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A kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth

M Karimpour1 , K D Dearn2 , and D Walton2
Mechanics of Materials Division, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London,
South Kensington Campus, London, UK
Power Transmission Laboratory, School of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston,
Birmingham, UK
The manuscript was received on 16 December 2009 and was accepted after revision for publication on 30 April 2010.
DOI: 10.1243/14644207JMDA315

Abstract: This article describes an investigation into the contact behaviour of polymeric gear
transmissions using numerical finite element (FE) and analytical techniques. A polymer gear
pair was modelled and analysed using the ABAQUS software suite and the analytical results were
calculated using the BS ISO 6336 rating standard. Before describing the results, the principles
of the strategies and methods employed in the building of the FE model have been discussed.
The FE model dynamically simulated a range of operating conditions. The simulations showed
that the kinematic behaviour of polymeric gears is substantially different from those predicted
by the classical metal gear theory. Extensions to the path of contact occur at the beginning and
end of the meshing cycle. These are caused by large tooth deflections experienced by polymer
gear teeth, as a result of much lower values of stiffness compared to metallic gears. The premature contact (occurring at the beginning of the meshing cycle) is hypothesized to be a factor in
pitch line tooth fractures, whereas the extended contact is thought to be a factor in the extreme
wear as seen in experiments. Furthermore, the increase in the path of contact also affects the
induced bending and contact stresses. Simulated values are compared against those predicted
by the international gear standard BS ISO 6336 and are shown to be substantially different. This
is particularly for the case for bending stresses, where analytically derived values are independent of contact stiffness. The extreme tooth bending and the differences between analytical and
numerical stresses observed in all the simulations suggest that any future polymeric gear-rating
standard must account for the effects of load sharing (as a result of tooth deflection) and friction
(particularly in dry-running applications).
Keywords: spur gears, polymers, steels, friction, temperature, kinematics


Polymeric materials were first employed in gearing

applications in the 1950s and have developed into
a large range of applications. The majority of these
tend to be in motion control (low load, temperature,
and speeds). However, the development of the super
engineering polymers and polymer gearing technology has pushed the application limits further into
moderate power transmission functions. The benefits

Corresponding author: Power Transmission Laboratory, School of

Mechanical Engineering, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.
email: k.d.dearn@bham.ac.uk

of employing such polymers in gearing applications

emanate from their low cost, low weight, resilience,
and ability to run dry. A reduced load capacity and,
crucially, a poor temperature resistance tend to limit
the use of such gears.
High temperatures reduce the mechanical properties of polymers much more than metals. One of
the consequences of this is a reduction in the transmission accuracy of polymer gears, giving rise to
transmission errors caused by the large tooth deflections. Loss of contact ratio due to the following two
factors should not be ignored in performance specification, namely a lower manufacturing accuracy grade
and an allowance for thermal and hydroscopic expansion. Klein Meuleman et al. used a quasi-static FE
model to simulate transmission errors in a polymeric
gear set over a range of operational conditions [1].
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications


M Karimpour, K D Dearn, and D Walton

With this, empirical measurements, and an analytical

model, they were able to minimize composite toothto-tooth transmission errors through novel geometric
This was not the first time FEA had been used
to analyse the kinematic behaviour of non-metallic
gears. Walton et al. used the FE method to study
load-sharing effects and were among the first to
suggest that, as a result of thermal softening, the
contact ratio of a polymeric gear set was greater
than that predicted by theory [2]. Using a nondimensional analysis based on a variety of operational parameters, the actual contact conditions
in terms of a contact ratio were determined by
a gear elasticity parameter. This work then led to
further studies on the beneficial effects of performance and profile modification, such as backlash
allowance [3] and tip relief [4], in non-metallic
The FE method was also employed by Senthilvelan
and Gnanamoorthy to assess the effect of tooth fillet radius on gear performance [5]. They employed a
basic single-tooth model, loaded only at the tip, and
disregarded contact ratio effects, calculating an equivalent line load. This indicated, as would be expected,
higher bending stress levels in teeth with smaller fillet
radii. There were similar increases in tooth deflections, having the combined effect of shortening the
gear life.
Van Melick used both FEM and analytical methods
to investigate the influence of stiffness on dissimilar
materials, gear kinematics, and stresses (a steel gear
is typically 70 times stiffer than an equivalent polyoxymethylene polymer gear) [6]. He suggested that
polymeric gear kinematics are different to those produced by the classical gear theory, with the effect of
increasing stresses and, through an extended path of
contact, influencing the wear resistance of the plastic
gear. An interesting aspect of this study was the discovery of a reciprocating motion at the root of the driven
gear as the teeth disengage at the end of the meshing
cycle. The FEA model used employed a quasi-static
FEA has been used for some time to model the complexities of the steel gear theory. One of the most
detailed and accurate FEA simulation on metallic
gears was arguably conducted by Mao [7]. He utilized
FE to investigate the effects of micro-geometry modifications on the reduction of transmission errors and
fatigue damage in a metallic helical gear set. To achieve
the maximum possible geometrical accuracy, instead
of importing a model into the FE software (ABAQUS),
the gear geometry was mathematically generated
using Python Script. Advanced surface-based tie techniques between nodes were utilized to obtain a highquality mesh for contact. The novel aspect of this was
that instead of a multi-simulation technique (quasistatic), the whole gear meshing process was achieved
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications

by one simulation, making it possible to study the

real rolling and sliding contact. Having developed an
accurate FE model, shaft misalignment and assembly deflection effects on gear surface durability and
transmission error were also studied. This revealed
an effective way of reducing transmission error and
gear surface wear damage through micro-geometry
modification (i.e. crowning, tip relief, and lead

The complexities of polymer gearing offer an ideal
application for the finite-element method. Many
researchers have used it to study the fundamental
kinematic and kinetic behaviours of polymer gears. In
recent years, as computational power has increased,
along with the sophistication of commercial finiteelement software, researchers have employed numerical techniques not only to study the behaviour of
polymeric gear transmissions, but also to modify and
optimize gear trains for specific applications. However,
these polymer gear simulations are all based on quasistatic solutions (as detailed above). The following
section discusses current rating methods for nonmetallic gears and discusses those that are deemed
most appropriate to the unique behaviour of plastic
gears. The development of a dynamic non-linear FE
model to study the kinematic behaviour of a polymer gear transmission is then described. Employing
a dynamic solution allowed the whole meshing cycle
to be continuously simulated, resulting in a better
understanding of tooth bending effects, and the ramifications of these effects for other aspects of polymer
gear performance. In addition to this, it provided an
answer as to whether gear-rating standards, developed
specifically for metallic gears, could be used to design
and rate polymer gears.


Design and rating standards

Gear-rating procedures adopt different assumptions

to give the best approximation of stresses within and
around gear teeth; hence, it is inevitable that different procedures will predict different values according
to the assumptions made. In a comparison of available procedures for the rating of non-metallic gears
(BS6168, ESDU68001, and Polypenco), Walton and Shi
observed large discrepancies between different methods and suggested that an experimental investigation
was required to assess which rating standard was the
most accurate [8]. Following on from this, Cropper
compared the stress levels predicted by a similar range
of rating standards against an FE analysis considering
load sharing and showed BS ISO 6336 (method B) to
be the most accurate [9].

Kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth



Bending stress estimation

All bending stress analyses are based on the Lewis

bending equation, which has gone through many
minor modifications since its first introduction. For
instance, ISO 6336:1996 [10] has adopted the exact
location of maximum stress experimentally found by
Hoffer [11]. ISO 6336 (methods B and C) as well as
ANSI/AGMA 2001 take into account the stress concentration at the tooth root fillet, which is ignored by the
other methods. A unique characteristic of method B in
ISO 6336 is that it enables the tooth form factor to be
calculated from first principles (an extensive process,
but it accounts for any tooth geometry); other methods
use tabulated data instead.

Contact stresses

The basis of all contact stress calculations is the classical Hertzian contact analysis. Stress levels are usually
calculated at the pitch point where the sliding friction may be assumed to be zero as well as negligible
bending deflection due to contact. The only difference between the standards is the load-sharing effect.
ANSI/AGMA 2001 assumes no load sharing, whereas
ISO 6336 does consider a load-sharing factor in the
calculation of contact stress. When considering polymeric materials, load sharing cannot be disregarded
and hence ISO 6336:1996 would seem to be the most
accurate available method. When comparisons are
made against a standard in this article, they are made
against ISO 6336:1996 method B (from this point
forward referred to as the Standard).



