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AGMA 920- A01


AGMA 920- 01

Materials for Plastic Gears


(This Information Sheet is NOT an AGMA Standard)

Materials for Plastic Gears

AGMA 920--A01
Manufacturers CAUTION NOTICE: AGMA technical publications are subject to constant improvement,
revision or withdrawal as dictated by experience. Any person who refers to any AGMA
technical publication should be sure that the publication is the latest available from the Association on the subject matter.

[Tables or other self--supporting sections may be quoted or extracted. Credit lines should
read: Extracted from AGMA 920--A01, Materials for Plastic Gears, with the permission of
the publisher, the American Gear Manufacturers Association, 1500 King Street, Suite 201,
Alexandria, Virginia 22314.]
Approved October 22, 2000

The purpose of this document is to aid the gear designer in understanding the unique physical, mechanical and
thermal behavior of plastic materials. The use of plastic materials for gear applications has grown considerably
due to cost and performance issues. Growing markets include the automotive, business machine, and consumer--related industries. Topics covered include general plastic material behavior, gear operating conditions,
plastic gear manufacturing, tests for gear related material properties, and typical plastic gear materials. There
are no quantitative details on material properties nor any comparative evaluations of plastic types. Such specific information is left to be provided by material suppliers and gear manufacturers.
Published by

American Gear Manufacturers Association

1500 King Street, Suite 201, Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Copyright 2001 by American Gear Manufacturers Association
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, in an electronic
retrieval system or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America

ISBN: 1--55589--778--9



AGMA 920--A01


Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
Scope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
General nature of plastic materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Gear operating conditions and related material properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Gear manufacturing and related material properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Tests for gear related material properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
General description of plastic materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Plastic materials widely used for gears . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Material selection procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39


Representative creep behavior of ductile plastic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Representative creep behavior of non--ductile plastic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Effect of strain rate and temperature on stress--strain curves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Typical fatigue curve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Effect of temperature on stress vs. strain for acetal (POM) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Effect of moisture on stress vs. strain for nylon 6--6 (PA 6,6) at 23C . . . . . . . 5
Polymer impact strength as a function of temperature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Simple gear with three gates (+) on web, small arrows indicate predicted
fiber orientation, grayscale indicates advancing flow from gate location . . . . 11
ASTM D638 Type 1 tensile specimen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Typical DMA curves normalized at 23C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
10 Tensile DMA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
11 DMA, amorphous and crystalline . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
12 Semi--crystalline polymer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
13 Flexural fatigue specimen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
14a Representations of creep -- strain vs. time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
14b Representations of creep -- creep modulus vs. time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
14c Representations of creep -- isochronous stress vs. strain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
15 ASTM D--3702 thrust washer wear and friction test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
16 Two dimensional representation of crystalline and amorphous
thermoplastics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
17 Modulus behavior vs. temperature of crystalline and amorphous resins, neat
and glass fiber reinforced . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28


Additives in plastics for molded gears . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Plastic materials for molded gears . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Plastic materials for machined gears . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31


AGMA 920--A01


[The foreword, footnotes and annexes, if any, in this document are provided for
informational purposes only and are not to be construed as a part of AGMA Information
Sheet 920--A01, Materials for Plastic Gears.]
Plastic materials differ considerably from metals in performance and processing. Many of
the important differences, especially those that are critical to gear applications, are not
widely recognized. This is partly because many plastic materials specialists are not familiar
with gear requirements. Similarly, many gear specialists are not familiar with plastic
material characteristics. Hence the need for reference material which will help bridge these
The AGMA Plastics Gearing Committee has brought together technical representatives
from plastic material suppliers, gear manufacturers and designers. This document
represents their efforts to further this exchange of information. It will not supply answers to
many of the questions that arise in the application of plastic materials to gears, but it should
encourage inquiry and information exchange.
One issue that requires special attention is the availability of plastic material properties in
the form most suitable for plastic gear design. This includes properties that are counterparts
of those used in the design of metal gears, and those that are special to plastic materials in
these applications. To a very large extent, plastic gear designers have access only to
property data taken from ASTM tests as reported by material suppliers even though such
tests were created to meet other objectives. It was therefore judged essential to include
brief descriptions of these tests supplemented by comments on any limitations of such test
data when applied to gears. Various industry initiatives are now underway to develop gear
specific property data, which will in time supplement the information provided here.
The first draft of AGMA 920--A01 was made in 1993. It was approved by the AGMA
membership in October, 2000, and approved for publication by the Technical Division
Executive Committee on October 22, 2000.
Suggestions for improvement of this document will be welcome. They should be sent to the
American Gear Manufacturers Association, 1500 King Street, Suite 201, Alexandria,
Virginia 22314.



AGMA 920--A01

PERSONNEL of the AGMA Plastics Gearing Committee

Chairman: Clifford M. Denny . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Consultant
Vice Chairman: Edward H. Williams, III . . . . . . . . . . . . LNP Engineering Plastics, Inc.

M.A. Bennick . . .
R.M. Casavant . .
D.S. Ellis . . . . . . .
T. Grula . . . . . . . .
J.W. Kelley . . . . .
R.R. Kuhr . . . . . .
I. Laskin . . . . . . . .
D. Michael . . . . . .
A. Milano . . . . . . .
S.D. Pierson . . . .

RTP Company
GW Plastics, Inc.
ABA--PGT, Inc.
DuPont Company
Shell Development Company
Enplas, Inc.
Seitz Corporation
ABA--PGT, Inc.

M. Schireson . . .
D. Sheridan . . . . .
L. Siders . . . . . . .
Z.P. Smith . . . . . .
P.A. Spaziani . . .
M. Thompson . . .
A.B. Ulrich . . . . . .
J.H. Winzeler . . .
P. Wyluda . . . . . .

DSM Engineering Plastics, Inc.

Lexmark International, Inc.
Seitz Corporation
ABA--PGT, Inc.
UFE, Incorporated
Winzeler Gear

G. Martello . . . . .
H.S. Oh . . . . . . . .
M. Oliveto . . . . . .
A.J. Padden . . . .
K. Price . . . . . . . .
J. Rees . . . . . . . .
C. Reese . . . . . . .
E. Reiter . . . . . . .
J.T. Rill . . . . . . . . .
J. Seitz . . . . . . . . .
L.J. Smith . . . . . .
R.E. Smith . . . . . .
P.A Tuschak . . . .
B. Ulissi . . . . . . . .
G.J. Verros . . . . .
M. Wilkinson . . . .

BF Goodrich
Siebe Environmental Controls
DSM Engineering Plastics, Inc.
SPM Minneapolis
Eastman Kodak Company
ATS Precision Component Div.
SPM Minneapolis
ATS Precision Component Div.
Black & Decker, Inc.
Seitz Corporation
R.E. Smith & Co., Inc.
E.I. DuPont deNemours & Co.
DuPont Performance Lubricants
GW Plastics, Inc.

M.K. Anwar . . . . .
M. Aube . . . . . . . .
D.E. Bailey . . . . .
J. Barger . . . . . . .
T. Barry . . . . . . . .
D. Blakley . . . . . .
M. Bogle . . . . . . .
B. Butsch . . . . . . .
D. Castor . . . . . . .
P. Davoli . . . . . . .
E. Dornan . . . . . .
G.C. Hesser . . . .
A.H. LaFord . . . .
J. Lay . . . . . . . . . .
R.B. Lewis . . . . . .
A. Luscher . . . . . .
T. Mardis . . . . . . .

Globe Motors
GW Plastics, Inc.
Rochester Gear, Inc.
D.I.G.I.T., Inc.
Phillips--Moldex Company
Axxicon Components
Poly Hi Solidur Co.
Lexmark International, Inc.
Eastman Kodak Company
Politecnico Di Milano
Winzeler Gear
DuPont Company
Static Control Components, Inc.
NYE Lubricants, Inc.
Lewis Research, Inc.
Ohio State University


American Gear Manufacturers

Association --

Materials for Plastic


1 Scope
This information sheet provides descriptions of
plastic materials commonly used in gearing. It
relates the general properties of these materials to
typical operating conditions of gears. Properties that
relate to the manufacturing processes of machining
and molding are discussed, including the property of
shrink rate in molding. It also describes the types of
tests that are customarily used to obtain published
values of these properties.
It is intended that this information sheet serve only as
an introductory guide to the designer of plastic gears
when it comes to selecting candidate materials. The
designer is advised to look to material suppliers and
plastic gear manufacturers for their expert guidance
on selecting materials for specific applications. It is
also important to recognize that thorough application
testing is often needed to confirm the suitability of a
material choice.
Only a limited number of plastic materials are
mentioned here as commonly used for gears. Gears
have been made from other plastics as well, but
generally because some special material property or
commercial consideration was judged essential to a
particular application. It is also possible that the
suitability of other materials for gears has not yet
been recognized. Furthermore, new plastic materials are continually being developed and some, no
doubt, will prove themselves as important additions
to those discussed in this information sheet.

AGMA 920--A01

2 General nature of plastic materials

Although plastic materials are successfully used in
place of metals in load carrying applications such as
gears, there are important differences between the
two types of materials. These differences generally
appear in combination and can have a significant
effect on plastic gear performance.
2.1 Elastic and viscoelastic behavior
Most structural metals behave as essentially elastic
materials. Plastics, on the other hand, behave as a
combination of elastic and viscous materials, with
the balance varying considerably with the type of
plastic, its molecular structure, and the type,
quantity, and orientation of any additives. This
special nature of plastic materials does not interfere
with their use in a very wide range of applications
which benefit from their many other special properties.
It does, however, require a thorough
understanding of reported material properties data
and their relationship to the specific application.
2.2 Response to load
When load is applied to elastic materials such as
steel, the resulting deformation is essentially immediate, constant over time, independent of a wide
range of temperature, and fully recoverable when
the load is removed. When the material has a
viscous component combined with the elastic, the
initial deformation will increase with time under load
(creep deformation) and will depend to a considerable degree on temperature. When the load is
removed, there will be some delayed recovery and,
possibly some permanent deformation.
The time dependent deformation of ductile polymers
under constant load is quantified in creep testing. A
family of curves resulting from varying the constant
load (stress) and recording the increasing creep
strain is shown in figure 1a. As the polymer is held
under constant stress (load) over time, the creep
strain initially increases at a rapid rate (primary
creep) and then plateaus to a significantly lower
creep strain rate (secondary creep). For nonductile
polymers the material will experience creep rupture
while deforming under secondary creep (see figure
1b). However, for ductile polymers, the material will
experience another increase in creep strain rate

AGMA 920--A01


(tertiary creep) and will creep rupture in tertiary

creep. For non--ductile polymers the locus of creep
rupture points forms the creep rupture envelope.
However, the creep rupture envelope for ductile
polymers is the locus of points resulting from the
transition from secondary to tertiary creep.


