A gear or cogwheel is a rotating machine part having cut teeth, or in the case of a cogwheel, inserted teeth (called cogs), which mesh with another toothed part to transmit torque. Geared devices can change the speed, torque, and direction of a power source. Gears almost always produce a change in torque, creating a mechanical advantage, through their gear ratio, and thus may be considered a simple machine. The teeth on the two meshing gears all have the same shape. Two or more meshing gears, working in a sequence, are called a gear train or a transmission. A gear can mesh with a linear toothed part, called a rack, producing translation instead of rotation.
The gears in a transmission are analogous to the wheels in a crossed, belt pulley system. An advantage of gears is that the teeth of a gear prevent slippage.
When two gears mesh, if one gear is bigger than the other, a mechanical advantage is produced, with the rotational speeds, and the torques, of the two gears differing in proportion to their diameters.
In transmissions with multiple gear ratios—such as bicycles, motorcycles, and cars—the term "gear" as in "first gear" refers to a gear ratio rather than an actual physical gear. The term describes similar devices, even when the gear ratio is continuous rather than discrete, or when the device does not actually contain gears, as in a continuously variable transmission.
The earliest preserved gears in Europe were found in the Antikythera mechanism, an example of a very early and intricate geared device, designed to calculate astronomical positions. Its time of construction is now estimated between 150 and 100 BC. Gears appear in works connected to Hero of Alexandria, in Roman Egypt circa AD 50, but can be traced back to the mechanics of the Alexandrian school in 3rd-century BC Ptolemaic Egypt, and were greatly developed by the Greek polymath Archimedes (287–212 BC).
The segmental gear, which receives/communicates reciprocating motion from/to a cogwheel, consisting of a sector of a circular gear/ring having cogs on the periphery, was invented by Arab engineer Al-Jazari in 1206. The worm gear was invented in the Indian subcontinent, for use in roller cotton gins, some time during the 13th–14th centuries. Differential gears may have been used in some of the Chinese south-pointing chariots, but the first verifiable use of differential gears was by the British clock maker Joseph Williamson in 1720.
Examples of early gear applications include:
The definite ratio that teeth give gears provides an advantage over other drives (such as traction drives and V-belts) in precision machines such as watches that depend upon an exact velocity ratio. In cases where driver and follower are proximal, gears also have an advantage over other drives in the reduced number of parts required. The downside is that gears are more expensive to manufacture and their lubrication requirements may impose a higher operating cost per hour.
An external gear is one with the teeth formed on the outer surface of a cylinder or cone. Conversely, an internal gear is one with the teeth formed on the inner surface of a cylinder or cone. For bevel gears, an internal gear is one with the pitch angle exceeding 90 degrees. Internal gears do not cause output shaft direction reversal.
Spur gears or straight-cut gears are the simplest type of gear. They consist of a cylinder or disk with teeth projecting radially. Though the teeth are not straight-sided (but usually of special form to achieve a constant drive ratio, mainly involute but less commonly cycloidal), the edge of each tooth is straight and aligned parallel to the axis of rotation. These gears mesh together correctly only if fitted to parallel shafts. No axial thrust is created by the tooth loads. Spur gears are excellent at moderate speeds but tend to be noisy at high speeds.
Helical or "dry fixed" gears offer a refinement over spur gears. The leading edges of the teeth are not parallel to the axis of rotation, but are set at an angle. Since the gear is curved, this angling makes the tooth shape a segment of a helix. Helical gears can be meshed in parallel or crossed orientations. The former refers to when the shafts are parallel to each other; this is the most common orientation. In the latter, the shafts are non-parallel, and in this configuration the gears are sometimes known as "skew gears".
The angled teeth engage more gradually than do spur gear teeth, causing them to run more smoothly and quietly. With parallel helical gears, each pair of teeth first make contact at a single point at one side of the gear wheel; a moving curve of contact then grows gradually across the tooth face to a maximum, then recedes until the teeth break contact at a single point on the opposite side. In spur gears, teeth suddenly meet at a line contact across their entire width, causing stress and noise. Spur gears make a characteristic whine at high speeds. For this reason spur gears are used in low-speed applications and in situations where noise control is not a problem, and helical gears are used in high-speed applications, large power transmission, or where noise abatement is important. The speed is considered high when the pitch line velocity exceeds 25 m/s.
A disadvantage of helical gears is a resultant thrust along the axis of the gear, which must be accommodated by appropriate thrust bearings, and a greater degree of sliding friction between the meshing teeth, often addressed with additives in the lubricant.