All gear theories as well as the gear-rating standards

are based on rigid-body kinematics. This assumes that
no significant deformation occurs in the tooth, preserving the involute profile. This is probably a valid
assumption in the metallic gear theory; however, it is
unlikely to be the case for plastic gears in all but the
lightest of applications.
An accurate two-dimensional model of the Birmingham benchmark gear was developed and imported
into a state-of-the-art FE package (ABAQUS). A summary of the gear geometry is given in Fig. 1. In order
to reduce the computational time of the simulation,
only ten meshing teeth were modelled, with two pairs
of mating teeth meshed to a higher mesh density
to enable the extraction of accurate data (shown in
Fig. 2). The mesh in this region has relatively small
elements dimensions (i.e. approximately 0.04 mm).
In addition to this, the use of a structured mesh of
quadrilateral elements following the involute profile
of the teeth and enhanced hour-glass control adds

Fig. 1

Geometric specification of the Birmingham

Benchmark gear geometry

to the accuracy of the solution. The size of the elements was determined based on the simulation of
metallic gear teeth from reference [12]. As the polymer
material used in the simulations has a lower stiffness than the material used by Wang and Howard, the
field variable gradients are much smaller than those of
metallic gears. Hence, the same mesh density with a
structured mesh throughout the tooth has been used.
This will be conservative in terms of mesh refinement
but should guarantee accurate results. The rest of the
teeth were modelled with a coarse mesh to increase
computational efficiency.
As the stress elements do not have rotational degrees
of freedom, an advanced surface-based tie technique
was utilized to attach the nodes at the gear hub
to a rigid-body shaft, later used to apply rotational
loads and boundary conditions (also shown in Fig. 2).
In order to minimize fluctuations between contacting surfaces, an inertia load was assigned to the
shaft to dampen unwanted vibrations. The elements
used (CPE4R) were four-node bilinear plain strain
quadrilaterals with reduced integration [13].
Solutions were obtained in three steps, namely
approach, loading, and rotation, selected to reduce
the occurrence of contact inaccuracies and vibration.
A smooth step profile was defined as custom amplitude to apply all the boundary conditions and loads
as smoothly as possible. Boundary conditions and
loads were applied at the drive shaft reference points
(centres), according to the solution step sequence.
Four separate surfaces were defined on each meshing gear, to isolate each zone of the meshing cycle. The
boundary conditions were selected as follows.
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications


M Karimpour, K D Dearn, and D Walton

Fig. 2

(a) Loads and boundary conditions and (b) generated mesh representing the gear

1. Initial step: Boundary conditions were applied to

constrain completely the driving and driven gears.
2. Approach: A rotational constraint was removed
from the driving gear, then a rotational boundary
condition was activated, closing the gap between
interacting tooth flanks. The magnitude of rotation
was equivalent to the theoretical backlash for the
benchmark geometry.
3. Loading: A rotational constraint was removed from
the driven gear (thus both gears were now free to
rotate). Opposing rotational moments were then
applied on the driving and driven gears, essentially
resisting each other.
4. Rotation: Rotational boundary conditions were
applied about the drive shaft centres. The magnitude of the rotations allowed at least one pair of
gear teeth to complete one meshing cycle.
Simulations were conducted for combinations
shown in Table 1. Load-sharing data were smoothed
using the StavitzkyGolay [14] method implemented
within MATLAB. This was to compensate for the fluctuations caused by the inevitable numerical errors
and contact inaccuracies (this was a result of the way
the contact algorithm is defined in ABAQUS). Material properties for the simulations were taken from the
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications

Table 1

Simulation schedule

E (GPa) T (N m)
Test 1
Test 2
Test 3
Test 4
Test 5




Test 6 2

Test 7 1

Test 8 3.1
Test 9 3.1




Analogous to POM (Delrin 500)

at 35 C
Analogous to POM (Delrin 500)
at 50 C
Analogous to POM (Delrin 500)
at 90 C

polymer manufacturer Du Pont [15]. For each simulation, Poissons ratio was taken as 0.35 and the material
model used was isotropic linear elastic.


With the FE model completely defined, simulation

and analysis were initiated to test a variety of common operational conditions for polymer gears. These
were specifically selected to examine the explicit kinematic responses and to assess the suitability of using

Kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth

Fig. 4

Fig. 3

Extensions to the path of contact extracted from

the FE model simulating an applied load of 7 N m
(E = 3.1 GPa)

the Standard for the rating of polymeric gears. Stresses

were then examined and compared against those
predicted by the Standard, highlighting the shortcomings of this rating method. Finally, the effects that
operational conditions (for example, temperature and
friction) had on the performance of the gears are given.


