You are on page 1of 7

Introduction to

Worm Gearing
J:ames IK. Simonellii
JKS & Associaltes,

BrecksvUle, OH

Wonn gears are among the oldest types of

tion for most applications,

gearing ..but that does not mean they are obso-

of gearing should be considered.

lete. antiquated technology,

ing for ratios above the ranges mentioned

for the bad experiences


with worm gearing

The main reasons

some engineers have

are misapplication

and

misuse. No form of gearing works for every


application.

Strengths and weaknesses

the application

must be weighed

which from of gearing


application

versus

to decide

to use. For proper

and operation of worm gears, cer-

generally

more practical

as part of a multi-

stage reduction.

In service, worm gears survive large overloads and high shocks.

When properly

ap-

plied. worm gearing can offer excellent

per-

forrnance and cost savings. Worm gearing has


an inherent

200% overload

(i.e . 3x rating)

gearing need to be addressed.

do not have this built-in

are quiet, compact,

stage. The ideal ratio range for worm gearing is 5: 1 to 75: 1. This is the general
for most catalog

reducers.

120: I are practical


3:

1. worm gearing

service factor than normal can be used.

Left Hand
Fig. 1 - Comparison of lett and right hand.

Ratios of 3: 1 to

Explanation

of Hand

The purpose of left- and righi-hand gearing


is to cbange the relative rotation ofthe worm to
the gear. Hand refers to the direction of axial
thread movement as the worm is rotated. If you

For ratios

below

point your thumb in the direction of ax ial move-

is not a practical

solu-

ment and curl your fingers in the direction of

Axlal Movement

Worm Thread

range

and have applications

that are very successful.

ervice factor. There-

fore when sizing a worm gear set. a lower

and can have large reduction ratios in a single

TECHNOlOGV

are

capacity in its rating. Other forms of gearing

Worm gear reducers

GE-'R

Worm gear-

tain areas that may differ from other types of


The Basics

34

and other forms

Axia.i Movement

Worm Thread
Right Hand:

rotation, the hand that corresponds

to the worm

Left
Hand

is the hand of the gear set. (See Figs .. 1&2.)


Bolts are a simple example. Normally they are
right. handed, and experimenting

with a nut and

bolt win help to clarify this description.


Right-hand

gear sets, like bolts, are the

industry standard. More right-hand gear ratios


are available as standard items, and most manufacturers win supply right-hand gearing unless
otherwise

pecified, This does not mean there

is a flaw in left-hand

gearing,

,-","","",

-.....
,

but left-hand

ratios may not be as readily available.

B.ack Driving
Running

Right
Hand

a worm gear set with the gear


CWWorm
CW Gear

(worm wheel) as the input member is cornmonly caUed back driving,

Back drive effi-

ciency of a worm gear set is lower than its


forward drive efficiency.

~
~

By varying design,

the back drive efficiency


zero, a in a self-tacking

(),

can be reduced to
or irreversible

gear

haft, me h

friction

preventing

increases

proportionally,

rotation. This is the same principle that keeps

CCWWorm .1ll.1.1
CWGear

(\~

friction causes the mesh to lock. NO' matter how


much torque is applied to tile gear

set. ]f the gear tries to drive the worm, internal

.....::.J

Fig. 2 Relative rotations.

nut and bolt from unscrewing under an applied


Worm Gear Back Drive 'Efficiency
Efficiency vs. Rubbing Velocity

tension load.
Back driving call occur in many applica-

Various Lead Angles

tions. A worm gear speed increaser is the most

100

obvious, but it is rarely used because of its [ow


efficiency, It also occurs in lifting applications,

90

such as cranes, hoists, and crank arms .. When

80

lowering the load. the gear is the input member.


Worm rotation controls

the rate of descent.

Also, during braking or coast-down,

the mo-

mentum ofa device will back drive a worm ..


