From airplanes to cars to snowmobiles to washing machines, gears play a vital role in mechanical design. Elementary in concept, they can wreak havoc if designed wrong. To get the design right and avoid premature failures, engineers use CAD software in gear design. Now, one of the leading suppliers of that software has consolidated several individual modules into one package that calculates gear dimensions, shares data and designs, does tolerance analysis, and produces reports.
Rockford, IL-based Universal Technical Systems, Inc. (UTS) has packaged its 70-plus gear-design modules into one suite it calls Integrated Gear Software. The modules are grouped into five packages Ľcovering basic and advanced gear design and manufacturing for metal, plastic, crossed-axis, epicyclic, and spline design.
"Gearing is tough because there's a lot of calculations needed to account for contacts, stresses on the teeth, and the general physics of the components," says UTS' Phil Cooper. In other words, engineers agree, it's not for wimps.
That complexity has led other general engineering-software developers to write their own gear-design modules as well. SolidWorks, for example, added new features and functions in SolidWorks 2004 to facilitate gear design. Dynatorque, Falk Corp., Polaris Industries, Superior Gearbox, and Visteon Automotive Steering are among users designing gears for various products with that software.
Likewise, EDS PLM Solutions incorporated gear-design capabilities in Unigraphics NX. Among gear functions NX covers are surface durability, root bending strength, and scuffing load capacity for spur gears, helical cylindrical gears, straight bevel and helical bevel gears, and others. Those capabilities are not completely off the shelf and they do require some special service support from EDS applications engineers so they will fit specific user needs, but they combine industry best processes, which makes these valuable, says EDS' Doug Pierce.
Gear design is one of the specialties of UTS, which also develops TK Solver, an engineering spread sheet and mathematical modeling environment for mechanical and electrical engineering design. It took the company's programming and engineering staff two years to integrate all the gear-design modules they had been offering into the IGS system. "We did it so engineers could seamlessly move from one module to the next," Cooper says. Previously, engineers would have to re-enter data every time they moved from one module to another in a design project, losing precious time and wasting effort. IGS is powered by TK Solver and includes a relational database that stores all models and designs, and a reporting engine.