deformation and creep rupture of polymers needs to

be considered.
2.3 Effect of rate of load application
Because of the time dependant nature of viscoelastic plastic materials, the strength properties and
elasticity modulus are typically greater when the load
is applied and removed more rapidly. See figure 2.
This characteristic is especially important in gear

Creep rupture envelope

Increasing strain rate

Increasing stress






Figure 1a -- Representative creep behavior of

ductile plastic

Figure 2 -- Effect of strain rate and temperature
on stress--strain curves
2.4 Effect of temperature
2.4.1 Strength and deformation



Creep rupture envelope

Increasing stress



Figure 1b -- Representative creep behavior of

non--ductile plastic
Creep deformation appears not to be a factor in
gears under continuous operation because the load
is applied to gear teeth only for a short time duration.
However, for gears run into stalled conditions creep

Because a higher temperature reduces the resistance to movement of the polymer chains, the
material at high temperatures can be viewed as less
viscous (decrease of the viscous component). This
decrease in the viscous component of polymers at
higher temperatures causes the strength and stiffness properties to decrease with increasing temperatures (see figure 2). Temperature increases of the
polymer at critical locations in gears could result from
friction, hysteresis, or both in combination. This
temperature rise of the gear material at critical
locations could, therefore, reduce the load resisting
capability of the gear. This condition is a significant
factor to consider in gear performance.
2.4.2 Expansion
Plastics have higher thermal expansion rates than
metals. These high rates can be partially offset by
compounding the plastics with various fillers and
reinforcements. Thermal expansion must be considered in those applications in which the gears


2.4.3 Heat aging

If a plastic material is subjected to an elevated
temperature for an extended period of time, its
properties at the end of the period may be degraded
from those before the high temperature exposure.
2.5 Effect of moisture
A change in moisture content can act in a manner
similar to a change in temperature in its effect on
strength, deformation and expansion. Materials
vary considerably in their moisture absorption,
making this influence more significant in some
materials than in others.

3 Gear operating conditions and related

material properties
In order to evaluate a material for a specific gear
application, the operating conditions must be recognized along with the related properties of the
material. Some of these properties are much more
significant in gears made from plastics than in gears
made from metals, and require special attention.






No. of cycles



Figure 3 -- Typical fatigue curve

3.1 General operating conditions

These conditions

takes place during a rolling action combined with

sliding. In certain types of gear sets (spur, helical
and bevel), the relative sliding during each tooths
engagement cycle varies in magnitude and typically
reverses in direction. In other types (worm, crossed
helical and hypoid), the relative sliding is more nearly
constant. Since many plastic gear applications do
not employ the type of lubrication that keeps the
contacting tooth surfaces separated by a fluid film,
the sliding action often results in significant friction.
However, this friction between contacting plastic
surfaces is often less than that experienced with
many metals similarly employed under non-lubricated conditions.

Increasing stress *

operate over broad ranges of temperature and the

structure that controls gear center distance is made
from a material of a significantly different expansion
rate. See

AGMA 920--A01



3.1.1 Repeated load

Gear teeth experience repeated loading during
successive engagements. Under continuous rotation, the load on an individual tooth is applied and
released rapidly. There is also some delay between
load cycles while the single tooth is rotating towards
its next engagement.
The property of the material that resists fatigue
failure breakage under this type of load is approximated by the flexural (bending) fatigue limit, see
figure 3. Standard tests that report this property, and
the limitations of those tests, are described in 5.1.
3.1.2 Rolling and sliding under load
Load is transmitted between the curved surfaces of
engaging teeth through contact over a relatively
small area. This contact between the tooth surfaces

(* NOTE: Linear scale used for stress axis.) Failure due to pitting

The repeated contact force on the gear tooth creates
repeated shear stresses just below the tooth surface. Under certain conditions, these stresses can
cause failure of the gear through the formation of
local subsurface cracks which progress into pitting.
Normally, when a plastic gear surface is subjected to
high loads for a large number of cycles, failure takes
place first in the form of excessive wear. See
However, if the gear is well lubricated and wear is
minimal, failure by pitting may appear. Friction forces and power loss
The friction from the relative motion between the
contact surfaces has other effects on the operation
of gears. The static coefficient of friction between the
two contacting materials will influence the starting
load in a gear train. The dynamic coefficient of
friction will generally have several effects. It

AGMA 920--A01


determines the power loss at that part of the gear

train and the overall train efficiency. It can also
influence the rise in temperature of the gear teeth
and the corresponding loss in strength and stiffness
properties. The rise in temperature may also lead to
softening of the surface and change in friction
properties. Standard tests for static and dynamic
coefficients of friction are described in 5.2.

tendency is the percent of water absorption in the

type of test described in 5.4.1. Wear

Mechanical property changes under
operating conditions

The interaction between the loaded surfaces will

often lead to wear. If the wear progresses far enough
to modify the gear profiles, it may produce excessive
vibration and noise. Further wear may progress to
the point that insufficient material remains to support
the load. The wear characteristics of the material
combination are often expressed by a rate of
material removal.
Common tests for this
characteristic, and their limitations, are described in
3.1.3 Dimensional changes under operating
Plastic gears commonly operate under conditions
that will cause significant dimensional changes in
some plastic materials. Chemical conditions

An incompatible chemical acting on a plastic material during product manufacture, storage or operation
generally leads to an increase in size. An improperly
selected lubricant might produce such a result. Thermal conditions

As noted in 2.4, strength and modulus properties
decrease with increased temperature. Although
these properties improve with a decreased temperature, these are typically accompanied by increased
brittleness or a reduction in impact strength. See
figure 4. These effects can vary considerably with
the plastic selected and its additives. Humidity conditions
The property changes due to humidity are
qualitatively similar to those of temperature. See
figure 5. Here also, the degree of change can vary
considerably with material selection. Thermal conditions




If a gear is operated at a temperature much different

than the temperature at which its dimensions were
originally specified and measured, its size will be
different. Unless there is a compensating change in
center distance, the size change will alter the
operating backlash and root clearance. If the two
mating gears change in a disproportionate manner,
the two tooth profiles can become mismatched due
to differences in base pitch and axial pitch, resulting
in an increase in vibration, noise and dynamic loads.
The material property which directly relates to the
size change is the thermal coefficient of expansion.
The standard tests for these properties are
described in 5.3.

100C Humidity changes

Plastic materials change in size with the level of
moisture they contain, giving results similar to
thermal size changes. This moisture level is
determined by the relative humidity to which the
material has been exposed over an extended period
of time and to the tendency of the material to absorb
moisture. The plastic property used to indicate this

Strain, %

Figure 4 -- Effect of temperature on stress vs.

strain for acetal (POM)


AGMA 920--A01

Tensile stress

Dry as molded

50% RH


Strain, %


Figure 5 -- Effect of moisture on stress vs. strain for nylon 6--6 (PA 6,6) at 23C Chemical environment
Plastics, in contrast to most metals, are generally
resistant to a broad variety of chemicals. However,
individual plastics may be vulnerable to particular
chemicals. The effect of chemical action is generally
a reduction in fatigue and impact strength and
change in other mechanical properties. See
3.2 Special operating conditions
These conditions are encountered less commonly in
gear applications, but, when they do, they direct
attention to other properties of the plastic material.
3.2.1 Impact loading
In some gear applications, the gears may be subject
to a suddenly applied load which requires the
material to absorb considerable energy associated
with the load. This energy tends to be absorbed
around design features that, because of their
slender shape and reduced size, are most compliant
and develop the highest stresses. The contacting
gear teeth are commonly most vulnerable. Such
loads may appear with sudden starts of the gear train
driver, a sudden change or reversal in the driven
load, or with sudden braking. The energy to be
absorbed is even greater if there has been travel

across a substantial backlash gap before the load

impacts the gear teeth.
Impact loading tends to be smaller in a gear drive
made with plastic gears than in a drive of similar size
made with metal gears. The difference can be
attributed to the lower inertia and greater compliance
of most plastics over most metals. Nevertheless,
this type of loading can be severe enough to cause
failure in plastic gears. There are significant
differences in how otherwise suitable plastic materials respond. This response is indicated, at least to a
comparative degree, by some standard tests
described in 5.1.4 and 5.1.5.
3.2.2 Short--term overloads
In addition to the normal repeated loads encountered in gear applications, there are sometimes
higher loads that appear occasionally for brief
intervals, or with a much smaller frequency, on any
individual tooth. Failure due to this type of load often
takes the form of excessive deformation of the gear
tooth or, in the case of brittle materials, fracture of the
The material property that needs to be considered in
evaluating the risk of failure by excessive deformation is the stress--strain curve. The standard test,

AGMA 920--A01

along with its limitations, that measures this set of

properties is described in 5.1.
3.2.3 Long--term loads
Loads that remain applied to an individual tooth for
an extended period of time, whether greater or
smaller than the normal repeated load, can also
cause failure by permanent deformation. See
figures 1a and 1b. While this type of failure is not a
factor in most structural metals except at very high
temperatures, it can appear in many plastics at
typical operating temperatures.
The deformation that continues to increase without
an increase in load is called creep. The relative
degree of creep in a plastic material is reported in a
variety of data. Each shows how some characteristic
changes over extended time. Plots of strain versus
time, for various stress levels, most closely indicate
the relative effect of creep in gears. Description and
evaluation of the test to collect this data is given in
3.2.4 High temperature
Gears are sometimes required to operate at temperatures well above 23C, the temperature at which
their properties are typically measured. The higher
temperature is generally the ambient temperature of
the application, but may, in whole or in part, result
from heating due to friction, hysteresis or both. Various strength properties
Just about all of the material properties noted above
change with temperature. Often the best indicator of
gear material performance at an elevated temperature is the stress--strain curves measured at or close
to the operating temperature (see figure 4). The
tests used to report material properties at the
standard temperature can also be applied at the
higher temperature, as noted in clause 5.

Deflection temperature under load

This property, previously known as heat distortion

temperature (HDT), is a measure of the temperature
at which the flexural modulus falls below a predetermined value associated with a particular stress. It
serves mostly as a relative indicator of material
serviceability as a gear operating at elevated
temperatures. The test is described in 5.3.3.