A self-locking

worm gear can be designed

by making the lead angle le

than thefr.ictioll

1')'

70

.~
:i;

n,

non-rotating

gear set can induce motion in the


The mesh velocity

the tooth contact

is zero, but

is dynamic,

At a mesh ve-

10cHy of zero, the theoretical

dynamic coef-

ficient of friction

is . J 24, or a friction

angle

of 7.0 ..TOoprovide a afety factor, a 5.00 lead


0

angle is recommended
self-Iocking.aad

as the upper limit of

a ]5.0 lead angle is recom-

mended as the lower limit to assume a worm

.1101

30
20

0.01

0.1

I~

/ I

II

........
v

/"1--"

'//

---..-/

l-{j,5

E~ 40

tooth contact

---

-:::1-

w 50

the coefficient

i .20 to ,15, equating to a


friction angle of 1 1.3 to 8.5. Vibration in a

""'r

r;;:

10

cient of friction

130

.~ 60

angle, which is defined as the arc tangent of


of friction, The static coeffi-

,
,

Iii

,
I
I
,

10
100
Rubbing Velocily (fpm)

1000

10000

Fig.3 Worm gear back drive efficiency.

gear will back drive.


Back drive efficiency

decreases

with de-

creasing speed. The slope of this curve is exponential and is affected by the lead angle. (See
Fig. 3.) This factor should be considered when
sizing a brake and its rate of application. Often
a brake placed on the worm can be smaller than
normally anticipated.

Self-locking

worm gear

James K. Simonellii.
P. E., is a power

IraiIS'

mission consultant. He
has ovenen year . experience in product design
and troubleshooting
wtth
ap plications
ran ging
from .I"IIJall COflSU/Ilerllp,
pliances
10 large
steel
mill drives.
MARCH/APRil

1993

:35

or "roller" dutch

sets will coast because of dynamic effects.


Using a brake on self-locking
be thoroughly

designs must

analyzed. Most brakes have an

increasing torque rate when applied. Also, the

and is commonly

u ed on

conveyors that lift material to prevent reversal


if power is lost.
"Plugging" is a method of braking gener-

in large crane wheel drives that use

efficiency will be decreasing during slow down.

al1y used

This double effect can cause the effective brak-

reversal of the drive motor .. Plugging applica-

ing torque to rise at a surprising

rate, causing

tions can cause extremely high torque spikes.

a sudden stop .. High inertial loads with self-

The worm system inertia consists of the worm,

locking designs should have controlled motor

drive motor, and any miscellaneous

speed ramp down for braking.

nents. The gear system inertia consists of the

On the other hand. back drive efficiency


increases

with increasing

speed. Therefore

compo-

gear and the entire braked device ..When pluga

ging, the worm can reverse rotation before the

constant back driving torque restrained only by

drive train loads ill the back drive direction.

a worm gear will havearate of acceleration that

The worm system's momentum is in a direction

increases exponentially.

opposite the gear system. At. impact, the worm

This is a very impor-

tant point to remember when designing hoists ..

must again reverse rotation to follow the gear,

Unless it is properly designed, relying solely on

crossing a point where the mesh rubbing veloc-

self-locking mechanism to suspend a load may

ity is zero. The gear system's

be dangerous.

generate whatever torque spike is required to

The load may stay suspended

momentum will

until an outside influence starts a vibration in

force the worm to reverse rotation a.nd over-

the gear mesh. At first, the load willcreep

come the motor plugging torque and the mesh

slowly. As it falls, it accelerates

back drive efficiency at zero speed.

nentially

increasing

at an expo-

rate.