For a "crossed" or "skew" configuration, the gears must have the same pressure angle and normal pitch; however, the helix angle and handedness can be different. The relationship between the two shafts is actually defined by the helix angle(s) of the two shafts and the handedness, as defined:
where is the helix angle for the gear. The crossed configuration is less mechanically sound because there is only a point contact between the gears, whereas in the parallel configuration there is a line contact.
Quite commonly, helical gears are used with the helix angle of one having the negative of the helix angle of the other; such a pair might also be referred to as having a right-handed helix and a left-handed helix of equal angles. The two equal but opposite angles add to zero: the angle between shafts is zero—that is, the shafts are parallel. Where the sum or the difference (as described in the equations above) is not zero, the shafts are crossed. For shafts crossed at right angles, the helix angles are of the same hand because they must add to 90 degrees. (This is the case with the gears in the illustration above: they mesh correctly in the crossed configuration: for the parallel configuration, one of the helix angles should be reversed. The gears illustrated cannot mesh with the shafts parallel.)
Double helical gears overcome the problem of axial thrust presented by single helical gears by using a double set of teeth, slanted in opposite directions. A double helical gear can be thought of as two mirrored helical gears mounted closely together on a common axle. This arrangement cancels out the net axial thrust, since each half of the gear thrusts in the opposite direction, resulting in a net axial force of zero. This arrangement can also remove the need for thrust bearings. However, double helical gears are more difficult to manufacture due to their more complicated shape.
Herringbone gears are a special type of helical gears. They do not have a groove in the middle like some other double helical gears do; the two mirrored helical gears are joined together so that their teeths form a V shape. This can also be applied to bevel gears, as in the final drive of the Citroën Type A.
For both possible rotational directions, there exist two possible arrangements for the oppositely-oriented helical gears or gear faces. One arrangement is called stable, and the other unstable. In a stable arrangement, the helical gear faces are oriented so that each axial force is directed toward the center of the gear. In an unstable arrangement, both axial forces are directed away from the center of the gear. In either arrangement, the total (or net) axial force on each gear is zero when the gears are aligned correctly. If the gears become misaligned in the axial direction, the unstable arrangement generates a net force that may lead to disassembly of the gear train, while the stable arrangement generates a net corrective force. If the direction of rotation is reversed, the direction of the axial thrusts is also reversed, so a stable configuration becomes unstable, and conversely.
Stable double helical gears can be directly interchanged with spur gears without any need for different bearings.
A bevel gear is shaped like a right circular cone with most of its tip cut off. When two bevel gears mesh, their imaginary vertices must occupy the same point. Their shaft axes also intersect at this point, forming an arbitrary non-straight angle between the shafts. The angle between the shafts can be anything except zero or 180 degrees. Bevel gears with equal numbers of teeth and shaft axes at 90 degrees are called miter gears.
Spiral bevel gears can be manufactured as Gleason types (circular arc with non-constant tooth depth), Oerlikon and Curvex types (circular arc with constant tooth depth), Klingelnberg Cyclo-Palloid (Epicycloid with constant tooth depth) or Klingelnberg Palloid. Spiral bevel gears have the same advantages and disadvantages relative to their straight-cut cousins as helical gears do to spur gears. Straight bevel gears are generally used only at speeds below 5 m/s (1000 ft/min), or, for small gears, 1000 r.p.m.
Note: The cylindrical gear tooth profile corresponds to an involute, but the bevel gear tooth profile to an octoid. All traditional bevel gear generators (like Gleason, Klingelnberg, Heidenreich & Harbeck, WMW Modul) manufacture bevel gears with an octoidal tooth profile. IMPORTANT: For 5-axis milled bevel gear sets it is important to choose the same calculation / layout like the conventional manufacturing method. Simplified calculated bevel gears on the basis of an equivalent cylindrical gear in normal section with an involute tooth form show a deviant tooth form with reduced tooth strength by 10-28% without offset and 45% with offset [Diss. Hünecke, TU Dresden]. Furthermore, the "involute bevel gear sets" cause more noise.