This is a commercially used indicator of the effect of
heat aging described in 2.4.3. It suggests the
highest temperature, above 50C, at which the
plastic material is to be used. The temperature index
is the temperature at which the specific property will
decrease to one--half its original value after exposure for a long time at that temperature. There are
separate ratings for mechanical properties with
impact and without impact. Index values can be
found in the UL Yellow Card. The test is described
in 5.3.4. Coefficient of thermal conductivity
Where high temperature results substantially from
heat generated by friction or hysteresis, the coefficient of thermal conductivity becomes an important
property. A higher coefficient indicates that such
heat will be more rapidly conducted away and the
teeth will see less of a temperature increase. See
5.3.2. Coefficient of thermal expansion
As described in, this property plays a role in
the design of gears which are to operate over a wide
range of temperatures. Very often, the design
process can accommodate the expansion rate of a
material selected on the basis of its other essential
properties. In special applications, this property can
become a controlling factor in material selection.
Large differences in expansion coefficients between
the housing and the gears can introduce excessive
variations in backlash and in depth of engagement.
Large differences between the two gears can cause
excessive mismatch of gear pitch, enough to generate high dynamic loads, vibration and noise. See
5.3.1. Electrical conductivity
Plastic materials are generally considered to be
electrically insulating. However, when gears are
required to conduct static electricity to some electrical ground, it becomes necessary to use a plastic
which has been modified to supply the conductivity.
The static electricity may be generated elsewhere in
the product or in the gears themselves. The body of
the gear, or some feature molded integrally with the
gear, may sometimes be used to conduct system
electrical current. This will also require conductivity
in the plastic. It is not recommended that high
system electrical current be transmitted through the
contacting tooth surfaces because of the risk of
damage to these surfaces and risk of being a source
of ignition.


AGMA 920--A01

3.2.5 Low temperature Chemical conditions

Operation at temperatures much below the usual

material testing temperature also has an effect on
gear material performance. As the temperature
decreases, strength properties usually improve,
especially those related to stress--strain testing and
creep testing. This is true also for impact resistance
as seen in figure 6. However, as the temperature
decreases, a region is encountered where impact
resistance severely decreases, called the ductile-brittle transition temperature (DBTT). Therefore,
when choosing a polymer for gears required to
perform under sudden changes in load at low
temperatures, the DBTT of each considered
polymer should be evaluated and compared.

Although most plastics are more resistant than most

metals to many kinds of chemical environments,
there are important exceptions in combinations of
material and chemically active substances. Exposure of the gears to these chemicals may come from
the outside environment, from process material in
the gear driven equipment, and, in some cases, even
from the lubricant applied to the gears. Description
of tests for chemical resistance is beyond the scope
of this document.

3.2.6 Other environmental conditions

There are environmental conditions other than
temperature extremes which can also affect material
performance. High humidity

Falling weight impact strength

The water absorbed by extended exposure to a high

humidity environment not only affects dimensions,
as noted in, but also affects strength
properties. Testing for these properties under high
humidity is the same except that material test
specimens are first conditioned to the desired
moisture content.

3.3 Vibration and noise

When the application is specially concerned with
limiting vibration and noise, and design factors such
as adequate backlash have been provided, material
selection may be influenced by an additional set of
3.3.1 Modulus of elasticity
One approach to reducing vibration and noise is to
introduce greater compliance into the gears without
introducing resonance or excessive loss of load
capacity or wear properties. Gear teeth that deflect
more readily can reduce the dynamic excitation that
originates in imperfect tooth geometry. One of the
properties that indicate the relative compliance of the
material is the modulus of elasticity. This property is
generally determined as part of yield strength
testing, as described in 5.1.1, 5.1.2 and 5.1.3.

Decreasing temperature
Figure 6 -- Polymer impact strength as a function of temperature

AGMA 920--A01


3.3.2 Hardness durometer

4.1.1 Stock material

When selection of material for increased compliance

leads to materials of a rubbery character, the
hardness durometer becomes the preferred indicator. Testing for this property is described in 5.5.1 and

The machining of gears starts with the stock material

and its fabricated form. Not every material, especially a material with desired additives, is commercially
available in a form which suits the machining
process or which results in a gear with the desired

3.3.3 Internal damping

Another approach to limiting vibration and noise in a
gear train is to increase the degree of internal
damping in the gear materials. This serves as a
means of absorbing dynamic energy. See 5.1.3.

Sometimes a molded blank is used in place of stock

material. Machining gear teeth into a molded blank
will give satisfactory results only if the material and
its processing have been carefully selected to avoid
the difficulties described below. Skin--core effects

4 Gear manufacturing and related material

When materials are selected for a gear application,
the concern for performance must be coordinated
with manufacturing considerations.
manufacturing considerations may rule out
materials not suited, economically or otherwise, to
the planned manufacturing process.
manufacturing related characteristics or measurable
properties of the material may determine its
CAUTION: Safety is an important consideration in the
manufacture of gears from plastic materials. Information on safe handling and processing is available in the
Material Safety Data Sheet provided by the material
supplier. Also, see and

4.1 Manufacture by machining

Machining may be selected over molding as the
plastic gear manufacturing process for several
-- the quantities may be too small to justify the
tooling cost for molding;
-- the required accuracy or some special design
feature (such as very thick section) may be too
difficult for molding;
-- the desired plastic material may not be suited
to precision molding.
Machining may also be selected as a means for
obtaining sample gears for testing before the design
is approved for mold tooling. Such samples will be
useful as long as consideration is given to the
potential differences between a machined and
molded gear.

Some of the properties of the material in stock form

can vary considerably between the outer surface
material, or skin, which has formed through more
rapid cooling, than the inner material, or core.
Machining invariably leaves the gear teeth made
from the core material, which generally has different
strength, wear resistance, and chemical resistance.
In addition, machining may expose voids in the
stock. Reinforcements in extruded stock
Non--reinforced extruded stock is widely used for
machining gears. However, reinforced stock is not
as widely used for machined gears. If the application
requires the greater strength that comes from the
addition of reinforcements, such stock may not be
While it may be possible to extrude the plastic with
reinforcements included, the resulting direction of
the reinforcement fibers will generally be random
and not in the radial direction required for the
reinforcement to contribute to the bending strength
of the gear tooth. Further disadvantages of machining most reinforced stock relate to the potential
accelerated tool wear due to the abrasive qualities of
some reinforcements and to the hazards associated
with the fine reinforcement particles produced. Reinforcement in laminated stock
Gears are also machined from blanks cut from
laminated sheets or plates. The reinforcing layers in
the laminated material are often in the form of a
woven fabric. If the weave of this fabric is too coarse
in comparison with the size of the machined gear
tooth, the full beneficial effect on gear tooth strength
will be lost. The fabric may serve the additional
purpose of retaining lubricant used in the application.


If the fabric is made from an abrasive or hazardous

material, the disadvantages noted in will
4.1.2 Machinability
Machining of plastic gears is performed by most of
the same processes used in the machining of metal
gears. The economics of the machining process and
the level of accuracy attainable may depend on a
variety of material properties. Cutting rate
The cutting rate is often limited by thermal considerations. This is especially true for a combination of
large energy release in machining, poor thermal
conductivity, and low resistance to heat before
melting or otherwise deteriorating. The factor of a
high coefficient of thermal expansion may also limit
the cutting rate. Greater expansion due to heating
tends to reduce the accuracy of the machined gear.
If a cutting lubricant is to be used, it must be carefully
selected to avoid averse effects on the plastic. Such
effects may not be readily apparent and the best way
to avoid them is by consultation with the material
supplier. Tool wear
The rate of tool wear and the frequency of resharpening can also affect the economics of the machining
process and the accuracy when a large quantity of
gears is involved. Some additives to the material
may increase the rate of tool wear while others may
reduce it.
Maintaining tool sharpness is essential in the
machining of plastics. A relatively low modulus
material will deflect under a dull tool. This may make
light, finishing cuts difficult if not impossible. Such
deflection also interferes with machining accuracy.
Furthermore, dull tools generate added heat with its
accompanying problems. Distortion
The selection of materials and how they have been
processed into their stock form may influence the
distortion in a machined gear. Such distortion results
from the release of internal stresses. These stresses
may have been in the material before machining, to
be released when part of the material was removed,
or they may have been introduced by the heat and
forces of the machining. The distortion may be
evident immediately after the gear has been ma-

AGMA 920--A01

chined and cooled, or it may not appear to its full

extent until many hours later. Annealing the
material, either before or after machining, depending
on the cause, often reduces the distortion without
adding much to the processing cost.
Another source of distortion is excessive chucking or
clamping pressure. The plastic material may deflect
in the area to be machined with resulting distortion
after the pressure is released.
Similarly, the surface being machined may deflect
under the cutting forces being applied by the tool. It
may be necessary to allow for the surface springback after passage of the tool in order to achieve the
desired dimension. Burrs
Plastic materials vary in the extent to which burrs are
formed during the gear machining process. Materials which result in particularly tenacious burrs, even
when the tool is properly maintained, should be
avoided unless there is provision in the machining
set--up to minimize or prevent burrs.
The possibility of burrs arises where the cutting tool
is removing unsupported material. This might be at
the end of its cut across the gear blank or, for a
non--topping cutter, at the tooth tips. In each case, a
thin layer of unsupported material may either break
free without producing a burr or, for some plastics,
simply bend away into the open space and remain
firmly attached to the gear tooth in the form of a burr.
Such burrs cannot always be removed by conventional deburring operations such as filing or wire-brushing.
Test machining of sample material may be the best
way to determine whether burr formation will be a
serious problem. Annealing before machining may
help and should be included in the testing where it is
practical to add that process. A change in cutting
rate may also reduce burr formation, but if it takes a
major drop in the production rate to solve the burr
problem, the material may be disqualified for
economic reasons. Finish
The finish of machined tooth surfaces may vary with
the nature of the plastic material. The presence of
some additives, acting as internal lubricants, may
help the machined finish, unless they are improperly
dispersed. Fibrous materials, such as glass or
carbon fiber, or hard granular materials, when used
as additives in molded gear blanks, generally

AGMA 920--A01

interfere with a good finish. As an example, some

kinds of filler particles may be removed from the
surface during machining to leave openings or
surface roughness. Sharp corners and machining grooves
Sharp corners are to be avoided as potential sources
of stress concentration and cracking. Where corner
shape is transferred directly from the tool shape, the
tool tip radius should be as generous as possible.
Similarly, sharp grooves from a pointed tool should
be avoided, especially on surfaces like gear tooth
fillets that will be highly stressed in operation. See
ANSI/AGMA 1006--A97, Tooth Proportions for
Plastic Gears. Safety concerns in machining
Machining may introduce safety concerns in addition
to those that generally apply to the selected material.
Excessive rates of material removal may overheat
the plastic, releasing unsafe chemical products.
Flammability may also be an issue. A machining
process which creates fine particles or other unsafe
products must be confined to prevent inhalation by
operators. An otherwise preferred material may
require safety precautions not readily available. In
that case, it will have to give way to another choice
which will not require such precautions.
4.2 Injection molding process
To successfully injection mold a thermoplastic gear,
one needs to ensure that all components of the
injection molding process are understood. These
components are:

gear design;

-- mold design, including gate and runner

location and size, cooling line layout;
-- the molding process is one of heat
-- cooling is critical to successfully process to
correct dimensions;

material selection and processing thereof;

-- injection molding machine and condition,

including auxiliary equipment such as dryers and

gear inspection capabilities.