Path of contact

The classical gear theory predicts that the path of

contact of a pair of meshing gears lies on a straight
line (effectively being the locus of all contact points)
between the first (FPC) and last points of tooth contact (LPC) (governed by the addendum radii). Figure 3
shows the locus of contact points extracted from
simulation 2 (specified in Table 1), plotted against
the theoretical benchmark geometry. It exhibits, as
expected, a line of contact between the addendum
radii as predicted by the theory. However, there are
also periods of premature contact (Fig. 4) occurring
before the theoretical FPC and extended contact after
the predicted LPC. The extensions do not coincide with
the linear section of the line but are almost perpendicular to it. The extended contact (at the LPC) lies
almost exactly on the addendum radius of the wheel,
suggesting that this extraordinary contact occurs on
the involute area of the tooth flank. This was not the
case for the premature contact region, suggesting that
contact occurs outside the involute flank on the tooth
The main reason for this behaviour lies with the
very large tooth deflections observed in polymeric gear
teeth, deformations that are much greater than those
found in metallic gearing. These deflections significantly alter the (theoretical) tooth geometry and are


A schematic of the premature contact caused by

large tooth deflections

governed by the mechanical properties of the polymer.

This can be verified by the results presented by Wang
and Howard [12]. It was shown that in soft metallic
gears (i.e. aluminium gears), the load share ratio profile differs from the theoretical curve and that with
greater load, the extent of premature and extended
contact would be increased.
During the premature contact stage, the tip of the
tooth and top land of the wheel make heavy contact
with the pinion tooth in the proximity of its pitch point.
Contact then continues up the tooth flanks until they
are tangent to one another, followed by normal contact until the theoretical LPC. This was likely to be the
result of a deflection lag (i.e. it was the result of successive teeth already being deflected). After this point,
the deflected teeth attempt to return to their original
form. In doing so, the tip of the pinion slides along
the flank of the wheel in the direction of the pitch
point. This was the reciprocating motion that was first
suggested by van Melick and is discussed below.
Van Melick [6] suggested that the reciprocation of
the tooth tip at the mating root accounts for the distinctive wear patterns described by Breeds et al. [16],
such that they govern the mechanisms of wear in polymeric gearing. This is a strong statement given that
Walton et al. [3] reported that wear was the predominant form of failure in polymer gears. Given the locality
of the premature contact region (i.e. at the pitch line
of the pinion), this may also be a contributory factor
in pitch line fractures (PLFs). This is particularly interesting considering the work of Cropper [9], who noted
that for the benchmark geometry (i.e. when the pinion
and wheel are geometrically identical) PLF occurs only
on the pinion. This, however, requires further research.

Load sharing

The fraction of the applied load transmitted by individual gear teeth was governed by the theoretical contact
ratio, which, in case of the benchmark geometry, was
1.65. Physically, this means that for approximately
two-thirds of the meshing cycle, two pairs of teeth
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications


M Karimpour, K D Dearn, and D Walton

Fig. 5 The load share ratio against the roll angle predicted by simulation 2

carry the load, whereas for the remainder a single pair

carries it. The division of the applied load between different meshing tooth pairs is defined as the load share
ratio. The Standard defines the load share fraction (for
metal gears) as 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3 (i.e. at the first point
of contact one-third of the load is carried by a meshing pair and this increases to two-thirds at the point of
single tooth contact where finally the entire load is carried). The reverse of this then occurs as the tooth pair
runs out of the mesh.
Figure 5 shows the load share ratio plotted against
the roll angle in simulation 2. It reaches a maximum of
approximately 0.8, suggesting that single tooth contact does not occur in polymeric gears under such
conditions, pushing the real contact ratio above 2.
This clearly invalidates the load sharing predicted by
the Standard. The parabolic form of the load share
ratio also suggests that deflections are shared evenly
between the meshing pair, which is in agreement with
the work of Klein Meuleman et al. [1]. With the maximum load occurring at the pitch line of the teeth, it
is in this area where maximum contact and bending
stresses are expected. Another interesting aspect of
Fig. 5 is the increase in the roll angle (the rotational
angle of gear body from FPC to LPC). Theoretically,
the roll angle of the benchmark geometry should be
19.84 ; however, this value increases in the simulations
by 30 per cent to 25 . The reason for this is the cumulative effect of the extensions to the path of contact and
ultimately the large tooth deflections.

Stress analysis

In the following sections, Von Mises stress was chosen

as the scalar representative of the stress state at a given
point. At the tooth root, this would translate into the
magnitude of tensile stresses caused by bending. In
the case of the contact patch, this would represent the
stresses caused by contact between the mating tooth
flanks. As in the Standard, this could then be compared with the limits of the material in order to provide
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications

Fig. 6

Position of nodes used to locate the position of

maximum: (a) bending and (b) contact stresses

a rating for it as a gear material (i.e. Von Mises yield

criteria). The nodes from which the predicted stresses
were extracted from the tooth flank and root are shown
in Fig. 6.

Maximum bending stress

The extracted bending stress predicted by simulation 2

for each node is plotted against the roll angle in Fig. 7.

Kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth

Fig. 7

Bending stresses at various nodes against the roll angle predicted by simulation 2

It takes a similar form to the load-sharing graph above;

it also shows the location of the nodes from which data
were taken. The maximum stress occurs at the centre
of the fillet radius (node 2539) and when the point of
contact is at the pitch point. This is not, however, the
point at which the Standard predicts that maximum
stress will occur. The Standard predicts that the greatest stress is induced at the tooth tip (i.e. the first or last
point of contact).
The difference between the assumption made in
the Standard and the location of maximum stress predicted in the simulation has a significant effect on the
predicted bending stress values. The simulation predicts a maximum bending stress of 25.9 MPa, whereas
the Standard calculates it to be 38 MPa. This is a significant difference of around 46 per cent. Tooth deflection
is the most likely explanation for this discrepancy.
The Lewis equation, on which the Standard is based,

Fig. 8


assumes a bending stress maximum at tip loading

(being the point at which the lever arm is greatest);
however, it does not consider that at this point, the load
is being carried by (at least) two teeth pairs reducing
the tangential force. The effect of load sharing reduces
the magnitude of the applied load, with the peak at the
pitch point, where maximum stress occurs.

Maximum contact stress

A similar approach was adopted to establish the position of maximum contact stress across the tooth flank.
Figure 8 shows the corresponding stress profile plotted against the roll angle along with the nodes along
the tooth flank. Once again, the maximum stress value
occurred at the pitch point. A maximum contact stress
value of 38.69 MPa was predicted. This is in close
agreement with the Standard that predicts a value of

Contact stresses at various nodes against the roll angle predicted by simulation 2
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications


M Karimpour, K D Dearn, and D Walton

Fig. 9

Induced stress contours during meshing simulations 2 (left) and 4 (right)

contact stress of 37.57 MPa (a difference of 2.9 per

Caution should, however, be exercised when using
the Standard to calculate contact stresses. The
single-pair tooth contact factor, used in the Standard,
converts the contact stress calculated at the pitch point
to that at the inner point of contact [17]. This may go
some way to explaining the discrepancy but certainly
requires further examination. The stress contours with
the gear teeth during loading, during simulations 2 and
4, are shown in Fig. 9.
It is also interesting to note the manifestation of the
extended contact points in Fig. 8. Evidence of premature contact appears in the double peak seen in the
plot of node 2139 and the single peak in node 2143
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications

(representing initial contact when the tip/top land of

the wheel tooth collides with the pitch point of the
pinion tooth). Extended contact is apparent in the
increase in the stresses seen in node 2093.

Effect of applied loads

The analysis conducted to assess the effect of load on

the contact and bending stresses revealed some interesting results. Four separate simulations were carried
out to simulate a range of applied loads. A comparison of the stresses generated from the simulations
and those calculated using the Standard is given in
Table 2. The values of contact stress found using the
simulations correlate well with the Standards values.

Kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth

Table 2

Test 1
Test 2
Test 3
Test 4


A comparison of FE and BS ISO 6336-derived

stresses for a range of loads
Contact stress (MPa)

Bending stress (MPa)

(N m)










This is not the case for the bending stresses however,

where discrepancies between simulated and the Standard values increase with load. This makes the Standard (part 3) even less suitable for rating polymer gears
in demanding applications.
These stresses should be carefully interpreted, as
they are those that occur at the pitch point. It has,
however, already been shown that because of extended
contact (specifically the interference of tooth tip and
mating flank), high contact stress peaks occur during
the early and later stages of the meshing cycle. The
stresses shown in Table 2 do not account for these.
Figure 10 shows the kinematic effect of increasing
the loads on meshing gear teeth. It indicates that the
maximum load carried by a single gear tooth pair
decreases as the applied load increases. This implies
that the higher loads induce greater tooth deflections,
increasing the real contact ratio and load sharing.
There are other kinematic effects induced by these
deflections, namely larger extensions to the path of the
contact. Figure 11 compares the paths of contact for
each of the load conditions specified in Table 1. This
suggests that greater tooth deflections cause premature contact to occur earlier (it therefore follows that

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

Effect of applied loading on the path of contact

initial contact occurs closer to the pitch point) and that

extended contact lasts longer. Thus, the overall length
of the contact path is increased.

