath any of the predicted
values of fig. 16.
This paper has presented the results of a high fidelity finite ele-
ment analysis of the n367 gear sets that were previously used for
the evaluation of the helix angle effect on root stresses of helical
gears [3]. The initial analysis showed an unrealistic load distribu-
tion shift for higher helix angle gear pairs due to substantial twist
of the narrow face width teeth.
alternate gear geometries were then proposed that might bet-
ter isolate the effects of helix angle variation while also using
more realistic tooth loadings. Of the four studies that were per-
formed, the Study 4 arrangement, which uses a reasonably wide
face width tooth with modifications that center the load on the
teeth gives results that would be best for comparing sophisti-
cated model results with rating calculations.
One major conclusion is that the end effects of narrow face
width helical gears can result in tooth twisting that might abnor-
mally increase edge loading. proper profile and lead modifica-
tions can minimize these effects and advanced load distribution
analysis is a means of detecting such issues.

Fig. 16: Predicted normalized root stress plot for
the more typical pinions.
FEBRUARY 2012 41
1) lewis, w., 1893, Investigation of the Strength of Gear Teeth,
proceedings of engineers Club, philadelphia.
2) Dudley, D., 1984, Handbook of practical Gear Design. Gear-
Strength Calculations, Chapter 2, McGraw Hill, 1984.
3) Sandberg, e., 1989, ISO/TC 60/wG 6 n
367. letter. 04 apr.
4) ISO/TC 60/wG 6 n 385. 11-13 Sep. 1989.
5) vijayakar, S., 1991, a Combined Surface Integral and finite
element Solution for a Three-Dimensional Contact problem, Int.
j. numer. Methods eng. 31, pp. 525545.
6) vijayakar, S., Houser, D.R.,1991 Contact analysis of Gears
using a Combined finite element and Surface Integral Method,
proceedings of the aGMa fall Technical Meeting, paper
7) Conry, T.f. and Seireg, a., 1973. a Mathematical programming
Technique for the evaluation of load Distribution and Optimal
Modifications for Gear Systems. j. eng. Ind., Trans. aSMe, vol.
95, no. 4, pp. 1115-1123.
8) Houser, D., 2009, Theoretical Basis of The Ohio State load
Distribution program (lDp) The Ohio State university, Columbus,
9) Clapper, M., and Houser, D., 1994, a Boundary element
procedure for predicting Helical Gear Root Stresses and load
Distribution factors, proceedings of aGMa Technical Conference,
St. louis.
10) jaramillo, T.j., 1950, Deflections and Moments Due to a
Concentrated load on a Cantilever plate of Infinite length, j.
appl. Mech., Trans. aSMe, vol. 72, pp. 67-72
Donald R. Houser is professor emeritus and founder
of The Ohio State universitys Gear and power
Transmission Research laboratory (Gearlab). Go
online to www.gearlab.org.
The author would like to thank advanced numerical Solutions
lCC for the use and support of Transmission3D. also,
sincere thanks go to the sponsors of the Gear and power
Transmission Research laboratory as well as the aGMa
foundation, who provided fellowship support for the second
author of this study. printed with permission of the copy-
right holder, the american Gear Manufacturers association,
1001 n. fairfax Street, 5
floor, alexandria, virginia 22314.
Statements presented in this paper are those of the authors
and may not represent the position or opinion of the american
Gear Manufacturers association.
42 gearsolutions.com