CAUTION: For informed guidance on how the molding

and related part design factors influence material selection, consultation with a molder experienced in gear
molding is advised.



4.2.1 Moldability
This characteristic of a material relates to how well it
will fill the mold cavity without, at the same time,
flashing into the very fine gaps at the edges of the
cavity. It is primarily determined by the viscosity of
the molten plastic during mold filling. The viscosity
can be altered by changes in the molding process,
for example mold and melt temperatures, but
sometimes only at the expense of the quality of the
molded part. Quality defects from improper process
changes may take the form of voids, sinks, warpage,
and internal stresses. Plastic materials can be
especially sensitive to overheating. Outgassing can
develop from the chemistry of additives such as
toughening agents, flame retardants, and some
internal lubricants.
4.2.2 Shrink rate (shrinkage)
The degree and uniformity of shrinkage of the plastic
material is also a factor in its suitability for a molded
gear application. The shrinkage is determined first
by the molecular structure of the plastic and other
additives. In the molding process, it will also be
influenced by cross sectional area, cooling rate, fiber
orientation, molding temperatures and pressures,
and other processing variables. The predictability
and consistency of the shrinkage is generally more
significant in producing accurate gears than the
magnitude of the shrinkage (or shrink rate).
Shrinkage in gears is not always uniform, as in
photographic size reduction. Molding process and
part design, along with material shrinkage properties, may contribute to this non--uniformity. When
mold gear cavity design inappropriately assumes
that the shrinkage will be purely uniform, the quality
of the molded gear will suffer. The directional
non--uniformity of the shrink rate is also an important
factor as discussed below. Dimensional non--uniformity in gear
Directional non--uniformity in shrinkage can be a
major factor contributing to eccentric and out--of-round gears, especially in plastics with high aspect
ratio fiber reinforcement. In such materials, differences in both the relative amount and direction of
fiber orientation will lead to different amounts of
shrinkage in the plastics, both radially and axially.
The shrinkage will be reduced in the direction of fiber
orientation. The effect of such directional properties
can sometimes be offset by techniques of mold


design such as location, size and number of gates.

For example, when using multiple gates the radial
dimension of the gear will be greatest in the area
between the gates due to the formation of weld (knit)
lines, which orient the fibers radially, thus reducing
the amount of radial shrinkage. This will result in a
high spot on the gear. At the area near the gate, the
fibers are more randomly oriented, and shrinkage
will actually be greater. See figure 7. In a simple gear
using a central diaphragm gate, the fibers are all
oriented radially, and the shrinkage will be the same

AGMA 920--A01

in all directions.
However, for some materials, these directional
effects can be so great that the materials must be
ruled out if a high accuracy gear is required.
4.2.3 Other directional properties
Flow induced orientation can also affect the mechanical, electrical, tribological and thermal properties of
a molded gear. This non--uniformity is generally tied
to flow direction in the filling of the mold cavity and is
most marked in materials with fiber reinforcement.

shrinkage and the gear will have a high spot in these

1 Weld lines.
4 Gate, (+) on web.
2 Fibers near gate are randomly oriented and
5 Small arrows indicate predicted fiber orientation,
shrinkage is anisotropic (non--directional).
grayscale indicates advancing flow from gate loca3 Fibers at weld lines, where flow fronts meet, are
oriented radially (isotropically). The fibers resist
Figure 7 -- Simple gear with three gates


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5 Tests for gear related material

The various material properties that may affect
plastic gear performance, as described in clause 3,
are measured in standard commercial tests. These
tests are very briefly described below. Further
details may be found in the referenced ASTM
standards or other industry standards.
There are several cautions to be considered in
relating these tests and the data they produce to how
the material will perform in a gear application. The
tests are performed on specimens of standard size
and shape, selected to suit the test equipment and
generally not representative of the loaded features
of a gear. Although the specimen may be manufactured by molding, the standard molding conditions
used for specimens are not necessarily representative of the conditions used for molded gears.
Correlation of test results from any of the described
tests with the actual performance of plastics is
dependent upon the similarity between the testing
and the actual use conditions.
5.1 Strength properties
5.1.1 Standard test method for tensile properties
of plastics -- ASTM D638
This test method covers the determination of the
tensile properties of unreinforced and reinforced
plastic materials in the form of a standard dumbbell-shaped test specimen (see figure 8) when tested
under defined conditions of pretreatment (sample
preparation), temperature, humidity, and testing
machine speed.
Materials suppliers generally list the data on material
data sheets using the terms tensile strength, tensile
modulus and tensile elongation. Tensile strength is
the ultimate strength of the material, either at the

13 mm

yield point (tensile strength at yield) or, if the material

does not yield, tensile strength at break. The percent
elongation should be reported the same way.
Material data sheets do not always indicate which
type of strength is being reported. Tensile modulus is
the modulus of elasticity calculated taking the slope
of the line formed by extending the initial linear
portion of the load--extension curve. Significance of test
It is important to note that tensile strength is reported
as a specific value generated from a specific test.
Depending on the material and the particulars of the
test, this may be a best case value. In any evaluation
of materials, it will be important to look at the tensile
strength stress vs. strain curves (if available) at
different temperatures to understand completely the
materials behavior. Limitations for gear applications
The differences between test conditions and typical
gear operating conditions should be considered
before applying the reported test data in gear design.
Two of these differences are load related:
-- The purely tensile load used in the test
produces essentially uniform stress across the
critical section of the specimen. In a gear,
however, the load is a bending load which
produces a non--uniform stress across the critical
section at the tooth fillet area, with the maximum
stress at the fillet surface. If the surface material
in a molded plastic gear has different properties
than the core material, its relative contribution to
tooth bending strength may differ from than that
suggested by the reported test data.
-- The test load is applied at a relatively low rate,
while in a gear the load is generally applied at a
much higher rate. Since the properties of plastic
materials vary significantly with the load rate, the
reported test data may not properly represent the
material strength in the gear.



50 mm
76 mm

57 mm
115 mm
Figure 8 -- ASTM D638 Type 1 tensile specimen


7 mm
or less


Other differences between test specimen and gear

may be in the material itself, resulting from differences in relative size at the critical sections and
especially from differences in processing.
Standard test methods for flexural
properties of plastics -- ASTM D790
These test methods cover the determination of
flexural properties of unreinforced and reinforced
plastics. They are generally applicable to rigid and
semi--rigid materials. Flexural strength for those
materials which do not break or do not fail in the outer
fibers is reported at 5% strain.
Specimens are in the form of rectangular bars which
are to be loaded as simply supported beams. Significance of test
In this test the stress--state varies across the
cross--section from tension to compression. This
varying stress--state may give different strength
properties than those from a uniform stress tensile
test. In fact, flexural strength properties are often
reported as higher than tensile strength properties
and with greater variation. Because of the higher
and more variable flexural strength values, a more
conservative tooth design would result from using
the tensile strength, even though gear teeth
experience flexural deformation. Limitations for gear applications
The proportions of the slender flexural test specimens are quite different from those of gear teeth, as
is also the simple beam support different from the
cantilevered support in gear teeth. Other differences
between test conditions and gear operation are
noted in for tensile test data.
5.1.3 Dynamic mechanical properties of plastics
-- ASTM D4065
There are seven ASTM standards for Dynamic
Mechanical Analysis, DMA, of materials in the solid
state. They are: D4092 on terminology, D5023 on
the three point bending method, D5418 on the dual
cantilever beam method, D5024 on the compression
method, D5026 on the tension method, and D5279
on the torsion method. ASTM D4065 on determining
and reporting dynamic mechanical properties covers all of these methods. These tests are used to
determine the elastic and viscous response of
plastics to a small harmonic excitation over a wide
temperature range. See bibliography for complete

AGMA 920--A01 Significance of test

DMA tests have been extensively used by polymer
physicists to understand the internal structure of
plastics. The elastic and loss modulii and the tan()
as a function of temperature, frequency, and time (if
desired) may be determined. Transition temperatures for the material can be determined. The
method can also be used to evaluate the effect of
processing, conditioning and chemical exposure on
materials. It can be used to show the effect of phase
separation of multicomponent systems and effect of
type, amount, dispersion, and orientation of fillers.
(For some materials, the thermal behavior is clearer
if the curves are plotted both semilog and linear.) Limitations for gear applications
Just as the value of modulus from tensile test can
vary considerably depending on test specimen and
test conditions used, the values obtained by DMA
test methods differ depending on which test method
and apparatus is used. However, the storage
modulus gives a clear indication of the behavior of
the elastic modulus with temperature and frequency.
This can be very useful in analyzing a gear set for
mesh stiffness and tooth deflection. Therefore, the
storage modulus data can be particularly useful for
gearing. However, it is often more convenient to
normalize the storage modulus data by dividing all of
the values on the curve by the value at ambient
temperature, 23C. Thus, a dimensionless shift
factor is created which can be used in any equation
containing a modulus to provide a temperature
adjustment to the calculation, see figure 9.
In addition to the temperature effect on elastic
modulus, the DMA data provides considerable
useful information about the thermal behavior of
plastics. In particular, it is a much better indicator of
thermal behavior than the HDT test, see 5.3.3. The
maximum useful temperature of any thermoplastic
would be near the last point of constant slope of the
storage modulus curve before its final downturn.
(This is sometimes clearer in a semilog plot.)
However, exposure time and load must be greatly
reduced as the temperature approaches that point.
Beyond this point, the material softens to an
unusable state. Semi--crystalline plastics are often
used in gears operating in the plateau region past the
glass transition temperature. However, if a semi-crystalline plastic gear is operated in the region of the
glass transition temperature, performance variability
should be expected as properties change rapidly
with temperature and frequency.



Normalized modulus

AGMA 920--A01

Figure 9 -- Typical DMA curves normalized at 23C Details of test
In a DMA test, the test specimen receives a
harmonic excitation at a known frequency and very
small amplitude. In most test equipment, the
harmonic excitation is the displacement and the
resulting force is the measured response. In other
equipment, the reverse is used. The sample is
mounted in a closed chamber with accurate temperature control. The test chamber temperature is
increased at a constant rate during the test. Thus,
data are obtained over a wide range of temperatures, typically from --50C to near the melting point
of the material. Figure 10 illustrates a tensile DMA
geometry with fixed displacement amplitude.
Data obtained from the test are the load amplitude,
displacement amplitude, and frequency at a considerable number of temperatures. The frequency is
often fixed but a number of frequencies may also be
used. Since all materials, and especially plastics,
are viscoelastic, there is a phase shift between the
displacement and the measured load. The phase
shift, , is also recorded either directly but more often
as tan ().