Torque spikes are

Since many factors influence the coefficient

a transient impact effect

and not a problem when the system is properly

of friction, gear set designs should be te ted for

designed, Plugging designs should limitthe

their back drive suitability. Break-in ofagear set

of brittle materials,

will reduce the coefficient of friction. This may

Bolted joints and drive train mountings should


be designed for impact. In wheel drives, the

make a gear set self-locking when it is new and

such as grey cast iron.

wheel slip torque limit torque spike and can be

cants can have an effect on the coefficient

of

used a a maximum design point. Peak torque

friction and may be used in the field without the

can be reduced by slowing the rate of reversaL

Contact Pattern

If elf-locking is critical to safety, a brake or

The area of contact the worm makes on the

"ba.ck stop" should be used, A back stop is a

gear as it rotates into mesh is the contact pat-

clutch device that permits rotation in one direc-

tern. The ideal contact pattern for worm gear-

tion only. It is sometimes referred to as a "Sprag"

ing uses 90% of the full face, with the remain-

Flanks Show Contact FromBIDir,ectional Operation


Entering:
Side

Entering

Side

4a - INa-Load
Fig.4 - Typical contact patterns of a worm gear set.
GEAR

TECHNOLOGV

not self-locking after use. Also, synthetic lubri-

knowledge of the gear designer,

36

II

4b - Full Load

4c Overload

ing 10% open. on the entering side (Fig. 4b).


This has maximum

area for load distribution

and still allows oll to. be dragged in for Iubrica-

'r---~--

tion. Jf the entering side has contact. (Fig. 4c)

Shim to adjust bearing


end play and adjust -~---,
contact pat1ern.

the oil would be wiped off the worm as It rotates


into the gear. Without oil being drawn in, the
gear set will not generate an oil film and will
quickly fail. (See the section on lubrication

for

more details.)
Under load the gearbox.
will deflect. These deflections

worm, and gear


cause the con-

across the gear face to-

tact pattern to spread

ward the entering side ..To compensate for


tact pattern

spread,

CO[l-

Sa

the gear can be moved

axiaHy in relationship

to. the worm ..This will

increase the open face at no. load (Fig. 4a), so as

Shim to adjust bearing end play -

not to close off the entering side at fun load. A


no-load pattern of approximately

30% of fuU

face Dn the leaving side is desirable.


Since deflection

Shim to adjust gear contact

. occur in opposite direc-

tions for opposite rotations. the two flanks of a


gear tooth cannot be directly in line ..The flanks
need

[0

be shifted axially with respect to each

other when the gear is cut. The axial movement


of the gear required for the contact pattern to go
from 90% full face to 90% full face

01'1

the

opposite tooth flank is the total shift. Total shift


anticipates deflections that will occur from full
load forward to full load reverse.
The no-load contact pattern is determined
by lightly coating the worm threads with Prus-

5b

sian Blue (i.e .. high spot blue). This transfers to


the gear teeth when rotated by hand. Although
not required,

coating

the gear teeth with a

mixture of powdered orange paint pigment and

--

Fig. 5 - Typical gear shaft assemblies.

grease makes the pattern easier to. see. The

tion loading, such as hoists or conveyers,

orange grease paint improves

cut into a gear is nota major concern. Since the

the contrast of

hift-

the blue transfer pattern and adds lubricant to

opposite

the mesh. To observe the contact pattern under

adjusted on the drive flank only, ignoring the

loaded conditions,

a coat of layout blue can be

sprayed on the gear teeth. This will quickly

non-drive

flank is never loaded, the pattern is


flank. When adjusting

favor one flank,

the gear to

care must be taken so that the

wear off, revealing the fun load contact pattern.

gear does :not lose all of its backlash.

Be sure the surface is oil-free when spraying

happens, the wonn is wedged into the corner

If this

and wait until the blue dries before operation ..

of (be gear. This will generate excessive heat

Oil may wash the coating off if it is not com-

and cause premature

pletely dry.

failure.

In most reducer designs, axial gear adjust-

In severe applications
the fuUy loaded pattern

under heavy loads.


should

be checked.

ment is accomplished

by shims placed between

the gear shaft bearing caps and the housing

The amount of shift cut into a gear may not

(Fig. Sa). First. determine the total shim stock

compensate

for proper bearing end play. Then transfer shims

for an overly flexible housing or

higher-than-anticipated

loads. For one direc-

from one side to the other until an optimum


MARCH/AP

RIL

'993

31

The break-in process is the gear tooth form

pattern is obtained. In heavy duty applications

gear fully

where one would like to adjust the

loaded, moving shims requires disconnecting

elastic or inelastic deformation,

the shaft couplings, removing the gearbox from

the high spots or pining them away. After the

its mounting, and removing the gear shaft cou-

many high spots are either

away, the worm rides on the larger flat areas.


