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D. R. Houser, V. M. Bolze, J. M. Graber

The Ohio State University
206 West 18th Avenue
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Columbus, OH 43210-l 107 (USA)
This paper involves a comparison between
theoretical and experimental results for the amount of
transmission error (TE) present in spur and helical gear sets
[l], Transmission error is a term used to describe the
difference between the theoretical and actual relative
positions between a pinion (driving gear) and a gear. It is
accepted as the main source for mesh frequency excited
noise and vibration. The results described in this paper
deal with not only measuring transmission error, but also
predicting it such that, through thoughtful design, it can be
minimized. Experimental measurements of static and
dynamic transmission error for a spur gear set and three
helical gear sets were taken on a loaded test rig. These
measurements are then compared to static transmission
error predictions which are obtained from a computer
program called the Load Distribution Program (LDP) [2].



Transmission error is considered to be one of the main

contributors to noise and vibration in a gear set.
Transmission error consists of the difference between the
theoretical and actual positions of a gear in relation to the
pinion. A pinion and gear with perfect involute profiles
running with no torque should theoretically run with zero
transmission error. However, when these same gears
transmit torque, the teeth deflect causing the gear to lag
behind the pinion. The difference in angular position
between where the gear is in relation to the pinion as
opposed to where it should theoretically be is what is
termed transmission error. This error in position occurs
during each mesh cycle, or when each new tooth pair
comes in and goes out of contact. This constant variation in
the rotational position of the gears is normally converted to
linear units (microinches or microns) so that gears of
varying sizes can be compared. Even though the error is
relatively small, it is these slight variations which can cause
noise and vibration. If the excitation occurs at a frequency
which matches a resonance of the gear drive or gear

housing the noise is enhanced. This phenomenon is

actively being researched in order to try to minimize the
amount of transmission error in a gear set, and thereby
reduce the amount of noise generated. Using profile and
lead modifications on gear teeth can greatly reduce the
transmission error of a gear set [3.4]. These modifications
are studied to some extent in this paper.

The test rig used for this research is driven by a DC

dynamometer and uses an eddy current brake to produce a
load. A lumped parameter vibration analysis of the test rig
was performed to determine the natural frequencies and
mode shapes of the test rig. The analysis used a seven
degree of freedom modal which includes the translational
and torsional motions of the gears along with the torsional
motions of the other main system components. The
predicted natural frequencies will be discussed later in the
paper. The measurements which are compared to LDP
were taken at very low rotational speeds and can be
considered static since they do not fall within any of the
predicted natural frequencies of the test rig. Transmission
error is measured using radially mounted linear
accelerometers with their main axes oriented tangentially to
the shaft. By summing the outputs of the accelerometers,
the torsional acceleration of the gears is determined. This
signal can then be integrated twice to obtain the
transmission error in microinches [5].

3.1 Spur Gears

One set of spur gears was tested. These gears are of vary
high quality with ground profiles, so manufacturing errors
should not be a contributor to transmission error. The
specifications of the gears are as follows:


Number ot Teeth:
Gear Ratio:
Center Distance:
Normal Diametral Pitch:
Normal Pressure Angie:
Helix Angle:
Outside Diameter:
Pitch Diameter:
Root Diameter:
Contact Ratio:
Face Width:

5.9055 in.
6.1417 in.
5.9055 in.
5.5494 in.
0.787 in.

and 4 show the comparison of the LDP predictions. the

unloaded results, and the measured
loaded transmission error results. They also include a plot
of the change in measured transmission error from
disassembly of the gear set which can often vary the
results. Figure 3 shows the effect of torque on the first
harmonic of transmission error and Figure 4 shows the
effect of torque on the second harmonic. Figure 3, the first
harmonic, shows that the predicted results from LDP follow
the same pattern as the experimental data. However LDP
seems to predict the bottom of the V at a slightly higher
torque than what is measured. This could be the result of
the model computing a mesh stiffness which is slightly off.
Figure 4, the second harmonic, again shows similar
patterns, but the predicted amplitudes of the transmission
error differ from the experimental data by a greater amount
than for the first harmonic predictions.

