IE-2098 Final Report <


Optimization of a Bicycle Crank and Spider Using Finite Element Software
Ventzi G. Karaivanov, David A. Torick
Abstract— Cycling enthusiasts and racers will spend substantial money to reduce the weight of their components only a small amount. ANSYS (finite element analysis software) was used in the analysis of an entry level bicycle crank and spider. We present our findings and discuss the areas where the design could be improved to reduce stress. The new design is reanalyzed and the results are also discussed. In order to create consumer appeal, finite element analysis was conducted with various materials for the components to create a lighter component. The final design which has substantial consumer appeal is explained. Index Terms—Design Automation, Finite Element Methods, Land Vehicles, Optimization Methods





Fig.1 High-end bicycle crank, spider, and chainrings. II. METHODS A. Design Idea The basic shape of bicycle cranks has remained relatively constant for many years. We assume that the shape is relatively optimized. Models that have more surface features or are lighter should be the result of design optimization. An entrylevel crank lacks any major surface features beyond fillets on sharp corners (Fig. 2). When comparing Fig.1 and Fig. 2 it should be noted that the high-end crank has surface features where weight/material has been removed along the length of the arm, also please note the differences in the shape of the spider between the two models. The entry-level design is relatively heavy when compared to more expensive high-end models.


HE use of finite element analysis software has become quite common in the design process. The commercially available software ANSYS can provide easy analysis of 3-D product models. Through close inspection of the results design revisions can be made to improve areas of concern that are now visualized through the analysis output plots. Engineers and designers use the stress and displacement analysis to determine where material needs to be added, shape of the part needs to be modified, or if different materials can be used. The bicycle market in the United States and across the world is broken in to several different segments. Many recreational consumers are concerned primarily with cost and re not concerned about the weight of components. The serious cyclist, recreational racer, and professional racer are more concerned with weight of components than with the cost of components. The serious cyclist is also concerned with component performance characteristics as well. For example, a serious cyclist would want there crank and spider to be relatively stiff so there generated power translates to forward motion with the least amount of energy being wasted on deflecting the material. This paper describes the evolution of a bicycle crank and spider design. The pedal is attached to the bicycle crank and the spider is the component that transfers the torque produced from the pedal and crank arm length to the chain sprocket (Fig. 2). The crank and spider are integrated in today’s bicycles. We will show the deflection and stress analysis of an entry level design. Next we analyzed and improved our design based off of our analysis. Finally, we improved our design by choosing a different material while using the optimized part shape.

Fig. 2 Entry-level Bicycle crank, spider, and chainrings. Note lack of surface features when compared to high-end components (Fig. 1). For the modeling of our initial 3-D feature we used

Fig. We chose to put fillets on all corners of 2 mm. We assumed all of the holes should be constrained from moving in all directions. The next step was to pick the shape of the elements that we used to mesh the solid. This will provide the worst case loading due to the longer lever arm. note the lack of fillets on edges. this would simulate a worst case for the system.igs file) was successfully imported and several steps and assumptions were made in order to prepare our model for analysis. We also refined the mesh along the line where the spider and crank converge (Fig. The results of our model highlighted areas of the design that could be improved. Fig. we will discuss these and our design changes later. The next step is to mesh the volume. Although this model looks remarkable similar to the entrylevel model it was not a good model for our purposes. The selected material was aluminum alloy. We choose to constrain the holes that are used to transfer the force from the spider to the chain ring (Fig. Once the model was successfully imported several steps where required before the solution could be obtained. 5).25. We also constrained the surface where the bearing would contact the spider – 2 DOF (X. We created the parametric model based off of the dimensions of an entry-level crank. 4 Simplified CAD model. 4). The fillets that we applied to the model created a model that could not be imported into ANSYS for finite element analysis (FEA). Our revised model was then imported into ANSYS for FEA.34. . 3. This created a model (Fig. We therefore removed all fillets and created a simplified model that we used for our analysis (Fig. This situation would occur when someone was stopped and applied the maximum force onto the crank to get the bicycle moving. We also controlled the size of the elements around key locations. and also taller cycling enthusiasts/racers tend to be heavier than shorter cyclists.3-D solid model of a bicycle crank and spider. At this time we tried to increase the size of the mesh because ANSYS automatically places small elements in this area. This allowed for elements with proper shape and concentration in areas where stress will likely be elevated. We used the smart mesher tool and set the fine/coarse scale to 6. Once the model was meshed we applied our boundary conditions. also Fig. The material is linearly elastic with a Young’s Modulus of 70 GPa and a Poisson’s Ratio of 0. 4). These steps are usually found in the pre-processor section of FEA software programs.directions). Because of the irregular curves in the model we decided upon a Tetrahedral element (Tet187 in ANSYS). We choose to model our design with a 180 mm distance. 4.Area of element size refinement to improve mesh quality generated by mesh tool. When purchasing a bicycle crank the consumer must specify the length of the crank arm.and Z. At each hole we selected all of the lines in the model and forced the elements to a specific size of 0. We did not attempt to do any extra featuring of the model except to increase resemblance to the model. FEA Pre-Processor Steps The simplified solid model (. B. This length is measured from the center of the hole where the peddle mounts to the axis of rotation for the crank. Standard sizes range from 165 mm to 180 mm. 3) that looked remarkable similar to the entry-level one.IE-2098 Final Report < 2 ProEngineer Wildfire.