The pit areas retain pools of oil, which help

A common method to adjust the

gear from one side is to put both thru t bearings

support the load by hydrostatic

in a carrier on one side (Fig. 5b). The opposite

aid in lubrication.

side is supported by a radial bearing that is free

after a sufficient

to move axially. There are other methods of

sustain the load and normal wear takes over.

Corrective

pressure

and

pitting ceases

area has been developed

to

A new worm gear will pitatan alarming rate,

but these are the most common.

then quickly

Gear tooth pitting results from the combina-

stop. No additionalpitting

again pit rapidly and quickly

to a direction 90 to the tooth surface) at the

recurring

contact point produces Hertzian stress. Friction

will

occur for a long time. Then the surface

tion of several forces. Normal force (referring


0

throughout

Destructive

win

stop, the cycle

the life of the gear ..

pitting is a case of the gear not

produces a tangential force, which induces sub-

being able to correct itself enough to support

surface shear stress. Friction

the imposed load. It is the result of overload,

heat. Temperature

also generales

at the contact point is much

higher than the surroundingarea,


thermal expansion

(the phenomenon

that can

In thi case, pit-

ting continues until the gear tooth surfaces are


completely

destroyed ..This is not a common

cause failure

Constant cycling as the tooth goes through

a. surface fatigue crack.

Oil inthe gear mesh is underextreme

will normally

Materials

fatigue crack, and hydrostatic

pressure tries to

lift a piece out. Continuing

cycles cause the

the high stress area. The

Worm gearing has a high sliding component in its tooth meshing action. Sliding contact materials

are selected to make one mem-

ber hard and

trong and theother

crack grows deeper. until a piece literally pops

ductile, Friction is generally

out, leaving a pit

the combined

In most gearing,
signals impending

apitted tooth

surface

faces,
broaden

failure. For worm gearing,

pitting is part of normal operation.

contact

Corrective

the contact
stress.

and having

a worm, the thread is generated

hardne

by a continu-

proportional

cannot

to
sur-

deform

area and distribute

to
the

only one part

the other ductile,


stress.

soft and

of the mating

By hardening

s is increased,

to distribute

by the grinding

hardness

Two bard surface

pining is a break-in process. In manufacturing


ous line that can be described

how up as the

gearbox overheating.

pressure

from contact forces. The oil is forced into the

crack to encircle

improper tooth pro-

problem, because most errors large enough to

poured into it) induces stress.


the mesh can cause

improper gear adjustment,

file, or improper lubrication.

Differential

cause a glass to break when a hot liquid is

the combined

while still being able


Also,

using

dissimilar

wheel. It produces a continuous

(i.e., smooth

hardness reduces the chance for galling. Steel

and uniform)

in all three

and bronze have been the materials

surface

curved

planes ..The gear is hobbed by a gashed cut-

becau e they balance

ting tool that is in effect a worm having

bricity. and heat dissipation.

disconriuuous or interrupted

surface. It pro-

duces gear teeth which have a series of short


flats or discontinuous

surfaces that approxi-

strength,

of choice

ductility,

lu-

Shaft bushings

are common examples of sliding components


using this arrangement.
The worm is the hard member, and the gear

mate the desired tooth form. Because of the

is the ductile member. There are several rea-

flats, the gear tooth form is imperfect.

sons for this arrangement

Where

COil tact

stress tin

two flats join there must be a peak. At such a

both members is equal. The worm goes through

i.f

more contact. cycles because of the ratio of the

point, the contact


deformation
TfCHNOLOGY

worn or pitted

pling. This is a very difficult process in large

Pitting

GfAR

wearing away

machinery.