The measured load is a combination of two loads: an

elastic load which is in phase with the displacement;
and a viscous load which is 90 degrees out of phase
with the displacement. The load amplitude divided
by the displacement amplitude is directly proportional to the absolute value of the complex modulus, |E*|,
of the material. The proportionality constant depends on the test geometry. The test geometry also
determines which modulus is obtained, i.e., tensile,
flexural, shear or compression. The equation for the
complex modulus is:
E* = E + iE



is the storage modulus (elastic modulus of

= |E*| cos

is loss modulus (related to viscosity of

= |E*| sin

is the phase shift;

is proportionality constant depending on test




AGMA 920--A01







Measured load

Figure 10 -- Tensile DMA

Temperature, E, E and tan () data are generally
reported in tabular form for a particular frequency.
However, a graphical presentation of E, E and tan
() versus temperature is usually included. Sometimes, the graphical presentation will include
frequency as a parameter.
The glass transition temperature, Tg, will appear as a
peak in the loss modulus curve. This peak will be just
after the start of a large decrease in storage
modulus. For amorphous plastics, the Tg is near the
processing temperature and the storage modulus
will continue to decrease as the material softens, see
figure 11. For semi--crystalline materials, after a
large drop at the Tg, the storage modulus will be
relatively constant until the onset of crystallite
melting which will be evident as the storage modulus
curve bends down near the melting point and the tan
() increases rapidly, see figure 12.
5.1.4 Izod impact test -- ASTM D256
The Izod test determines the breakage resistance of
a notched, cantilever test specimen subjected to
flexural impact. The impact is delivered by a
pendulum--type hammer. There are methods for

when the notch faces the hammer and faces away

from the hammer. There are special considerations
for low energy breaks. Also, a method requiring two
different notch radii provides a calculation procedure
for notch sensitivity.
As each specimen is broken, the type of break
according to the following categories must be

= complete break -- two or more pieces;

H = hinge break -- an incomplete break in which

the attached half cannot support itself when the
other is held;
P = partial break -- an incomplete break in which
more than 9.1 mm (90%) of the 10.16 mm sample
width has fractured but does not qualify as a hinge
NB = non--break -- an incomplete break less than
90% of the original width and all other conditions.
The energy required to break each specimen divided
by its individual thickness is recorded in J/m, except
for NB where no energy is recorded. In every case,
the data to be reported, in addition to full equipment
and specimen identification, shall include the
number of failures in each category along with a


AGMA 920--A01


statistical summary for each category except NB.

When two notch radii are used and if all breaks are of
the same category, the notch sensitivity may be

calculated by dividing the difference in the average

energy per unit width for each radius by the
difference in the radii.


Loss modulus, E

Log storage modulus, E

Log tan ()

E = |E*| cos ()
tan ()
E = |E*| sin ()

Figure 11 -- DMA, amorphous and crystalline polymers


E = |E*| cos ()
tan ()

Loss modulus, E

Log storage modulus, E

Log tan ()

E = |E*| sin ()

Figure 12 -- DMA, semi--crystalline polymer



Izod is widely used in the United States for plastics.
Charpy (see 5.1.5) is used for metals in the U.S. and
for plastics in Europe (although the method is
different). With the adoption of ISO methods in the
U.S., Charpy is becoming more common. The most
widely reported data are for a notched specimen.
They are typically used as an indication of the
relative notch sensitivity when comparing materials.
However, this should only be done when comparing
materials that have the same break category.
Unfortunately, the break category is rarely reported
so such comparisons should be made with great
care. Data are sometimes reported for reversed
notch or un--notched (not part of a standard)
samples. The reversed notch data may be
compared to the notched data as a further indication
of relative notch sensitivity. Notch sensitivity by
multiple notch radii is rarely reported.
Although NB stands for non--break, the proper
interpretation is no test as NB is used for all
outcomes that do not fall under the other three
categories. Finally, Izod data are often mistakenly
interpreted as a measure of toughness. A material
with a higher Izod value may or may not have greater
toughness. Izod should only be used as a relative
indication of notch sensitivity. Limitations for gear applications
Plastic gears designed with a full fillet radius,
properly molded, and handled without damage
generally do not require consideration of notch
sensitivity. However, many gears are designed using
little or no fillet radius, have flow lines in the tooth
root, and are mishandled. Such gears could benefit
from a material with an increased notched lzod
Within a material family, increased Izod values are
usually obtained by adding an elastomer to the base
material. This will typically lower the modulus of the
material and increase the hysteresis. The reduced
modulus will increase tooth deflection, reduce contact stress and could result in a poor contact
condition. Increased hysteresis can increase operating temperature. Thus, for continuously operated
gears, the life may be reduced. However, if gears
that operate intermittently with occasional shock
loads are failing prematurely, a material modified for
increased Izod may give longer life.

AGMA 920--A01

5.1.5 Charpy impact test -- ASTM D256

This test method determines the breakage resistance of a notched, three--point bending test
specimen subjected to impact. The impact is delivered by a pendulum--type hammer. The sample is
supported on both ends and is struck in the center
while the notch faces away from the hammer.
Data is obtained and reported as in notched Izod,
except only complete breaks are reported. Significance of test
Izod is widely used in the United States for plastics.
Charpy is used for metal in the U.S. and for plastics in
Europe (although the method is different). The data
are typically used as an indication of the relative
notch sensitivity when comparing materials. Charpy
data are often interpreted as a measure of toughness. A material with a higher Charpy value may or
may not have greater toughness. Charpy data
should only be used as an indication of notch
sensitivity. Limitations for gear applications
Limitations are essentially identical to the Izod test.
5.1.6 Shear strength of plastics by punch tool -ASTM D732
This test reports the extent to which the plastic
material can resist shear stress. A portion of the
material is forced to separate from the rest by sliding
in a direction parallel to the applied load.
The data are expressed as a shear strength
calculated from the peak punch load and the
sheared area. Significance of test
If applied to similar specimens of various materials,
the test indicates the relative strength of the
materials under conditions of a shear load. Limitations for gear applications
Loading on gear teeth typically subject them to
failure by bending rather than by shear. One
exception is encountered when a worm is loaded
against the teeth of a plastic gear, shearing portions
of the engaged teeth. In such cases, the shear
strength test data can be used for design as long as
proper adjustments are made for differences between test specimen and plastic gear in respect to
material processing, cross--section size and rate of


AGMA 920--A01


5.1.7 Standard test method for flexural fatigue

by constant--amplitude--of--force -- ASTM D671
This test method covers the determination of the
effect of repetitions of the same magnitude of flexural
stress on plastics by fixed--cantilever type testing
machines designed to provide a constant-amplitude--of--force. The test results provide data on
the number of cycles of stress to produce specimen
failure by fracture, softening, or reduction in stiffness
by heating as a result of internal friction (damping).
The test is performed by repeatedly flexing a fixed
cantilever specimen with a fully reversing
predetermined load, see figure 13. Significance of test
Thermoplastics can fail in two different ways. Like
metal, they can fail in fatigue due to cumulative
damage caused by a repeated stress. In this failure
mode, cracks grow continuously with each stress
cycle until the effective load bearing area is too
highly stressed to support the resulting stress. When
catastrophically and the component will fail. Limitations to gear applications

Differences between the flexural fatigue test and
typical gear applications limit the suitability of using
the test data as gear design data. In the flexural
fatigue test, the loading at the critical section is a
bending load, which is also the case at the critical
section in gear teeth. While the load rate in the test
may be more closely matched to the generally high
load rate in gears, the test does not allow for the
delay between successive load applications typical
of gears. An even greater difference is in the type of
loading, which is full reversing in the test, but only
applications. Details of test
The testing is to be conducted at 50% RH and 23C.
The mechanical properties of many plastics change
rapidly with small changes in temperature. Since
heat is generated as a result of the flexing action of
the test, the test is conducted without forced cooling
to ensure uniformity of test conditions. The temperature of the sample during testing is to be measured
and recorded, but it is seldom reported. For most
plastics, fatigue failures are frequency dependent.
Therefore, data should not be extrapolated to other
frequencies unless the frequency response is
known. ASTM suggests testing at 30 Hz 5%.

50.8 mm

Unlike metals, thermoplastics have a second failure

mode which is due to their viscoelastic nature. A
thermoplastic subjected to repeated load cycles at
high frequency will generate heat due to internal
friction (damping). Since thermoplastics are insulative, heat generated can easily exceed the materials
ability to dissipate it. The resulting increase in
temperature leads to material softening, diminishing
its ability to resist stress. This failure, often referred
to as thermal failure, is characterized by excessive

deflection of the test sample. This type of fatigue

failure is said to occur when the apparent modulus of
of the material decays to 70% of the original modulus
of the specimen at the start of the test.

57.2 mm
103.2 mm

Figure 13 -- Flexural fatigue specimen



The results of the test are plotted on a S--N (stress

vs. cycles) diagram with the alternating stress
amplitude as the ordinate against the common
logarithm of the number of cycles required for failure
as the abscissa.
Fatigue strength is always
associated with a number of cycles. If a S--N curve
for a material becomes a horizontal line (constant-stress) at very high cycles (>10 million), it is said to
have an endurance limit. The endurance limit is the
stress level below which the material can be
subjected to the fatigue load indefinitely. Not all
plastic materials will have an endurance limit.
5.1.8 Tensile, compressive and flexural creep
and creep--rupture of plastics ASTM D2990
This test method determines the time--dependent
deformational response (viscoelastic deformation)
of plastics subjected to constant loading conditions
under specified environmental conditions. Procedures are described for constant tensile, compressive or flexural loadings. However, measurements
of creep--rupture require tensile loading, since
rupture does not occur in compression or flexure.
Therefore, tension is the preferred stress--state for
these tests and only the tensile creep/creep--rupture
test will be covered in this description. Significance of test
The information obtained from these tests can be
used in the design process of parts subjected to
time--dependent loadings. This design process,
know as the quasi--elastic design methodology,
uses results (formulas) from elastic stress analysis.
The material properties (e.g., Poissons ratio,
Youngs modulus, strength, etc.) in those formulas
for elastic analysis are normally the instantaneous
(time equals zero) values. However, for the quasi-elastic design methodology, the values at the
required design time (time greater than zero) are
used in the elastic formulas. The quasi--elastic
design methodology has been shown to yield
conservative results.

