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ME214 – Machine Elements and Innovative Design



Machine elements such as pulleys, gears, couplings and other similar devises are mainly employed to transmit power to and
from shafts. Therefore, these machine elements should be rigidly fixed to shafts by some means in order to prevent relative
angular or axial (sliding) motion between them. More often the joint formed with such elements should permit repeated
assembly and dismantling. For such cases key joints may be used.
Keys are mainly used to transmit torsional loads. In some applications keys are used to prevent relative axial motion as well.

Advantages of Key Joints over Other Types

o Simple in design
o Convenience in use
o Low cost
o Reliable

Disadvantages of Key Joints over Other Types

o Reduction of strength of connecting parts due to keyway
o Stress concentration in key joints
o Difficulty in achieving concentricity between mating surfaces

Types of Keys

Figure 1 Types of keys

Stress Consideration of Key Joints

o Square and parallel keys: torque is transmitted by means of
compressive and shear stresses
o Taper keys: torque is transmitted by means of friction induced by
compressive stresses
o Tangential keys: torque is transmitted by means of compressive
stresses alone.

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ME214 – Machine Elements and Innovative Design

Modes of Failure & Strength Calculation

Shear Failure

Note: This consideration has been incorporated in standardising the cross section of the keys. Therefore, strength calculation
for shear is not required in designing.

Crushing Failure

o For standard keys, calculation for crushing is sufficient

o If two keys are used in one joint the length of key must be increased by 25% due to none uniformity of torque
o A key is selected according to the shaft diameter. The length is calculated based on crushing.
o If the length is higher than the hub
o Two or three keys (25% longer) can be used at 120o to each other or
o The hub size can be increased
Note: Cross sections of the keys have been standardised. Therefore, formulas are used to find: (i) allowable torque, and (ii)
working length of the key

Taper Keys
In taper key joints the transmitted torque is made up of
o The moment due to none uniform pressure over the width of the key.
o The moment caused by the friction between the key and the shaft.
o The moment caused by the friction between the hub and the shaft.

Selection of Keys
The type of key for a particular application is selected by considering the following factors.
o Power transmission requirement
o Stability and rigidity
o Accuracy of fit
o Physical configuration etc.
Based on the shaft diameter the cross-sectional dimensions are selected from standard charts.
lk >= 2/3 bh For stability
Where, lk - length of key
bh - width of hub
If the key length is greater than hub length,
o Increase the hub length
o Increase the number of keys

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ME214 – Machine Elements and Innovative Design

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ME214 – Machine Elements and Innovative Design

Spline joints can be considered as multiple key joints and can be used to transmit
higher loads. These joints can be either sliding or fixed. Splines can be cut on
cylindrical or tapering shafts.
External splines can be made by hobbing, by shaping, by a generating method or by
external broaching and then centering (mating) surfaces are ground.
Internal splines can be cut by broaching or slotting and the centering surfaces are

The Advantages of Spline Joints over Key Joints

o Greater load carrying capacity for same overall size due to larger contact
area between splines
o Ensures better centering between the parts

Types of Splines
o Parallel sided splines
o Involutes splines
o Serrations (triangular)

Centering Methods for Parallel Sided Splines

The method of centering depends on the required accuracy
with which the hub must be fitted to the shaft and on the load
When accurate centering of components is of prime
consideration, centering is done by the major or minor

Major Diameter Fit (b)

This is the most accurate and simple. If the hole in the hub is
not to be heat treated or heat treated to a low hardness then
the major diameter is chosen as the centering surface. In this
case the centering surface can be accurately machined; the
hub by broaching and the shaft by cylindrical grinding.

Minor Diameter Fit (c)

If the hole surface of the hub is to be heat treated to higher hardness, centering is done by the minor diameter. Warping is
inevitable in the process of heat treatment. That can be eliminated by grinding the minor diameter in the hub and the space
between the splines of the shaft.

Fit by Sides of Splines (a)

This method does not assure high accuracy, but it provides for most uniform distribution of the forces among the splines.
Therefore it should be used to transmit high torques when no high requirements are made with respect to the centering
accuracy. This fit is sometimes called “side bearing fit”
A typical example for this type is the sliding spline joint in the propeller shaft of front engine rear wheel drive automobiles.