it is assumed that the average pressure is sufficient for calculations [2]. and has had forces applied to it. In reality pressure distribution on the wall of the cylinder is quite complicated.1 DOF (Y.Constraints on crank/spider for FEA. now in gray. This force was then converted to a constant pressure that would be applied across half of the mating cylinder between the crank and the spindle from the pedal [3]. 8. constraints are in blue. improved design. A = b* p A = 0. 8 & 9). The scale of the plot was adjusted so contours to reveal the stress distribution throughout the model. Another solution of the problem would be to add fillets. Spider to chainring holes Opposite crank constraint Bearing Constraint Fig. The average bearing pressure is determined as total force is divided by the central cross-sectional area of the hole (Fig. As in most literature. The maximum force created by a typical rider is 800 N. After the model is properly constrained a force must be applied to simulate the force applied by the rider to the pedal. 6). The deflection and Von Misses stresses were examined for each model.10 −5 σ ave = F 800 = = 8. These stress concentrations represented a relatively large area near the mating line of the crank and spider. The calculations to determine the area can be easily shown: Now that the model has been meshed. The maximum resultant pedal (crank) force is applied at 75 deg with respect to the longitudinal axis of the crank.IE-2098 Final Report < 3 the end of the shaft where the spindle would contact the other crank .direction). Three total analyses were performed: standard entry-level design. which in fact were present in our initial design. The areas of high stress were in excess of the yield stress of 500 MPa for the aluminum we used for our model. Figures ANSYS was used for the solution of the finite element calculations. 10) in order to improve the distribution of stress. . The direction of the force is away from the hole [1]. Model needed to be improved at these areas and we decided to add material under the crank arm where it meets the spider (Fig. being of the scale. Fig. constrained.10 −5 The equivalent pressure.88 MPa A 9. RESULTS The results from our first analysis were used to determine if the design had any areas that could be improved.01 = 9.88 MPa was then applied to half of the nodes on the inside of the hole (Fig. 4 may be helpful. 7. Without adjustment the entire part appeared to have uniform stress except in areas of high stresses (stress concentrations). 7).009 * 0. the model is ready for analysis. Fig.Pressure is applied to the nodes with the red line. 5. and improved design with different material. High areas of stress were located near the point of convergence of the crank and spider (Fig. In order to determine the change in design referencing Fig. 6 Effective area used for determining pressure equivalence of the applied force[2]. C. III.

again with same loading and constrains. 13. 9. we would most likely see the elimination of stress concentration. Close ups of the bottom of the crank spider interface (Fig. Fig. 11). 13) of the analyzed model reveals the significantly improved stress distribution within the crank. Fig.Von Misses Stresses of first design revision (note a lack of grey on the crank arm). (Fig. 12.Von Misses stresses of initial design (note large areas of grey on crank). 10 and a new solution was obtained.Modification of original design by adding material (see circled area). 8.Von Misses stresses of initial design (note large area of grey on crank arm). 10. A cross sectional cut (Fig. The results showed improved stress distribution at the crank arm.Cross-sectional cut of part to demonstrated improved stress distribution within the crank (revised model is on top). Fig. 12) reveal the improvement: by decreasing the size of the grey area of high stress. Thus said. The model was changed as noted in Fig. Stress concentration was not completely eliminated. . Fig. and the problematic area of connection between the arm and the spider. however the Fig. Fig. central hole. 11.Comparison of Von Misses Stresses for first revision and original (revision is on the left).IE-2098 Final Report < 4 zone now is very small and if filet is introduced it will have size bigger than the actual zone. if we had the ability to simulate this design case.

The analysis of the new design revealed similar stress distribution and load carrying abilities. A13.99 respectively. If the benchmarked cranks have similar deflections our design should be acceptable to the highend consumer. New York: McGraw-Hill.28[1]. We choose a Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic (GFRP). A weight reduction of 90 grams will make our design attractive to serious cyclists and racers alike. Elsevier. This material has a Young’s Modulus of 26 GPa and a Poisson’s Ratio of 0. Knuttgen.P. which was to be expected. Tribology Handbook (2nd Edition).99 and $489. Beer. The final design that uses GFRP did have a substantial increase in deflection. M. CONCLUSIONS Our design was substantially improved by using ANSYS to perform a FEA. This material change caused a substantial decrease in total mass of the model. Neale. P.Harman. Our redesigned crank should be able to be sold at the high-end price due to its low weight. Mechanics of Materials. The price for an entry-level crank and a high-end crank are $239.6 grams. 1992. The deflection of the end of the crank arm has also increased by a factor of three from 0. The estimated weight for the crank/spider assembly decreased from 265 grams (for Aluminum alloy) to 176.1mm. REFERENCES [1] [2] [3] E.1. IV. Fryckman Automated data collection and processing for a cycle ergometer.66 mm to 2. Filets throughout the model are necessary to avoid stress concentrations and injuries from sharp edges. Our design will need to be prototyped and put through a typical life cycle test to insure that our crank will not fail during a typical life cycle. . However.J.IE-2098 Final Report < 5 Our final design change was to select another material to decrease the weight of the crank and spider assembly. our maximum stress of 75 MPa is much closer to the yield stress of 125 MPa for GFRP. Several high-end crank/spider assemblies need to be benchmarked to determine if our deflection is acceptable. H. F.

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