Hypoid gears resemble spiral bevel gears except the shaft axes do not intersect. The pitch surfaces appear conical but, to compensate for the offset shaft, are in fact hyperboloids of revolution. Hypoid gears are almost always designed to operate with shafts at 90 degrees. Depending on which side the shaft is offset to, relative to the angling of the teeth, contact between hypoid gear teeth may be even smoother and more gradual than with spiral bevel gear teeth, but also have a sliding action along the meshing teeth as it rotates and therefore usually require some of the most viscous types of gear oil to avoid it being extruded from the mating tooth faces, the oil is normally designated HP (for hypoid) followed by a number denoting the viscosity. Also, the pinion can be designed with fewer teeth than a spiral bevel pinion, with the result that gear ratios of 60:1 and higher are feasible using a single set of hypoid gears. This style of gear is most common in motor vehicle drive trains, in concert with a differential. Whereas a regular (nonhypoid) ring-and-pinion gear set is suitable for many applications, it is not ideal for vehicle drive trains because it generates more noise and vibration than a hypoid does. Bringing hypoid gears to market for mass-production applications was an engineering improvement of the 1920s.
Crown gears or contrate gears are a particular form of bevel gear whose teeth project at right angles to the plane of the wheel; in their orientation the teeth resemble the points on a crown. A crown gear can only mesh accurately with another bevel gear, although crown gears are sometimes seen meshing with spur gears. A crown gear is also sometimes meshed with an escapement such as found in mechanical clocks.
Worm-and-gear sets are a simple and compact way to achieve a high torque, low speed gear ratio. For example, helical gears are normally limited to gear ratios of less than 10:1 while worm-and-gear sets vary from 10:1 to 500:1. A disadvantage is the potential for considerable sliding action, leading to low efficiency.
A worm gear is a species of helical gear, but its helix angle is usually somewhat large (close to 90 degrees) and its body is usually fairly long in the axial direction. These attributes give it screw like qualities. The distinction between a worm and a helical gear is that at least one tooth persists for a full rotation around the helix. If this occurs, it is a 'worm'; if not, it is a 'helical gear'. A worm may have as few as one tooth. If that tooth persists for several turns around the helix, the worm appears, superficially, to have more than one tooth, but what one in fact sees is the same tooth reappearing at intervals along the length of the worm. The usual screw nomenclature applies: a one-toothed worm is called single thread or single start; a worm with more than one tooth is called multiple thread or multiple start. The helix angle of a worm is not usually specified. Instead, the lead angle, which is equal to 90 degrees minus the helix angle, is given.
In a worm-and-gear set, the worm can always drive the gear. However, if the gear attempts to drive the worm, it may or may not succeed. Particularly if the lead angle is small, the gear's teeth may simply lock against the worm's teeth, because the force component circumferential to the worm is not sufficient to overcome friction. In traditional music boxes, however, the gear drives the worm, which has a large helix angle. This mesh drives the speed-limiter vanes which are mounted on the worm shaft.
Worm-and-gear sets that do lock are called self locking, which can be used to advantage, as when it is desired to set the position of a mechanism by turning the worm and then have the mechanism hold that position. An example is the machine head found on some types of stringed instruments.
If the gear in a worm-and-gear set is an ordinary helical gear only a single point of contact is achieved. If medium to high power transmission is desired, the tooth shape of the gear is modified to achieve more intimate contact by making both gears partially envelop each other. This is done by making both concave and joining them at a saddle point; this is called a cone-drive or "Double enveloping".
Worm gears can be right or left-handed, following the long-established practice for screw threads.
Non-circular gears are designed for special purposes. While a regular gear is optimized to transmit torque to another engaged member with minimum noise and wear and maximum efficiency, a non-circular gear's main objective might be ratio variations, axle displacement oscillations and more. Common applications include textile machines, potentiometers and continuously variable transmissions.
A rack is a toothed bar or rod that can be thought of as a sector gear with an infinitely large radius of curvature. Torque can be converted to linear force by meshing a rack with a pinion: the pinion turns; the rack moves in a straight line. Such a mechanism is used in automobiles to convert the rotation of the steering wheel into the left-to-right motion of the tie rod(s). Racks also feature in the theory of gear geometry, where, for instance, the tooth shape of an interchangeable set of gears may be specified for the rack, (infinite radius), and the tooth shapes for gears of particular actual radii are then derived from that. The rack and pinion gear type is employed in a rack railway.
Sun and planet gearing is a method of converting reciprocating motion into rotary motion that was used in steam engines. James Watt used it on his early steam engines to get around the patent on the crank, but it also provided the advantage of increasing the flywheel speed so Watt could use a lighter flywheel.
A harmonic gear or strain wave gear is a specialized gearing mechanism often used in industrial motion control, robotics and aerospace for its advantages over traditional gearing systems, including lack of backlash, compactness and high gear ratios.