Effects of operating conditions


The effect of temperature in this case is taken to represent the reduction in the material stiffness because
of elevated operating temperatures. This is a simplification of the physical manifestation of high gear
temperatures; however, in terms of the kinematic
behaviour of the gear teeth, the reduction in modulus
has a strong influence. Table 3 summarizes the reduction in stiffness with temperature rise. These values are
assigned to the materials specified in simulations 2, 5,

Effect of applied loading (torque) on load sharing

Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications


Table 3

Test 2
Test 5
Test 6
Test 7

M Karimpour, K D Dearn, and D Walton

Material properties as a function of gear body

Modulus of

(N m)

gear body
( C)




Material data taken from reference [13].

6, and 7 (all transmit a load of 7 N m), which are based

on the homo-polymer polyoxymethylene as specified
by Du Pont [15].

Fig. 12

Fig. 13

A decrease in stiffness increases the level of load

sharing experienced by individual gear teeth (Fig. 12)
and has a similar effect on the path of contact. The
influence of temperature on kinematic behaviour is
similar to the effects of increasing load, as shown in
Fig. 10.
A comparison of simulated and Standard derived
bending and contact stresses is shown in Fig. 13.
Once again, contact stresses correlate well with one
another and decrease with a reduction in stiffness
(an effect that was expected as the Standard derived
contact stresses account for contact stiffness). This
has implications in terms of gear operating performance, particularly at elevated temperatures. This
could explain why Kono [18] observed an increase in

Effect of increasing temperature (i.e. the reduction in modulus) on load sharing

Comparison of contact and bending stresses versus Youngs modulus, at the pitch point

Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications


Kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth

Fig. 14

Fig. 15

Effect of friction on load sharing

Comparison of contact and bending stresses versus coefficient of friction

gear durability during his experimental programme at

150 C. Interestingly, bending stresses do not correlate
well. FE-determined bending stresses increase with
stiffness, whereas the Standard derived stresses are
overestimated and remain constant. This is because
the Standard bending stress is, in theory, dependent
only on geometry and load. For BS ISO 3663 to become
a better approximation of polymeric gear bending
stresses, it should incorporate a material factor that
would account for load sharing due to tooth bending.


The Standard does not consider the effects of friction,

because it is written for metallic gears that are always
lubricated and where frictional forces are low. No consideration is given to the effect friction will have on


contact and bending stresses of polymer gears. Yet,

Walton et al. [19] have shown that coefficients of friction in dry-running polymeric gears can be as high as
0.8. Frictional forces induced by coefficients of friction of this magnitude must affect the position and
magnitude of contact stresses and to a lesser extent
the stresses in bending. Simulations 2, 8, and 9 were
executed, transmitting a load of 7 N m with increasing coefficients of friction. These were conducted to
investigate the effect of increasing friction on the stress
and kinematic behaviour of the gears.
The gear theory dictates that at the pitch point, the
gears experience only a rolling action (with no sliding velocity) and so assumes a negligible frictional
influence. Figure 14 suggests that for (dry-running)
polymeric gears this is not the case. It shows that
frictional forces decrease the maximum load share
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications


M Karimpour, K D Dearn, and D Walton

ratio and hence increases transmitted loads and subsequent contact stresses. Friction does not seem to
affect the kinematic behaviour of the gears and has
a negligible effect on the length of the path of contact.
Similar trends, shown in Fig. 15, are observed when
FE and the Standard derived stresses are compared
against increasing coefficients of friction. As expected,
Standard derived stresses show no variation with friction. The FE simulations increasingly overestimate
contact stresses compared with those calculated from
the Standard. FE contact stresses show a strong dependence on friction. Bending stresses are also shown to
increase with friction but remain below stress levels
predicted by the Standard.
Therefore, for the Standard to become a more accurate means of specifying polymeric gears, a frictional
factor should be incorporated into the rating equations to account for tangential forces, particularly in
dry-running applications. The dominance of contact
stresses (being greater than the bending stresses) may
also contribute to wear being the predominant failure
mechanism in dry-running polymeric gears.







This article has simulated the kinematic and kinetic

behaviour of a pair of dry-running, similar-material,
non-metallic gears running under a variety of
operating conditions. The stresses extracted from the
finite-element models have been compared to those
calculated from the BS ISO 6336 rating Standard
(method B). The main conclusions are as follows.
1. The assumptions made by the classical gear theory and inherited by most common gear-rating
standards, specifically those of negligible tooth
deflections and frictional effects, are not valid for
dry-running non-metallic gears that have high
friction coefficients.
2. Employing a non-linear FE technique to develop a
dynamic simulation of the meshing cycle enabled
the entire kinematic history of the cycle to be
recorded (including the load-sharing effects and
increases to the path of contact) and also allowed
the frictional effects to be investigated during
contact. These were shown to have a significant
influence on FE-derived stresses.
3. Contact is shown to occur outside the theoretical line of contact, increasing the roll angle of the
4. Premature contact extends the beginning of the
contact line; the physical result of this is an impact
between the tip of the driven gear and the region
of the pitch point of the driver gear. This induces
abnormally high levels of contact stress and could
be a contributory factor in PLFs.
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications

Extended contact and van Melicks suggested

reciprocating motion at the tooth root for
polymersteel contacts were confirmed in the case
of all the polymer gear meshes simulated here.
The extensions to the path of contact increased the
roll angles predicted by the theory.
For the conditions simulated, load-sharing ratios
were always below 1. This implied that the real
contact ratios were always above 2, despite the
theoretical prediction of 1.65.
As the Standard does not consider tooth deflections, reducing the Youngs modulus of the
polymer (as would be the case at elevated operational temperatures) has no effect on Standardpredicted bending stresses. It does, however, with
the FE-derived bending stresses. Increasing the
stiffness of the modelled gears is likely to cause
the simulated bending stresses to converge with
those of the Standard.
Frictional effects cannot be disregarded in dryrunning polymer gears where they were shown
to have a significant effect on the induced tooth
Loss of contact ratio due to allowance for expansion and lower tooth accuracy need to be considered.

The above conclusions point to the need for a specific polymer gear Standard that accounts for the
idiosyncrasies that are not based on metallic gearrating methods. The authors have evidence to show
that the lack of applicable design data and a rating
Standard, in the public domain, is preventing this
novel form of gearing from being fully exploited.
Authors 2010
1 Klein Meuleman, P.,Walton, D., Dearn, K. D.,Weale, D. J.,
and Driessen, I. Minimization of transmission errors in
highly loaded plastic gear trains. Proc. IMechE, Part C:
J. Mechanical Engineering Science, 2007, 221(C9), 1117
1129. DOI: 10.1243/09544062JMES439.
2 Walton, D., Tessema, A. A., Hooke, C. J., and Shippen,
J. M. Load sharing in metallic and non-metallic gears.
Proc. IMechE, Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science,
1994, 208(C2), 8187. DOI: 10.1243/PIME_PROC_1994_
3 Walton, D., Tessema, A. A., Hooke, C. J., and Shippen, J.
M. A note on tip relief and backlash allowances in nonmetallic gears. Proc. IMechE, Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science, 1995, 209(C6), 383388. DOI: 10.1243/
4 White, J.,Walton, D., and Weale, D. J. The beneficial effect
of tip relief on plastic spur gears. In Proceedings of the
Conference at ANTEC98, Society of Plastics Engineers,
Atlanta, USA, April 1998, vol. III, pp. 30133017.
5 Senthilvelan, S. and Gnanamoorthy, R. Effect of gear
tooth fillet radius on the performance of injection

Kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth










moulded nylon 6/6 gears. Mater. Des., 2006, 27(8), 632

van Melick, H. G. Influence of Youngs modulus on kinematics and stresses in plastic spur gears. In Proceedings
of the Conference at VDI Breichte, 1904, 2005, vol. II,
pp. 12191225.
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Engineering, 2006, 220(D10), 14551463. DOI: 10.1243/
Walton, D. and Shi, Y. W. A comparison of ratings for
plastic gears. Proc. IMechE, Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science, 1989, 203(C1), 3138. DOI: 10.1243/
Cropper, A. B. Failure mode analysis of polymer gears.
PhD Thesis, University of Birmingham, UK, 2003.
BS ISO 6336. Calculation of load capacity of spur
and helical gears, Part 3: calculation of tooth bending
strength, 2nd edition, 1996 (British Standards Institution,
Hoffer, H. Verzahnungskorrekturn an Zahnraden (tooth
corrections to gear wheels). Automob. Z., 1947, 49(2),
Wang, J. and Howard, I. The torsional stiffness of
involute spur gears. Proc. IMechE, Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science, 2004, 218(C1), 131142. DOI:
Dassault Systmes. Simulia, 2007 (Warrington, UK).
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SavitzkyGolay digital smoothing filters. Anal. Chem.,
1981, 53, 15831586.
Du Pont PLC. Engineering polymers for gearing applications, 1998 (Du Pont PLC, Bristol).
Breeds, A. R., Kukureka, S. N., Mao, K., Walton, D., and
Hooke, C. J. Wear behaviour of acetal gear pairs. Wear,
1993, 66, 8591.
BS ISO 6336. Calculation of load capacity of spur and
helical gears, Part 2: calculation of surface durability (pitting), 2nd edition, 1996 (British Standards Institution,
Kono, S. Increase in power density of plastic gears for
automotive applications. PhD Thesis, University of Birmingham, UK, 2003.
Walton, D., Cropper, A. B.,Weale, D. J., and Klein Meuleman, P. The efficiency and friction of plastic cylindrical
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J: J. Engineering Tribology, 2002, 216(J2), 7578. DOI:
BS 6168: 1987. Specification for non-metallic spur-gears,
1987 (British Standards Institution, London).