The profile and lead modifications of these gears is as

Pinion tip relief:
Gear tip relief:


500 pin. (0.0005 in.)

starting at pitch point
400 pin.
starting at pitch point
200 pin. on pinion and gear

The theoretical predictions, as mentioned earlier, are

obtained from a computer program called LDP. The input
fo LDP consists of the geometry, profile and lead
modifications of a gear set, the torque, and some software
variables. The output consists of the loading at discrete
points across the facewidth, the transmission error, the
harmonics of the Fourier transform of the transmission error
trace, and several other items. It is the peak-to-peak
transmission error and the harmonics of transmission error
with which this research is mostly concerned.
LDP was used to predict the transmission error of the spur
gears over a torque range of 0 to 3100 in-k.. The
predicted peak-to-peak static transmission error versus
torque is shown in Figure 1. As can be seen from the figure
there is a V-pattern in the transmission error versus torque
curve. This is what is typically expected for modified gears,
especially spur gears [2]. This shows that the lowest
transmission error is predicted to occur somewhere in the
vicinw of 1550 in-lbs. lf agear set is intended to transmit a
fairly Mnstant torque it is theoretically possible to design the
lead and profile modifications such that the gear set
operates at Me bottom part of this V.
An unloaded transmission error measurement was made
using a GleasonlGoulder Single Flank tesrer. Figure 2
shows the total transmission error for about three full
rotations of the gear set. The large sine wave is a measure
of the runout of the gear set. The small oscillations on top
of the large sine wave are the tooth-to-tooth variations in
transmission error. When the gears rotate dynamically the
tooth-to-tooth components show up at the harmonics of
mesh frequency; while the once per shaft revolution
components tend to modulate the mesh frequency
The test rig was used to measure the loaded transmission
error of the spur gears. The gears were run at 300 RPM
and were loaded from 0 to 2600 in-lbs of torque. Figures 3

It shouid be pointed out, however, that transmission error

values in the 10 to 20 pin levels are very small. Therefore
slight discrepancies in the gear profile measurements and
the mounting accuracy could affect results in the microinch
3.2 Helical Gears
Three sets of helical gears were tested during this research.
They were produced by the same manufacturer that made
the spur gears, so again they are of very high quality. The
difference between the three sets is the amount of
modification, both profile and lead, on the gear teeth. The
specifications for all three sets of gears are as follows:
Number ol Teem:
Gear Ratio:
Center Distance:
Normal Diametral Pitch:
Normal Pressure Angle:
Helix Angle:
Outside Diameter:
Pitch Diameter:
Root Diameter:
Profile Contact Ratio:
Axial Contact Ratio:
Face Width:

5.9055 in.
6.1417 in.
5.9055 in.
5.5494 in.
0.787 in.

3.2.1 Gear Set A

The profile and lead modifications of the first set of helical
gears, gear set A, are as follows:
Pinion and Gear tip relief: 1000 pin. starting at pitch point


< 100 $n. on pinion and gear

Figures 5 and 6 show the comparison between the LDP

predicted transmission error and the measured
transmission error for the first two harmonics, respectively.
The gear set was measured running both forward and in

It can be seen that the predicted transmission error

matches the measured transmission error fairly well for both
of the harmonics. One thing to note is how much smaller
the transmission error is for these helical gears compared to
the spur gears. Even at these tow values LDP seems to
predict transmission error fairly welt.
The other two helical gear sets tested also matched fairly
welt between the predicted and measured transmission
error. These gear sets had smatter amounts of tip
modification which caused the lowest transmission error,
the bottom of the V, to occur at tower torque levels.

A lumped parameter vibration analysis of the test rig was

performed using a seven degree of freedom model, which is
shown in Figure 7 [6]. The model uses the average mesh
stiffness of the gear sets. This stiffness is higher for the
helical gears and shows up as a higher predicted natural
frequency for the main resonant mode. The following
resonances and modes were predicted.
Natural Frequencies
Helical (Hz)




rigid body
in phase torsional
in phase torsional
in phase torsion with
out of phase translation





out of phase torsion with out

of phase translation
in phase translational
out of phase torsion with out
of phase translation


The four sets of gears discussed show that the Load

Distribution Program predicted the actual transmission error
fairly accurately. If the normal operating torque is known, a
spur gear set can be designed with a good deal of
confidence such that it will run with a relatively small
amount of transmission error, thereby minimizing the noise
and vibration generated. Here it should be noted that, as
seen in the figures, the helical gears are much less
sensitive to varying torques than the spur gears. This is
one of the reasons that many designers choose helical
gears over spur gears for applications where the torque
varies over a fairly large range.