A cage gear, also called a lantern gear or lantern pinion, has cylindrical rods for teeth, parallel to the axle and arranged in a circle around it, much as the bars on a round bird cage or lantern. The assembly is held together by disks at each end, into which the tooth rods and axle are set. Cage gears are more efficient than solid pinions, and dirt can fall through the rods rather than becoming trapped and increasing wear. They can be constructed with very simple tools as the teeth are not formed by cutting or milling, but rather by drilling holes and inserting rods.
Sometimes used in clocks, the cage gear should always be driven by a gearwheel, not used as the driver. The cage gear was not initially favoured by conservative clock makers. It became popular in turret clocks where dirty working conditions were most commonplace. Domestic American clock movements often used them.
All cogs of each gear component of magnetic gears act as a constant magnet with periodic alternation of opposite magnetic poles on mating surfaces. Gear components are mounted with a backlash capability similar to other mechanical gearings. Although they cannot exert as much force as a traditional gear, such gears work without touching and so are immune to wear, have very low noise and can slip without damage making them very reliable. They can be used in configurations that are not possible for gears that must be physically touching and can operate with a non-metallic barrier completely separating the driving force from the load. The magnetic coupling can transmit force into a hermetically sealed enclosure without using a radial shaft seal, which may leak.
Several other helix parameters can be viewed either in the normal or transverse planes. The subscript n usually indicates the normal.
Subscript w denotes the worm, subscript g denotes the gear.
Pitch is the distance between a point on one tooth and the corresponding point on an adjacent tooth. It is a dimension measured along a line or curve in the transverse, normal, or axial directions. The use of the single word pitch without qualification may be ambiguous, and for this reason it is preferable to use specific designations such as transverse circular pitch, normal base pitch, axial pitch.
Backlash is the error in motion that occurs when gears change direction. It exists because there is always some gap between the trailing face of the driving tooth and the leading face of the tooth behind it on the driven gear, and that gap must be closed before force can be transferred in the new direction. The term "backlash" can also be used to refer to the size of the gap, not just the phenomenon it causes; thus, one could speak of a pair of gears as having, for example, "0.1 mm of backlash." A pair of gears could be designed to have zero backlash, but this would presuppose perfection in manufacturing, uniform thermal expansion characteristics throughout the system, and no lubricant. Therefore, gear pairs are designed to have some backlash. It is usually provided by reducing the tooth thickness of each gear by half the desired gap distance. In the case of a large gear and a small pinion, however, the backlash is usually taken entirely off the gear and the pinion is given full sized teeth. Backlash can also be provided by moving the gears further apart. The backlash of a gear train equals the sum of the backlash of each pair of gears, so in long trains backlash can become a problem.
For situations that require precision, such as instrumentation and control, backlash can be minimised through one of several techniques. For instance, the gear can be split along a plane perpendicular to the axis, one half fixed to the shaft in the usual manner, the other half placed alongside it, free to rotate about the shaft, but with springs between the two halves providing relative torque between them, so that one achieves, in effect, a single gear with expanding teeth. Another method involves tapering the teeth in the axial direction and letting the gear slide in the axial direction to take up slack.
In some machines (e.g., automobiles) it is necessary to alter the gear ratio to suit the task, a process known as gear shifting or changing gear. There are several ways of shifting gears, for example:
There are several outcomes of gear shifting in motor vehicles. In the case of vehicle noise emissions, there are higher sound levels emitted when the vehicle is engaged in lower gears. The design life of the lower ratio gears is shorter, so cheaper gears may be used, which tend to generate more noise due to smaller overlap ratio and a lower mesh stiffness etc. than the helical gears used for the high ratios. This fact has been used to analyze vehicle-generated sound since the late 1960s, and has been incorporated into the simulation of urban roadway noise and corresponding design of urban noise barriers along roadways.
A profile is one side of a tooth in a cross section between the outside circle and the root circle. Usually a profile is the curve of intersection of a tooth surface and a plane or surface normal to the pitch surface, such as the transverse, normal, or axial plane.
The fillet curve (root fillet) is the concave portion of the tooth profile where it joins the bottom of the tooth space.2
As mentioned near the beginning of the article, the attainment of a nonfluctuating velocity ratio is dependent on the profile of the teeth. Friction and wear between two gears is also dependent on the tooth profile. There are a great many tooth profiles that provide constant velocity ratios. In many cases, given an arbitrary tooth shape, it is possible to develop a tooth profile for the mating gear that provides a constant velocity ratio. However, two constant velocity tooth profiles are the most commonly used in modern times: the cycloid and the involute. The cycloid was more common until the late 1800s. Since then, the involute has largely superseded it, particularly in drive train applications. The cycloid is in some ways the more interesting and flexible shape; however the involute has two advantages: it is easier to manufacture, and it permits the center-to-center spacing of the gears to vary over some range without ruining the constancy of the velocity ratio. Cycloidal gears only work properly if the center spacing is exactly right. Cycloidal gears are still used in mechanical clocks.