adjustment,

38

being improved by the worm. This is done by

street would be infinite

did not occur,

gear set. Compared

to steel, bronze

has a

lower strength, a lower endurance


higher number of cycle

ratio. and a

required forinfinite

would

life. Fig. 6 uses these factors in a generalized,


theoretical

be to picture

imbedded

SoN curve. Stress levels that have

stress. A simple model

marion to distribute

marble

in clay (matrix).

a finite life for bronze would have an infinite

tain properties,

to make them unsuitable

Since the bronze will fail at a

but loses

fewer cycles, it i .used for the member requir-

special applications

ing the fewest cycle.

tin bronze may perform

Gear mesh reaction

forces are equal and

in others will tend


for general use. For

bronze alloys other than


better. Gear materi-

als, such as cast iron, plastic, and even steel,

opposi.te in: both members. The worm is much

have worked

smaller

very welJ in certain applica-

in diameter

than the gear and has a

tions. Each application

greater span between

supports. Therefore bend-

analyzed

by a. gear engineer

ing stress is greater in the worm, requiring it to

alternate

materials.

be made from the stronger material.


Manufacturing
material

methodsal

choice.

for accurate

Grinding

finish

must be thoroughly

Worms are generally

playa part in

is generally

of high-hardness,

treated steels. Grinding


process,

ened and non-hardened.

heat-

superior

using the flank of a traight-sided

before selecting

made from an alloy

steel. Steel worms can be divided into hard-

used

the worm is a simple

phase)

Alternate gear materials may increase cer-

Iife for

teet

(delta

Hardened worms are

in most application

hardness of approximately

. When

urface

58Rc is used, sevstrength is

eral benefits are gained. Material

grinding wheel, Grinding the gear requires a

increased,

complicated

reduced. Often a. worm can be reused after the

grinding

process

using

a form dressed

wheel and a three-axis

grinder.

alloy for worm gears. It. has a low

coefficient

of friction and a low rate of wear.

Good heat conduction


eratedin

carries away heat gen-

the mesh and dissipates

the gear.
strength.

Aluminum

bronzes

is lowered,

and wear is

gear has worn out.

Tin bronze has proved to be the most successful

friction

Non-hardened

refer

worms may actually have a heat treatment to


bring up the core hardne s for inc reased strength.

it throughout

In industrial

have

300 Brinell is typical.

higher

but also a higher coefficient of fric-

tion. A less obvious disadvantage

of tile higher

strength alloys is lower ductility.

Theoretical

to the surface being

lower than the typical 58 Re' Non-hardened

applications,

a core hardness

Non-hardened

are useful in applications

of

worms

with low continu-

ous power and very high peak or shock loads,


The e applications

are most often machine

contact between a worm and gear is a line. In

adjustments

practice. the bronze deflects under load broad-

quently activated.

Heat treating for increased

ening the contact line to an area. The material

surface

may be eliminated

deflects. until the contact area broaden

power applications

to support

the load. A low-ductility

may have localized


large enough

enough

areas of a

lower dnctility material have higher localized


contact temperature
the sub-surface

tresses.

and till occurs.

Steel
When the bronze

segregation

High tin area


phase

or grains are

:is approximately

Brinell, The high capper matrix supporting


is approximately

320
it

145 Brinell, The hard grains

provide wear resistance

Infinite Ufetor Sleel

of the copper

commonly called the delta phase. Hardness


of the delta

Generalized TheoreticalSN Curve


Cycles vs. Stress

of tin bronze can be

traced to its grain structure.


partial

in low

to decrease cost. ~fa worm

which further increase

The unique properties


solidifies,

hardness

that are infre-

material

failure before reaching a

area .. Small contact

or mechanisms

and help reduce fric-

tion. The softer matrix allows surface defer-

IBronze
Finite Life for Bronze
Cycles
Fig. 6 - Generalized theoretical SN curve.
MARCH/APRIL

'993

3,9

------------------~

is used with a cast iron or steel gear.jt should

tact temperatures.

be non-hardened.

