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Development of a new gearbox without lubricants for low OM costs, higher efficiency, and oiless applications

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SMARTGEARBOX (Development of a new gearbox without lubricants for low OM costs, higher efficiency, and oiless applications)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-12-31

The Smart Gearbox project has the final aim develop a maintenance free for oil leaking reducer.
Gearboxes are present in every factory plant and machine, and the main cause for stopping their operations is the need of changing the oil inside them or the fact the oil is leaking from the seal rings.
We esteem that the absence of lubricants (oils and grease) can reduce the cost of maintenance for the final users up to the 50%, together with the cost related to the collection of the hazarded waste in accordance to the Waste framework Directive 2008/98/EC. Not less important we believe this new reducer will be an effective measure to reduce the risk of oil contamination of the products for markets like Food and Beverages or Pharmaceutical.
The Smart Gearbox will be a worm wheel reducer with maximum wheel base 50mm, to be loaded up to 100Nm without any need of operation and maintenance.
Technically this means to use thermoplastic material for the wheel instead of the traditional Bronze and consequently to adapt the gears design to this material.
Our current gear design software needs to be adapted too, in order to provide more reliable results for thermoplastic materials.
We also need to identify a solution for the cooling of the reducer, since the action of the lubricant in this sense will be missed.
We are working to overcome these technical issues in order to develop a completely new product that will help us pursuing the Company goal to reach plus 40% in our turnover in 2020.

Conclusion of the action.
We adapted our currently design software to thermoplastic materials implementing new methods from academic papers.
We defined a new design for plastic gears using the software results and FEM analysis.
We produced and tested the gears prototypes together with the inner cooling system that we developed from CFD simulations.
We designed and produced the components needed for the final Smart gearbox assembly and we successfully validated the assembly procedure.
As a big part of the gear design software adaptation we’ve completed so far, we build a database of the thermoplastic material we are going to use for wheels of the Smart Gearbox, including mechanical, physical and triblogical properties, that had all been tested. These properties are not usually known for thermoplastic compounds, but they are essential for the gear design software to be reliable.
The database has been included in the preliminary version of the software adapted for thermoplastic and it was also used by the software house (one of the project subcontractor) to evaluate all the risk related to teeth wear and fracture, using as guide the exiting VDI 2736-3.
Using this preliminary version together with FEM simulations we identified a new gears design dedicated for thermoplastic, and we produced the first wheels prototypes by injection molding. The Worm-shafts will still be made of steel, so the prototypes were made by cutting. The testing of this prototypes has already started.
We’ have completed all the work for the identification of a cooling system and we’ve identified a reliable solution by modifying both the worm-shaft and case design. At the beginning of this project we had the idea to study a new design for the gearbox’s case to fulfill this goal, but then by running the first preliminary fluid-dynamic simulations we saw that working on the shaft design adaptations too could give us better results.
All the test that we run on the cooling system prototypes confirmed this, and the new cooling system was implemented on the Smart Gearbox prototypes with the new designed wheel that we are now testing.
All this experimental work required from us also making substantial improvement on our test rig, all the modification were identified and fulfilled in order to start running the test on time.
Together with the all the work related to overcome technical issues, we developed a Smart Gearbox dedicated website that has been updated constantly with all the project progress and news. We officially launched it to all our customers and distributors. Also in September 2016 in order to further disseminate our idea we attend an international conference in Lubjana dedicated to thermoplastic material tribology, where the audience was composed both by academic expert in the field, both by possible future customers.

The test results on the new designd wheel were not completely satisfying because the wheel’s wear was too destructive, and the temperature on the reducer case reached too high value. This results didn’t allow us to gain the experimental data to validate the software for plastic gear as planned, but we’ve already developed new solutions in order to further improve the wheel and cooling system performances.
Despite this the work necessary to achieve the technical and commercial validation of Smart gearbox regularly started. All the components necessary for the Smart gearbox wheel integration in the industrial prototypes were designed and built. The assembly procedure was validated, and the validation campaign of the components regularly started.
The dissemination activity remained important and during 2017 we carried on the work related to it. We attended two trade fair, Hannover Messe in April 2017 and Europack-Euromanut-CFIA in November 2017, where the project dissemination was done through dedicated flyers and the Smart Gearbox official video.
We reach the highest level of knowledge of a specific thermoplastic material properties. These materials are usually not so deep investigated by their supplier and final users.
This also bring a big step forward in the reliability that our gear design software can provide as output calculation.
All the simulations that we run for the gear design and the injection molding process together with the mold supplier, definitely increases our R&D department knowhow and skills on the thermoplastics materials mechanical response and their processability in gear applications.
The good result we had on the cooling system development is definitely a fundamental step to the success of the Smart Gearbox project, and it will also be good chance for us to become the owner of a new technology to be applied in new market sectors. On the base of the Freedom to operate analysis we completed we believe this is also a result to be patented.
The project so far gave us also the chance to improve ore test rig and experimental set up, this way also improving the reliability of the answers we can give to our final customers.

After the not satisfayng results of the exhperimental campaign on the plastic wheel, we decided to work on the wear and temperature aspects in order to find possible alternative solutions.
Computational Fluid Dynamics analysis (CFD) on different worm shaft shapes have been conducted in order to improve the cooling system and to reduce the temperature and an alternative maerial has been investigated in order to further improove the wear resistance.
We believe these improvements will guarantee the success of the next experimental campaign and the validation of the calculation software for the plastic gears, This will allow us to introduce the Smart Gearbox product in2018, this way pursuing our final goal to raise our company turnover of the 40% till 2020