AGMA 920--A01

condition, creep deformation and creep--rupture of

plastics may need to be considered. This is
especially true for stalled gears where the ratio of
stalled time to cycled time is large. Under these
conditions significant creep strain could accumulate,
possibly to the point of creep--rupture (tooth breakage) and/or significant tooth creep--deformation
(tooth spacing errors). Details of test
The test specimens used in the constant tensile
creep and creep--rupture testing are the dumbbell
shaped specimens described in ASTM D638 (see, either Type I or Type II. In addition,
specimens described in ASTM D1822 can be used
for creep--rupture testing. The test specimens are
conditioned at 23 C and 50% RH for not less than 40
hours prior to testing. Additionally, the specimens
are pre--conditioned for at least 48 hours in the test
environment (temperature, humidity and others)
immediately prior to being tested.
After conditioning and pre--conditioning in the
specified testing environment, a constant tensile
load is rapidly applied (loading time not to exceed 5
seconds) to each specimen. The time--dependent
elongation of each specimen is periodically
At the beginning of the test the
measurements of elongation are made within minutes of each other. During the middle of the test the
elongation measurements are made within hours of
each other. For tests lasting longer than 1000 hours
the elongation measurements are made at least
The results of this test are a family of curves
presenting elongation (creep--strain) vs. time. There
is one curve per specimen for each constant tensile
load applied (tensile stress applied). However, the
data can be presented in a number of fashions: 1)
creep--strain vs. time (see figure 14a); 2) creep
modulus (tensile--stress/creep--strain) vs. time (see
figure 14b); or 3) tensile stress vs. strain curves (see
figure 14c), each for a specified time (isochronous
curves). Limitations for gear applications

5.2 Wear and frictional characteristics

Typically creep deformation is not normally a factor

in gears under continuous operation because the
load is applied to each gear tooth only for short time
duration during each gear revolution. Therefore, in
the limit, those loadings cannot be considered as
time--dependent loadings. However, for gears run
continuously at low speeds and high loads, or for
gears run at high speeds into and/or held in a stalled

5.2.1 Thrust washer wear test -- ASTM D3702

The wear resistance and frictional characteristics of
plastic materials in rubbing contact with another
surface are important properties to consider in
designing plastic gears. Tribological values from a
standardized thrust washer wear test are often used
for relative comparisons of thermoplastic materials
to assess these characteristics.


AGMA 920--A01


Increasing stress

This test method is used to determine the equilibrium

rate of wear and the coefficient of friction for
materials in sliding contact at a variety of pressure-velocity conditions. These data are intended only as
initial guides in the material identification stage for a
given application. Limitations for gear applications

Time (log scale)

Figure 14a -- Representations of creep -strain vs. time

Creep modulus

stress or strain

Time (log scale)

Figure 14b -- Representations of creep -creep modulus vs. time

Time (hr)




10 000

Wear and frictional characteristics of plastics are not

material properties, they are system properties. It
cannot be overemphasized that the operational
conditions of individual applications dramatically
affect these properties. Parameters such as mating
surfaces, velocities, pressures, ambient temperatures, duty cycles, and type of motion, also affect the
relative performance of one material compared to
The majority of thrust washer wear testing data
reported by thermoplastic suppliers are generated
using a modified version of ASTM D3702. Changes
from the standard may include different size,
different counterface composition and/or different
operating conditions, and the units for wear factor (K)
may be expressed differently. When comparing data
provided by different suppliers, it is important to
understand the possible differences in the test
method used to generate the data, and how these
differences could affect the values generated.
Because of differences in test methods and
technique along with highly variable results, comparing data between different labs is not generally
appropriate. See figure 15.
Further, the results of this constant contact,
unidirectional test cannot be used to predict the wear
life or frictional characteristics of an intermittent,
rolling--sliding, line contact found in many gearing

Stress Details of test

Figure 14c -- Representations of creep -isochronous stress vs. strain

Wear rate and wear (K) factors: Lower values

indicate better resistance to material loss due to
relative motion contact. A material exhibiting a wear
rate or wear (K) factor value that is half of another
material indicates the material loss is also half at this
specific pressure--velocity (PV) point. This does not
mean that this relationship necessarily holds true at
higher or lower PV points or under any other different
operational conditions.


AGMA 920--A01

Figure 15 -- ASTM D--3702 thrust washer wear and friction test

Coefficients of friction (Cf): Lower Cf values for
plastic materials indicate reduced resistance to
sliding. Given identical testing conditions and
normal forces, Cf values are linear in representing
the force needed either to initiate (static) or maintain
sliding motion (dynamic). Coefficients of friction vary
significantly relative to differences in pressures,
velocities, mating surface characteristics, ambient
temperatures, duty cycles, rotational direction and
other operational conditions.
Further, Cf values may change significantly between
mating surfaces during the break--in or run--in
periods due to material transfer mechanisms and
other polymer wear phenomena. Published coefficients of friction numbers are typically numerical
averages and may not reflect the magnitude of these
running changes in sliding resistance.

plastic materials having coefficients of expansion

greater than 1 10 --6 mm/mm/C. The thermal
expansion of a plastic is a reversible change in
dimensions caused by heating and cooling. Superimposed upon this reversible process are other
changes in length, which are essentially non--reversible, due to heat, changes in moisture content,
curing, loss of plasticizers or solvents, release of
stresses, phase changes and other factors. This test
method is intended to determine the CLTE under the
exclusion of these factors as far as possible. In
general, it will not be possible to exclude them
altogether. For these reasons, the test can only be
expected to give an approximation of the true
thermal expansion. Significance of test

5.3 Thermal properties

5.3.1 Standard test method for coefficient of
linear thermal expansion of plastics between
--30C and 30C -- ASTM D696
This test method covers the determination of the
coefficient of linear thermal expansion (CLTE) for

Coefficient of linear thermal expansion can be used

to estimate the changes in mesh clearances required to prevent gears from binding or from coming
out of mesh due to relative expansion between the
gears and their housing.


AGMA 920--A01 Limitations for gear applications

As described in 5.3.1, the change in dimensions of a
molded part may not completely agree with the
change in length predicted by applying the CLTE to
the part dimension and temperature change. Also,
the CLTE of a material can and will vary over different
temperature ranges and flow orientation. Details of test
The results of the testing are generally reported as
the coefficient of linear thermal expansion over a
range. For anisotropic materials, CLTE is referenced to a coordinate (X and Y) or direction (flow and
5.3.2 Thermal conductivity test
Thermal conductivity is the rate at which a material
conducts heat energy along its length or through its
thickness. This property is important in applications
where the polymeric material is used as a thermal
insulator, or where heat dissipation is of concern. Significance of test
The thermal conductivity of a thermoplastic material
will effect how well the material dissipates heat. Low
thermal conductivity materials like thermoplastics
will not dissipate heat generated by friction (tooth
contact, bearings) as well as a metal would, and can
result in a greater temperature rise in the application
than expected. Housings made from thermoplastics
will also dissipate less heat than a similar metal
housing. On the positive side, thermoplastics can be
used to insulate other components from external
heat sources. Limitations for gear applications
Thermal conductivity is generally measured at some
reference temperature, and the actual value for
thermal conductivity can change as the environmental and/or application temperature changes and use
of different measuring techniques. Details of test
Thermal conductivity can be measured for plastics
as a solid or in the melt, and these values are
generally very different. The melt thermal conductivity is used for doing computer aided mold filling
analysis. The thermal conductivity of the solid
thermoplastic is covered by ASTM Standard F433,
Standard Practice for Evaluating Thermal Conduc22


tivity of Gasket Materials, and is used during the

design phase of a project.
5.3.3 Heat distortion (deflection temperature)
test -- ASTM D648
Among the various ways to characterize the thermal
performance of a plastic material is ASTM D648.
This test can be used to compare the thermal
performance among various plastics. It is performed
by submerging a specimen in a temperature controlled environment, raising the temperature incrementally, and reporting the temperature at which the
specimen deforms 0.25 mm, the result reported as
the heat deflection temperature (HDT). Either of two
(or both) load conditions can be specified, 0.455
MPa or 1.82 MPa, the latter reported as Heat
deflection temperature under load or HDTUL. Significance of test
The test shows the temperature at which a certain
amount of deflection takes place at known loads. It is
not a direct guide to the temperature performance of
the material in application. It may be useful to
compare various plastic materials under the same
conditions. At best it is only a rough guide to the
upper limit of a materials thermal behavior. Limitations for gear applications
There are three major shortcomings in the
-- First, an initial deflection corresponding to the
applied stress occurs before the bath is heated.
The measurement of 0.25 mm is from this point.
The measurement does not correlate with any
pure physical or design property of the material.
-- Second, the thickness of the sample is
variable. The calculations that determine the load
required to produce the specified stress level
theoretically take thickness into account, but in
practice, thicker samples perform better than thin
-- Third, the heating rate at which the test is run
influences the HDT value. Because plastics have
low thermal conductivity, higher heating rates
Better methods for determining a materials thermal
performance are available, namely, the Dynamic
Mechanical Analysis test, where the operator of the
test can continuously monitor the flexural modulus of
a material as a function of temperature. It is better to
determine the required yield strengths and modulii


for the gear design, and then find the temperature at

which these values are exceeded, and use that
temperature as the upper limit for the material.
5.3.4 U.L. temperature index test (relative
thermal index or RTI) -- UL 746B
This procedure is used to determine the relative
thermal index for a particular material. The relative
thermal index (RTI) is the maximum temperature a
selected material will retain 50% of its original
mechanical and electrical properties after heat aging
for 100,000 hours. Significance
RTI data is typically used when selecting materials
for electrical components that require UL listing. The
electrical application may require the material to
have an RTI rating at or above the expected
operational temperature of the device. Limitations for gear applications
RTI testing is a static test that does not take into
account the mechanical properties of the material at
temperature. Actual strength and stiffness properties of the material at the operational temperature
are needed to determine the materials capability in
the application. In spite of this, the RTI of a material
is a good indicator of a materials capability for long
term exposure to elemental temperatures.
Some plastic applications, such as gears to be used
in appliances, may require an Underwriters Laboratories relative thermal index. Generally, this is a
temperature value assigned to a polymer, based on
long term testing, extrapolated to the life time of a
product design, at which the part can operate without
failing as an electrical insulator. Details of test
A relative thermal index of a material is an indication
of the ability of a material to retain a particular
property (physical, electrical, etc.) when exposed to
elevated temperatures for an extended period of
time. It is a measure of the materials thermal
endurance. For each material, a number of relative
thermal indices can be established, each index
related to a specific property of the material.
The RTI of a material is established on the basis of
either accelerated aging experiments or on a generic
basis from field experience with specific families of
materials. There may be up to three independent

AGMA 920--A01

RTIs assigned a single material, namely: electric,

mechanical with impact and mechanical without
impact. In this method, pertinent properties are
measured as a function of time and temperature, and
using appropriate mathematical techniques (regression analysis), determine the time to end of useful
service at each temperature. End of useful life is
defined as the time at which the property being
measured has degraded to 50% of its original value.
The long term material performance is determined
relative to that of a reference or control material, thus
the term relative temperature index. The RTI is then
published in the UL Components Index, listed along
with the various other properties measured for
electrical applications.
5.3.5 Brittleness temperature of plastics and
elastomers by impact -- ASTM D746
This test method determines, under specified impact
conditions, the temperature at which plastics exhibit
significant brittle behavior. The temperature that is
determined is termed the brittleness temperature.
The brittleness temperature is the temperature at
which 50% of the test specimens fail in a brittle
manner under the specified impact conditions of this
test. Significance of test
Data collected under this method can be used to
predict the behavior of plastics or elastomers at low
temperatures. Such data can only be used where
the conditions of deformation are similar to those
specified in the test method. It is useful for
specifications, but does not measure the lowest
temperature at which a material may be used. Limitations for gear applications
Actual low temperature performance may be understated using this test, as it may not measure the
lowest temperature at which the material may be
used. The test is difficult to run, the specimens bear
no relation to the shape of a gear, and the needed
attendant support of the gear design would further
understate the performance. Data should only be
used as a relative indication of performance between
material properties which tested identically, and
hence for specification work only. When choosing a
polymer for gears required to perform under sudden
changes in load at low temperatures, the brittleness
temperature for each considered polymer should be
evaluated and compared.