can collapse, causing the surfaces to contact,

Backlash Measurement

Under high loads the film

lubrication mode, other properties (i.e., lubric-

ance between

the worm and the gear teeth.

ity or sIipperiliess)

Measurement

is done by locking

more important

against rotation,

the worm

setting a dial indicator

on a

gear tooth at the pitch radius, and rocking the


gear back and forth. The total. indicator
ing is the measurement

of backlash.

the gear and measuring


not measure

backlash.

lubrication ." In this

This is called "boundary

Backlash is the measure of the free clear-

read-

Locking

worm rotation

does

In an assembled

where the gear teeth are not readily

unit
acces-

sible, backlash can be approximated

by plac-

ing the indicator on any convenient

point that

of the lubricant

than the viscosity.

gear set, a mixture


lubrication

of EHL and boundary

are at work.

A satisfactory
applications

lubricant

for most average

is a AGMA 7 compounded

Low speeds require

the higher

AGMA 8 compounded
leum ba ed mineral
sometimes

plied by the ratio of the gear pitch radius to

mineral

the measurement

perature

oil provides

oil. At the high pressures

protective

Backlash =

skin.

type of lubricant

that uses a surface

x Gear Pitch Radius

chemistry.

Measurement

rus, and/or chlorine

Radius

additives,

and are deapplications.

When these oils are used with bronze under

Lubrication
Worm gearing has a high slide-to-roll

ratio

to other types of gearing.

high temperature and pressure, conditions common ill the me h contact,

the chemical

reac-

it relies

tion can go awry. The surface of the bronze

of an oil film be-

can begin to flake off, causing massive wear,

Because of a high sliding component,


on the generation

acting

Most EP oils lise sulfur, phospho-

signed to work in steel-an-steel

tween the worm and gear. The oil film pro-

and intergranular

duces an effect similar to what happens when

teeth to break. There are EP oils designed for

a speeding car hits a rain puddle. The car tire


to float on a wedge of water.

has a tendency

stress corrosion call. cause the

use with bronze that use a different


package. and in certain applications

additive
a standard

In a car this is called hydroplaning: in gear it

EP oi] may work very wen. When selecting a

is called

EP oil for bronze gearing

elasto-hydrodynamic

(EHL). This is a simplistic


other modes of lubrication
depending

on conditions,

lubrication
description

with

coming into play,


bUI it gives

the

For EHL to be the only lubrication

carefully reviewed.
Synthetic

lubricants

mon. They are mote

mode, it

are aliso very comviscosity-temperature

cant to provide adequate service over a broader

must generate a film thickness greater than the

temperature

surface roughness ofthe contacting parts ..Film

life. reducing

thickness is proportional

quired.

and lubricant

make sure it was

stable than mineral oils. This allows one lubri-

general idea.

to the sliding velocity

viscosity and inversely

propor-

range, They have longer service


the number of oil changes

They reduce

wear and friction,

creasing gearbox Iife ..Efficiency

20% of the lost power are possible.

at the relatively

severe conditions

low speed of worm gearing

cositie

Vis-

of over 400 cSt at 40C are normally

used to prevent premature wear and high con-

rein-

increase

tional to the unit load. High unit loads possible


requires a very high viscosity lubricant.

TECHNOLOGY

forming

Extreme pressure oils (EP oils) are another

(Measurement)

ClEAR

and tem-

in the contact area, a chemical reac-

pitch radius a multiplication


error will occur.

,40

lower friction

tion occurs on the tooth surface,

heavily

are

than a: traigbt

lected point is on the radius smaller than the

when compared

with

referred to as steam cylinder oils.

The compounded

of measurement

of

3% to 10% fatty oils. These lubricants

and better wear characteristics

e-

viscosity

oil. Both are petro-

is fixed to the gear, such as a shaft keyway or

radius. Note that if the

oil,

oils compounded

coupI.ing. This measurement

must be multi-

become
In a worm

of

Under

properly selected synthetic

oils are outstanding.


found cost advantages

Many companies

have

using the more expen-

sive synthetic oil for normal applications