Spline Joint Standard Dimensions

According to the standards, parallel sided spline joints are specified by indicating the following:
o Centering feature D, d, b
o No of splines (z)
o Nominal diameters
The standard splines are also categorised into 3 groups as light duty, medium duty and heavy duty splines.

Involute Splines
The tooth profile of involute splines is similar to the tooth profile of involute gears. The main advantages of involute splines are:
o Higher load carrying capacity due to gradual thickening of the splines towards the root.
o Less stress concentration due to absence of abrupt profile change at the root
o Simple and more efficient manufacture by using gear generating machines

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ME214 – Machine Elements and Innovative Design

Serrations Involute splines

They are used as a rule for fixed joints where it is important to keep the size of the joint as small as possible. They can be
used to obtain small angular adjustments.
Applications: (i) gear lifting peddle of motor-bikes

Strength Calculation for Spline Joints

Spline joints are generally failed by crushing. The other modes of failures are: (i) damage to the working surface, (ii) wear, and
(iii) binding or seizing

T - torsion acting on the joint
R - mean radius
l - effective length
k - factor for none uniformity of load distribution (typical values 0.6 – 0.8)
z - number of splines
h - effective contact height
For parallel sided splines,
Dd Dd
R h 2f
2 2
To increase the stability of the joint irrespective of the calculated length of the joint the working length of splines should not be
less than 0.5D and it should not be higher than 2D as well. There is no actual benefit of increasing the length of spline
unnecessarily. When the spline is long, manufacturing is going to be difficult.
Calculations for shaft will give minimum shaft diameter (say dmin) for the spline. Then, using standard data tables find d>dmin
(for light duty splines) and get the values for other required parameters. The required length of the spline (l) can then be found
considering crushing strength requirement. If ‘l’ is larger than the hub length: (i) increase the hub length or (ii) go for medium
duty spline.

1. Design a rectangular key for a shaft of 50mm diameter that transmits a torque of 6kNm. The shearing and crushing
stresses for the key material are 42MPa and 70MPa.
2. Determine the length, width and thickness of a rectangular key required for a 100mm diameter shaft to resist a torque of
5kNm. Allowable shearing and crushing stresses for key material are 5OMPa and 120Mpa respectively.
3. A steel shaft has a diameter of 25mm. The shaft rotates at a speed of 600 rpm and transmits 30kW through a gear. The
tensile and yield strength of the material of shaft are 650MPa and 353MPa respectively. Taking a factor of safety 3, select
a suitable key for the gear. Assume that the key and shaft are made of the same material.

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ME214 – Machine Elements and Innovative Design

4. A shaft transmits a power of 3OkW at a speed of 45Orpm. The diameter of shaft is 5Omm. A square key is used whose
width and the length are 1/4 and 1/2 times the diameter of shaft respectively. Find the dimensions of the key and check
the induced shearing and crushing stresses of the key. Allowable shear and crushing stresses of key material are 3OMPa
and 4OMPa respectively.
5. A pulley is to be connected to a shaft transmitting a power of 11kW at 60Orpm, by means of a rectangular key. If the
allowable shear stress of the shaft material and the crushing stress of the key material are 5OMPa and 120MPa
respectively, select the suitable key for the joint.
6. A cast iron pulley is to be keyed to a 65mm diameter shaft made of mild steel, and is to transmit 125 kW at 200rpm. A flat
key of cold finished carbon steel having ultimate strength of 3800 kg/cm2 is to be used. Since the drive is expected to be
subjected to quite minor vibrations, a safety factor of 1.75 may be used. Determine the length of the key. Clearly mention
all the assumptions used.
7. An automobile engine shaft has a diameter of 4Omm and transmits a torque of 30ONm. If the allowable crushing stress
of the material is 8OMPa, design a suitable parallel sided spline for the shaft. Do not cut into the shaft.
8. Design parallel sided splines to mount a gear on a shaft of minimum diameter 30mm using the standard data given in
Figure 2. The shaft transmits 16.5kW of power at a sped of 400rev/min. If the allowable crushing stress of the splines is
70MPa, determine the minimum length of the hub of the gear.

Figure 2 Dimensions of standard parallel sided splines

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