AGMA 920--A01 Details of test

The test determines temperature at which 50% of
test specimens fail when subjected to an impact of a
striking edge moving at 2000 mm/s (+/-- 200 mm/s)
over a distance (after striking the specimens) of 6.4
mm, the specimen holder having been held in a
cooling medium at a known temperature for a period
of 3 minutes (+/-- 0.50 min).
5.4 Environmental properties
5.4.1 Standard test for water absorption of
plastics -- ASTM D570
This test method covers the determination of the
relative rate of water absorption by all types of
plastics. Significance of test
Moisture absorption will affect the dimensions and
physical properties of plastic gears in varying
degrees. Limitations for gear applications
This test shows only weight change due to water
absorption when immersed. Effects of water absorption on dimensions and properties are not quantified
by this test. Details of test
Depending on the materials water absorption characteristics versus temperature, the procedure for
achieving its dry condition varies as described in
the ASTM standard. These dry samples are then
measured and weighed.
There are several immersion tests in distilled water
that may be conducted. In water at 23C, these are
the 24 hour, the two hour, the repeated, and the
long--term immersion tests. Conducted in boiling
water are the 2 hour and the 1/2 hour immersion test.
5.4.2 Standard practices for evaluating the
resistance of plastics to chemical reagents -ASTM D543
These practices cover the evaluation of all plastic
materials for resistance to chemical reagents. Two
major tests are described: an immersion test, and a
mechanical stress test to reagent exposure. The first
is for weight and dimensional changes, and also for


mechanical property changes. The second is for the

susceptibility to attack in stressed regions. Significance of test
The choice of types and concentration of reagents
(including lubricants), temperature of the test, and
properties to be reported is necessarily arbitrary.
The specification of these conditions provides a
basis for standardization and serves as a guide to
investigators wishing to compare the relative
resistance of various plastics to typical chemical
reagents. Limitations for gear applications
As with all standard tests, correlation of the test
results with the actual performance of plastic gears is
dependent upon the similarity between the testing
and the actual conditions.
It should be noted that this ASTM standard addresses statically loaded specimens, unlike gearing
applications which are dynamically loaded. These
dynamic loads may contribute to differences in
performance and susceptibility to chemical exposure. Details of test
The test specimens are conditioned at 23C and at
50% RH for not less than 40 hours prior to testing.
Shape and dimensions of the specimens depend on
the test to be performed according to the ASTM
Two procedures are followed in the immersion test
depending on interest. Procedure I is for weight and
dimensional changes. Procedure II is for changes in
mechanical property.
The mechanical stress test evaluates specimens
mounted on strain fixtures and exposed to chemical
reagents, either by immersion or by the wet--patch
These specimens are subsequently
compared to unstrained specimens similarly exposed. Exposure times are 7 days for room
temperature, of 3 days for elevated temperatures.
Another set of specimens are identically strained,
but not exposed, and serve as a control.
After exposure, mechanical properties of exposed
and unexposed specimens are compared. Standard
methods are followed for tensile, flexural, or other
property evaluation.


AGMA 920--A01

5.5 Miscellaneous properties Limitations for gear applications

Test method for rubber property -durometer hardness -- ASTM D2240

The Rockwell hardness measurements in plastics

do not necessarily relate to the materials resistance
to wear.

This test method is used to determine the indent

hardness of elastomeric and plastic materials using
the durometer hardness test apparatus. Details of test Significance of test

Durometer hardness testing is used to determine the
indentation or surface hardness of a material.
Durometer hardness is often used in the specification of elastomers with all other physical properties
implied by the durometer for that elastomer class. Limitations for gear applications
The durometer hardness measurements in plastics
do not necessarily relate to the materials resistance
to wear. Details of test
In this test, a pointed or blunt indenter of set diameter
(sharp point for Shore A, 0.10 mm radius point for
Shore D) is applied to the specimen. The spring load
for the durometer tester determines the force of
penetration. The application force should be high
enough to ensure adequate contact of the Shore
meters presser foot. The Shore hardness number is
read from the durometer scale on the test apparatus.
The durometer can be determined after immediate
application or after a time period agreed upon by
specification. The Shore number is inversely related
to the distance the indenter penetrates into the test
specimen. One Shore point is equal to 0.025 mm of
penetration. The higher the Shore number the
harder the material. There are other Shore scales,
however, the A and D scales are traditional for
elastomer and plastic materials.
Standard test method for Rockwell
hardness of plastic and electrical insulating
materials -- ASTM D785
This test method is used to determine the indent
hardness of plastic materials using the Rockwell
hardness test apparatus.

In this test, a rounded indenter of set diameter, (12.7

mm for Rockwell R, 6.35 mm for Rockwell M) is
applied to the specimen under a 10 kg minor preload.
A 60 kg major load for Rockwell R or a 100 kg major
load for Rockwell M is applied for 15 seconds. The
load is released. The Rockwell number is determined from the difference in travel of the indenter
from the major load to the preload. Each Rockwell
division is equal to 0.002 mm of travel. The Rockwell
number is the number of divisions traveled (depth of
indent) subtracted from 150. The higher the
Rockwell Number the harder the material. There are
other Rockwell Scales, however the R and M
scales are traditional for plastic material.
5.5.3 Density and specific gravity (relative
density) of plastics by displacement ASTM
This test method presents procedures to determine
the specific gravity (relative density) and density of
solidified plastics as in extruded shapes and molded
objects. The specific gravity is the ratio of the mass of
a certain volume of solidified plastic to the mass of an
equal volume of water or some other reference
liquid. Two methods are presented: 1) procedures in
water, and 2) procedures in liquids other than water,
which can be used if the plastic is lighter than water
or undergoes significant absorption of water at 23 C
over the testing duration. Significance of test
The specific gravity or density can be measured and
used to 1) identify a plastic, 2) to track physical
changes in a sample, 3) to determine the uniformity
among samples, or 4) to indicate the average density
of large objects. Differences in density of the same
object, or among samples, may be due to changes or
differences in crystallinity, loss of plasticizer, absorption of a solvent, and/or differences in thermal
history, porosity, and/or composition. Density can
also be used to calculate, knowing the volume of a
part, expected weight and material costs of that part. Significance of test Limitations for gear applications

Rockwell hardness testing is used to determine the

indentation or surface hardness of a material.
Rockwell hardness can also be used to determine
the degree of cure for a thermoset material.

In practice, when using the specific gravity or density

along with an expected gear volume to calculate the
expected weight of material in a gear, the calculated
weight might not be exact. The lack of exactness


AGMA 920--A01


might be due to differences in crystallinity induced by

differences in processing conditions of the gear and
sample used to determine the specific gravity.
Another factor causing the lack of exactness that is
not discussed in is unaccounted for shrinkage of the gear during molding which might change
the anticipated volume.

some cases be subject to a source of flame. It is

important to note that any UL flammability rating is
given at a particular thickness, and that as the
sample thickness increases, a better rating can often
be obtained. When specifying or requesting a rating,
the thickness of the application must be specified.

5.5.4 Flammability

Compliance with these regulatory requirements

often requires the addition of additives which may
alter the mechanical performance or characteristics
of the base material. Because of these performance
differences, the development for any gear
application shall be done with the material that meets
the regulatory requirements.

There are several types of flammability testing, the

most common being the UL Flammability Class.
UL Subject 94 and/or ASTM D635 and ASTM
D3801: In this test, specimens are subjected to a
specific flame exposure, and the relative ability to
maintain combustion after the flame is removed
becomes the basis for classification (HB, V--2, V--1,
V--0, 5V). In general the more favorable ratings are
given to materials that extinguish themselves rapidly
and do not drip flaming particles. Each rating is
specified on a specific material thickness.
Other flammability tests are:
Oxygen Index Test, ASTM D2863: This test
measures the percentage of oxygen necessary to
sustain combustion of the plastic material. The
higher the value (more oxygen needed), the lower
the combustibility. Since air contains about 21%
oxygen, any material with a rating below 21 will
probably support combustion in a normal, open air
Smoke Density Test, ASTM E662: Often referred
to as the NBS Smoke Density Test, a specified area
of plastic is exposed to heat under flaming conditions. Smoke measurements are reported as
specific optical density, a dimensionless unit that
represents the optical density of the smoke over a
unit path length within a chamber of unit volume
produced from a sample of unit surface area.
Glow Wire Test, IEC 60695--2--10, 11, 12, 13: This
test simulates conditions present when an exposed,
current carrying conductor contacts an insulating
material during faulty or overloaded operation. The
test can be applied at one or more recommended
temperatures (550_C, 650_C, 750_C, 850_C,
960_C) and at any sample material thickness. Significance to gearing
Most gearing applications do not require a specific
flammability rating, since they are usually enclosed
and not exposed to a source of flame. The housing
around the gear may have a flammability requirement since it has more surface area, and may in
26 Limitations for gear applications

6 General description of plastic materials

This brief description deals only with characteristics
of materials used for gears.
6.1 Classification
Plastics are generally classified in two major groups,
thermoplastics and thermosets.
6.1.1 Thermoplastics Definition and properties
Thermoplastics are materials that repeatedly soften,
or melt, when heated, and harden, or freeze, when
cooled. Heating permits the intertwined molecular
chains to slide relative to each other. At some higher
temperature, the sliding is free enough for the
material to behave as a liquid and may be used to fill
molds. The temperature at which this degree of
softening takes place varies with the type and grade
of plastic. Cooling restores the intermolecular bonds
and the material behaves essentially as a solid.
However, these solid materials, to a varying degree,
retain some aspects of a liquid in the form of
viscoelastic behavior. See 2.1. At the same time,
this type of molecular bond generally imparts a
greater toughness, or resistance to impact loads. Structure
Thermoplastic materials can be further classified by
their chemical structure. Many of the physical
property differences among plastics can be
attributed to their structure. Crystalline
Thermoplastic materials are divided into two categories or families of plastics: semi--crystalline (general-


ly referred to as crystalline) and amorphous.