1. Graber, J. M.
A Theoretical and Experimental Study of Static and
Dynamic Transmission Error for Spur and Helical Gears
with Various Modifications and Contact Ratios, KS.
Thesis, The Ohio State University. 1994

The in-phase torsional resonant mode consists of the pinion

and gear vibrating together in rotation, white the out-ofphase means they are vibrating opposite to each other.
The translational resonant modes consist of the gears
vibrating translationally, either in-phase or out-of-phase.
The out of phase modes are excited the most by
transmission error. The difference between the 749 Hz and
the 2751 Hz modes is that the out of phase translation
negates the out of phase torsion to some extent for the 749
Hz resonance. However, the out of phase translation
enhances the out of phase torsion for the 2751 Hz
resonance, making it the main resonance of the system.
Experimental measurements of the dynamic properties of
the spur gears and the test rig were performed using the
waterfall and order tracking features on the spectrum
analyzer which was used. Due to speed limitations on the
rig only the second and third harmonics, not the first
(mesh), could be tracked through the main torsional
resonance at 2751 Hz. The waterfall plot of Figure 6 clearly
shows the first three harmonics of mesh frequency. Both

The same methods were used to verify the resonances

predicted for the helical gears, but the waterfall plots and
order analysis did not reveal any obvious resonances. Part
of this rea?.on is that the second and third harmonics of
transmission error are much less than for the spur gears. so
the excitation might not be large enough for the dynamic
behavior to become apparent.


SDW (Hz)

the third and fourth harmonics can be seen exciting the

2751 Hz resonance.

2. Tavakoli, M. S. And Houser, D. R.

Optimum Profile Modifications for the Minimization of Static
Transmission Errors of Spur Gears, Journalof
Mechanisms, Transmissions, and Automation in Design,
of the ASME, Vol. 106, March 1963
3. Lin, H. H., Oswald, F. B., and Townsend, D. P.
Dynamic Loading of Spur Gears with Linear or Parabolic
Tooth Profile Modifications , Mech. And Mach. Theory, Vot
29, No. 6, pp. 1115.1129, 1994
4. Rebbechi, B., Forrester, B. D., Oswald, F. B., and
Townsend D. P.
A Comparison Between Theoretical Prediction and
Experimental Measurement of the Dynamic Behavior of
Spur Gears, 6th International Power Transmission and
Gearing Conference, Sept. 13. 1992, Phoenix, Arizona, Vol.
2: pp. 431-438
5. Blankenshlp, G. W.
The Development of a Variable Center Distance Gear
Noise Test Facility, AGMA Technical Paper #6i3 FTM 13,
October, 1966


6. Ozguven, H. N. And Houser, D. A.

Mathematical Models Used in Gear Dynamics A Review.
JoumalofSoundand Vibration, Vol. 121. No. 3. March 22,

Ffgure 1 Peak-to-Peak Static Transmission Error Versus Torque

Ffgure 2 Total Transmission Error Measurement from Unloaded Single flankTester


Fylure 3 Comparbn of Experimentel Measurement to LDP Predictbn

First Harmonic of Transmission Error

for the

Ffgure 4 Comparison of Experimental Measurement to LDP Predii for the

Second Harmonic of Transmission Error

Figure 5 Comparison of Experimental Measurement to LDP Prediion for the

First Harmonic of Transmission Error for Gear Set A

Figure 6 Comparisowof Experimental Measurement to LDP Predii~n for the

Second Harmonic of Trensmission

Error for Gear Set A

Figure 7 Seven WF Lumped Model of Test Ri

Figure 6 Plot Displaying the Effect of Speed on Transmission Error

(fm. 2f,+ etc. are harmonics of mesh frequency)