Part 2: calculation of surface durability

Surface durability is assessed according to nominal

contact stress levels calculated at the pitch point or
those at the inner point of single tooth contact. The
nominal contact stress, H , and the permissible contact stress, HP , can be calculated using equations (1)
and (2), respectively.


Ft u + 1
D1 b u

ZH : zone factor for contact stress

The zone factor accounts for the influence of tooth

flank curvature at the pitch point and converts tangential force to a normal force at the pitch point
(equation (3))

2 cos b cos wt
ZH =
cos2 t sin wt

ZE : elasticity factor for contact stress

The elasticity factor accounts for the influence of

material properties (equation (4)).

ZE =
{[(1 v12 )/E1 ] + [(1 v22 )/E2 ]}

Z : contact ratio factor

The contact ratio factor, Z , considers the influence of

the transverse contact and overlap ratios on the tooth
surface load capacity (equation (5)).
For spur gears

Z =
The transverse contact ratio, , is given in
equation (6) and the overlap ratio in equation (7).
Transverse base pitch


Youngs modulus (GPa)

addendum radius
torque (N m)

coefficient of friction
theoretical pressure angle (degree)


Pbt = mt cos t
Length of path of contact

g =
da1 db1 da1 db1 a sin wt
(positive sign for external gears)
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications


M Karimpour, K D Dearn, and D Walton

Transverse contact ratio

Calculation of hFe



Transverse base pitch

b sin



ZB and ZD : single-pair tooth contact factors

The single pair tooth contact factors transform the

contact stress at the pitch point to the inner point
of single pair tooth contact ((if ZB > 1 or ZD > 1),
equation (8)).

ZD = 1

if M2  1

ZB = M1

if M1 > 1

Z D = M2

if M2 > 1

Calculation of tooth root normal chord


+ 3

= zn sin


Part 3: calculation of tooth bending strength

Nominal tooth bending strength is calculated at the

tooth root using a modified form of the Lewis bending
equation (given in equation (9)). In a similar manner to
that outlined above, multiplying the nominal bending
stress by a series of correctional factors gives a permissible stress level (equation (10)). Again, using ISO 6336
for polymeric gears, most of the correctional factors
were set to unity
FO = YF Ys Y



An accurate value of is required to evaluate hFe ,

SFn , and Fen ; it can be calculated through iteration
using equation (13) and an iterative seed value of /6
(suggested by BS 6168: 1987 [20]).
Calculation of


mn hfp tan n (1 sin n )

cos n

where fp is the basic rack root fillet radius, Spr the

undercut factor (set to zero for polymer gears), and hfp
the dedendum of the basic rack



where x is the profile shift coefficient (zero in the case

of polymer gears)
Base helix angle

YF : tooth form factor

(6hFe /mn ) cos Fen

(SFn /mn )2 cos n



The tooth form factor accounts for tooth shape

(equation (11)).
YF =

0.5 + 2 tan n x
+ inv n inv en

Fen = en e

cos n

= 0.5zn
cos Fen

+ 0.5


tan wt
M2 = 


(da2 /db2 ) 1 (2/z2 )

) 1 ( 1)(2/z1 )

if M1  1

dbn = dn cos n

dan = dn + da d n =
cos2 b

dan 2
dbn 2

den = 2

d cos cos n
dbn 2

(n 1) +

en = cos1
e =

tan wt
M1 = 


) 1 (2/z1 )


) 1 ( 1)(2/z2 )

ZB = 1

d n = mn z n


Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications

b = sin1 (sin cos n )

zn =
cos b cos
Virtual number of teeth of a helical gear


zn 2

Kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth


tan H



YS : stress correction factor


(b) the conversion of the calculated bending stress

into a true bending stress, accounting for the
exact location of the applied load, at the point of
maximum loading
YS = (1.2 + 0.13L)qs[1/1.21+(2.3/L)]

The stress correction factor (equation (14)) converts

the nominal bending stress to local tooth root stress
and accounts for the following:


(a) the stress amplifying effect of the section change

at the tooth root fillet radius;

2G 2
cos (zn cos2 2G)




qs =


Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part L: J. Materials: Design and Applications