Viewpoint Systems Improves Gear Finishing Using a Real-Time Embedded Control System With NI RIO Hardware

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"With the embedded control system that Viewpoint created using NI RIO hardware and LabVIEW FPGA software, our customers can increase gear quality and save money at the same time."

- Mark Strang, The Gleason Works

The Challenge:
Creating a dynamic, torque-controlled lapping solution with responsive, real-time feedback to develop better quality gears and reduce cycle time for the solution’s gear-lapping machines.

The Solution:
Providing system integration using NI reconfigurable I/O (RIO) technology and NI LabVIEW FPGA code for real-time measurement and control.

Author(s):
Mark Strang - The Gleason Works

Gleason Corporation and The Gleason Works create the machines, tooling, processes, services, and technologies needed to produce the bevel and cylindrical gears found virtually everywhere—from automobiles and airplanes, to trucks and tractors, to giant wind turbines that can power a thousand homes, to the lawn mowers and power tools found at these homes.

Gear tooth surfaces and spacing are never perfectly machined; consequently, noise and vibration are often present in applications for which the gears are later used. Gears, after the typical heat treatment process, are commonly lapped or ground to smooth the gear teeth surfaces and improve operational characteristics. The goal of lapping is to reduce surface and tooth-spacing deviations that may produce noisy gearsets.

Figure 1. The Gleason 600HTL TURBO LAPPER bevel gear-lapping machine adds a new dimension of features and process capability to the lapping process.

Gleason machines lap gears in pairs, with the mating gear and pinion members rotating together at a high speed with an abrasive lapping slurry applied. After machining and heat treatment, however, the spacing deviations that need to be lapped are at unknown locations on the gears and can show themselves as run-out (in other words, an off-center axis). To further complicate finding the deviations, the run-out is actually composed of multiple orders, likely making the run-out for each order different.

One conventional approach to lapping uses machines with relatively high-inertia spindles to carry the gearset members. At moderate speeds, this configuration can somewhat reduce spacing errors during lapping, but it is far from optimal in refining the tooth surfaces. Another approach uses at least one low-inertia spindle. This configuration can refine tooth surfaces well, but it tends to increase spacing errors—especially at higher speeds. In both conventional cases, one spindle is operated in a simple constant torque command mode to control lapping force, but the critically important dynamic torque components are left to passive physics. To get the best of both worlds, Gleason could no longer rely on passive physics, and turned to NI Alliance Partner Viewpoint Systems to help develop and implement an embedded control system that could measure deviations in real time and apply dynamic corrective torque.

The Process to Create a Better Control System

Gleason engaged Viewpoint Systems to implement this real-time measurement and control system because of its expertise with the leading RIO hardware from National Instruments.

Viewpoint used NI RIO technology and developed LabVIEW FPGA code to create a real-time measurement and control solution for the lapping machine.

Viewpoint equipped an NI cRIO-9076 controller with an NI 9411 digital input module and an NI 9263 analog output module. The digital input module monitors two digital rotational encoders, one on each spindle carrying the bevel gearset members. Innovative analysis of these angular signals can tease out subtle variations in the average rotational speed. Coupled with sophisticated order analysis, these variations are used to modify the torque applied to the gearset at the proper angular positions and with the appropriate amplitude. Thus, the high-frequency dynamic torque components experienced by the gearset during lapping are no longer dominated by passive physics, but are actively controlled to achieve the desired results.

Viewpoint created the system to manage all of the measurements, analyses, and torque corrections in the RIO FPGA with specific, efficient coding in LabVIEW FPGA using a Viewpoint FPGA IP toolset. The NI CompactRIO controller provides data collection and even data archiving functions to support other advanced postprocessing. The controller also provides an API to control the adaptive lapping process from a supervisory application.

Results

With this new, patent-pending system founded on embedded control and dynamic real-time process monitoring technologies, Gleason and Viewpoint Systems have added exciting new capabilities to a worldwide and well-established gear finishing process. The unprecedented ability to improve gearset quality during lapping, and to do so at higher speeds, provides a winning market proposition—one made possible by the intelligent application of today’s leading-edge technologies. With these new solutions, Gleason gear manufacturing systems now produce higher quality gears in 30 percent less time.

Throughout the process, Gleason appreciated the expertise of Viewpoint Systems and the effective synergy achieved. More than just an implementer, Viewpoint experts worked alongside to develop new techniques and solutions in an agile and collaborative environment.

Viewpoint Systems
Platinum Alliance Partner

A National Instruments Alliance Partner is a business entity independent from National Instruments and has no agency, partnership, or joint-venture relationship with National Instruments.

Author Information:
Mark Strang
The Gleason Works
MStrang@Gleason.com

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