An undercut is a condition in generated gear teeth when any part of the fillet curve lies inside of a line drawn tangent to the working profile at its point of juncture with the fillet. Undercut may be deliberately introduced to facilitate finishing operations. With undercut the fillet curve intersects the working profile. Without undercut the fillet curve and the working profile have a common tangent.
Numerous nonferrous alloys, cast irons, powder-metallurgy and plastics are used in the manufacture of gears. However, steels are most commonly used because of their high strength-to-weight ratio and low cost. Plastic is commonly used where cost or weight is a concern. A properly designed plastic gear can replace steel in many cases because it has many desirable properties, including dirt tolerance, low speed meshing, the ability to "skip" quite well and the ability to be made with materials that don't need additional lubrication. Manufacturers have used plastic gears to reduce costs in consumer items including copy machines, optical storage devices, cheap dynamos, consumer audio equipment, servo motors, and printers. Another advantage of the use of plastics, formerly (such as in the 1980s), was the reduction of repair costs for certain expensive machines. In cases of severe jamming (as of the paper in a printer), the plastic gear teeth would be torn free of their substrate, allowing the drive mechanism to then spin freely (instead of damaging itself by straining against the jam). This use of "sacrificial" gear teeth avoided destroying the much more expensive motor and related parts. This method has been superseded, in more recent designs, by the use of clutches and torque- or current-limited motors.
Although gears can be made with any pitch, for convenience and interchangeability standard pitches are frequently used. Pitch is a property associated with linear dimensions and so differs whether the standard values are in the imperial (inch) or metric systems. Using inch measurements, standard diametral pitch values with units of "per inch" are chosen; the diametral pitch is the number of teeth on a gear of one inch pitch diameter. Common standard values for spur gears are 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 24, 32, 48, 64, 72, 80, 96, 100, 120, and 200. Certain standard pitches such as 1/10 and 1/20 in inch measurements, which mesh with linear rack, are actually (linear) circular pitch values with units of "inches"
When gear dimensions are in the metric system the pitch specification is generally in terms of module or modulus, which is effectively a length measurement across the pitch diameter. The term module is understood to mean the pitch diameter in millimeters divided by the number of teeth. When the module is based upon inch measurements, it is known as the English module to avoid confusion with the metric module. Module is a direct dimension, unlike diametral pitch, which is an inverse dimension ("threads per inch"). Thus, if the pitch diameter of a gear is 40 mm and the number of teeth 20, the module is 2, which means that there are 2 mm of pitch diameter for each tooth. The preferred standard module values are 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.8, 1.0, 1.25, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25, 32, 40 and 50.
As of 2014, an estimated 80% of all gearing produced worldwide is produced by net shape molding. Molded gearing is usually either powder metallurgy or plastic. Many gears are done when they leave the mold (including injection molded plastic and die cast metal gears), but powdered metal gears require sintering and sand castings or investment castings require gear cutting or other machining to finish them. The most common form of gear cutting is hobbing, but gear shaping, milling, and broaching also exist. 3D printing as a production method is expanding rapidly. For metal gears in the transmissions of cars and trucks, the teeth are heat treated to make them hard and more wear resistant while leaving the core soft and tough. For large gears that are prone to warp, a quench press is used.
Modern physics adopted the gear model in different ways. In the nineteenth century, James Clerk Maxwell developed a model of electromagnetism in which magnetic field lines were rotating tubes of incompressible fluid. Maxwell used a gear wheel and called it an "idle wheel" to explain the electric current as a rotation of particles in opposite directions to that of the rotating field lines.
More recently, quantum physics uses "quantum gears" in their model. A group of gears can serve as a model for several different systems, such as an artificially constructed nanomechanical device or a group of ring molecules.
The gear mechanism was previously considered exclusively artificial, but in 2013, scientists from the University of Cambridge announced their discovery that the juvenile form of a common insect Issus (species Issus coleoptratus), found in many European gardens, has a gear-like mechanism in its hind legs. Each leg has a 400 micrometer strip, pitch radius 200 micrometers, with 12 fully interlocking spur-type gear teeth, including filleted curves at the base of each tooth to reduce the risk of shearing. The joint rotates like mechanical gears and synchronizes Issus's legs when it jumps to within 30 microseconds, preventing yaw rotation.
The Mechanism is thought to date from between 150 and 100 BC
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