Crystalline thermoplastic materials are melt processable plastics that, upon cooling from the melt
phase, solidify with distinct crystalline domains.
Crystalline materials are easily differentiated from
amorphous thermoplastics because they are
opaque. Crystalline materials display good chemical resistance, fatigue properties and wear resistance compared to amorphous plastics. Crystalline
materials also maintain usable physical properties
beyond their glass transition temperature. Crystalline materials (see table 2) have a distinct melt
temperature beyond which the plastic is a liquid. See
figure 16.
The ordering of crystalline plastics makes them
stiffer, stronger, but less resistant to impact than their
non--crystalline counterparts. See figure 17. Amorphous materials
Amorphous plastic, like a pane of glass, is more
similar to a super cooled liquid than a solidified
material. Like glass, amorphous materials are
Amorphous plastics have limited
chemical resistance and do not have useable
properties beyond their glass transition temperature.
Because amorphous plastics do not have specific
melt temperatures, the glass transition temperature
can be considered the onset of melt. Amorphous
plastics do have good creep resistance properties.

AGMA 920--A01

Amorphous plastics have low shrink characteristics

and are not susceptible to high differential shrinkage
allowing for accurately molded, warp free parts.
Some amorphous plastics (see table 3) have good
impact properties. Thermal response -- crystalline vs.
A primary thermal transitional common to all thermoplastic resins is the glass transition temperature, or
Tg. For crystalline resins, this is the temperature at
which the amorphous regions of the polymer begin to
soften, allowing the harder and more ordered
crystalline regions to move over each other.
Mechanically, crystalline polymers begin to lose a
major portion of their modulus through this transition.
Amorphous resins, which contain no crystalline
regions, very quickly lose all modulus at the Tg,
becoming unusable for mechanical purposes. In
fact, it is above this thermal point that amorphous
materials flow.
Crystalline polymers also exhibit a melting point, Tm,
the temperature at which the crystalline regions of
the material change state. This transition point is
typically very sharp and unique for each crystalline
polymer, and is the point at which no mechanical
structure is evident. Amorphous resins do not exhibit
a melting point.



Figure 16 -- Two dimensional representation of crystalline and amorphous thermoplastics


AGMA 920--A01


Crystalline (glass fiber reinforced)



Amorphous (glass fiber


Crystalline (unreinforced)


Amorphous (unreinforced)
Figure 17 -- Modulus behavior vs. temperature of crystalline and amorphous resins, neat and glass
fiber reinforced
Figure 17 shows the modulus response for neat
amorphous and crystalline resins, as well as glass
fiber reinforced versions. For both types of polymers, the addition of reinforcing fibers substantially
increases the modulus, yet does not affect the
inherent thermal transition temperature points.
NOTE: Dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) (see
5.1.3) is an analytical method to determine polymer
property changes as a function of temperature. The
change in modulus characteristics of a plastic material,
as it approaches or exceeds important and unique thermal transitions, can yield important design information
about the load bearing capabilities within the temperature range of operation. These data are more useful to
the design engineer than the commonly cited ASTM
test, deflection temperature under load (DTUL), which
determines at what temperature a standard molded
specimen deflects 0.25 mm. Molding considerations

Thermoplastic materials are particularly well suited
for molding. Molded material in the form of sprues
and runners, if properly processed, can often be
reground and recycled with little or no loss in
properties, at least for a limited number of reuse
cycles. This is less so for materials with fiber


additives. The use of regrind may offer a cost

Further economy is possible with hot runner
molding systems in which no scrap is produced.
Solidification by cooling does make the molded part
subject to variation in properties with differences in
cooling rate. Very often, the greater rate of cooling at
the surfaces which contact the mold produces a
harder and stronger skin, while the more slowly
cooling internal material, or core, is somewhat softer.
A similar effect takes place at sharp internal corners
of the molded part, such as the sharp fillets at the
base of gear teeth. Although this surface also
contacts the cooled mold, the correspondingly sharp
external corner of the mold is a poorer conductor of
heat, and thus produces a weaker skin, than the less
sharp surfaces elsewhere in the mold. Design considerations
The thermal effects associated with this type of
solidification may also affect the design of the gear
blank. Best molding results are obtained when the
various sections in the blank are approximately
uniform in thickness. For many thermoplastic
materials, large gears with thick sections cannot be


molded to meet the same high quality levels of

smaller gears.

AGMA 920--A01

Some of these properties are:



6.1.2 Thermosets


impact resistance; Definition and properties


rigidity (modulus);


thermal conductivity;


flame retardance;


dimensional control;




heat stability;


noise reduction;


oxidative stability;


U.V. stability;




wear resistance;



Thermosets are plastics that undergo chemical

change during processing to become permanently
infusible. If excessive heat is applied to a thermoset
material after the chemical change has taken place,
the plastic is degraded rather than melted. Before
the processing, the molecular structure of the
thermoset plastic is similar to that of a thermoplastic
material. Heating permits the relative sliding of the
molecules, the material takes on the properties of a
liquid and can be used to fill molds. However, while
still subjected to heat in the mold in a curing process,
the intertwined molecules develop cross--links to
form an irreversible network which prevents further
relative sliding.
The resulting solid plastic behaves much more like
an elastic material similar to metals. The viscoelastic
behavior is much reduced from that of most thermoplastics. At the same time, these thermoset
materials tend to be much less resistant to impact
loading, and tend to be used only with some
reinforcing medium in even moderate impact applications. On the other hand, thermosets tend to
maintain their strength properties at much higher
temperatures than most thermoplastics. Molding considerations
Solidification by chemical reaction often requires
greater processing time to allow for completion of the
curing. This tends to increase processing cost.
Some of the molding processes used for thermoset
plastics are almost scrapless, but others do leave
substantial scrap. Design considerations
The thermoset solidification process makes the
molded material less sensitive to cooling rates. It
therefore may permit the successful molding of parts
with varying section thickness and large parts with
heavy sections.
6.2 Additives
A variety of organic and inorganic materials are
added to plastics. A few may be used to reduce cost,
but most are used to improve a preferred property.
See table 1.

6.3 Available forms

6.3.1 Molding materials
For injection molding, which covers just about all the
thermoplastic materials, the material is supplied in
the form of pellets. If the molded part material is to
contain additives, these additives are generally
pre--compounded in the pellet material, uniformly
distributed in the proper proportion.
For molding processes used for thermoset materials, the material may be in the form of pellets or
molding preforms. These preforms are of a size and
shape to suit the mold, and of a volume to completely
fill the mold cavity with a minimum of flash. If the
molded part is to contain laminations of reinforcement material, these laminations are introduced into
the preforms.
6.3.2 Machining materials (see 4.1)
Plastic materials to be machined into gears are
available in a variety of forms. They are selected to
suit the size of the gear and the machining process
used to prepare the gear blank.
Most common are extruded circular rods or tubes.
For some plastic materials, these rods are extruded
by stock shape suppliers in diameters up to 200 mm;
for others only up to 150 or 100 mm. To go beyond
these diameter limits, materials may be available in
the form of cast solid or tubular bars or in the form of
disks. For thin gears, the blanks may be stamped or
cut from sheets; for thick gears and large diameters,
the gear blanks may be cut from plates that are
stocked up to 100 mm in thickness.


AGMA 920--A01


Table 1 -- Additives in plastics for molded gears



Minerals (mica, talc, carbon
powder, glass beads, etc.)
Glass fiber
Carbon fiber
Aramid fiber


for use1)
C, DC, E, H



H, w
H, E, W
H, ST, W, F

-- -D, WM, TW
C, D, TW
C, d
(Thermoset materials
C, MC, st
-- -ST
ST, D, C
w, c
C, MC, TW, D, ST, RI

Organic fabrics

Impact modifiers

Molybdenum disulfide
Processing aids
Stabilizers (UV/Heat)
Flame retardance


F, W
F, W, PA
F, W
F, W
-- -MC
-- --- --

C -- reduce cost; F -- reduce friction; H -- improve heat resistance; II -- improve impact resistance; ST -- improve
strength; W -- reduce wear; PA -- processing aide; E -- electrical; DC -- dimensional control (shrinkage).
C -- high cost; D -- distortion molding; MC -- molding condition; ST -- strength reduction; TW -- tool wear -- RI -reduce impact resistance; WM -- wear of gear mate.
NOTE: Lower case letter imply a lesser effect.

The stocked materials are generally limited to

commonly used plastics which are extrudable. They
are typically either without additives or with very few,
mostly in the form of color or internal lubricants.
Extruded rods can be custom prepared from almost
any kind of injection moldable plastic, including most
additives. Although glass fibers may be introduced
during extrusion, as it is with some stocked rods, the
glass interferes with machining and subsequent use.
Cast forms can be made from any material that suits
the casting process. Cast bars may also have metal
inserts which, after machining, serve as a metal core
that supplies high strength connections to steel
For very large gears, sections of the gear are cast in
the approximate shape and then machined to be
assembled as a full ring on a metal supporting
structure. The gear teeth are then machined in this
form and either kept on this structure, or
disassembled for shipping and then reassembled to
the same or similar support.


7 Plastic materials widely used for gears

A wide range of plastics are available with a wide
range of properties. Of these, there are a limited
number that have the combination of properties,
often with the help of additives, to give them wide use
as plastic gear materials. The plastics listed below
represent a generally accepted selection whose test
results suggest increased future use. Not included in
this list are other plastics used for gears when their
special properties are required for special applications. Over the course of time, it is expected,
additions to this list will be needed. These will
include plastics yet to be developed or, possibly,
those currently available but whose suitability for
gears has not yet been widely recognized.
This information sheet does not attempt to supply the
properties of the different plastics, neither quantitatively as reported by their manufacturers and
suppliers, nor even as qualitative comparisons. The
number of materials, along with all the variations
created by the use of additives, are too great for such


AGMA 920--A01

an undertaking. Furthermore, data published by the

various suppliers are not uniformly comprehensive
and are not necessarily collected under identical test
conditions, even when the same ASTM standard is
referenced (see 5.1).

specifically for gear applications, they were

designed for applications with similar mechanical
and physical property requirements. Their suitability
for economical manufacturing processes also
contributes to their widespread use.

The best sources for this type of information are the

material suppliers. They can often supply data not
widely distributed, especially data more directly
related to the requirements of the specific gear
application. If a general listing of properties is
desired, such as for preliminary qualitative
evaluations, it may be obtained from commercial

Individual polymers are listed in tables 2 (for molded

gears) and 3 (for machined gears). Each listing is
accompanied by the abbreviations sometimes used
as substitute identifications. Also shown are the
thermal and crystallinity classifications, followed by
codes for commonly used additives.

7.1 Engineering thermoplastics

Most of the plastics listed here are thermoplastics, of
the type commonly referred to as engineering
plastics to indicate their relatively high strength
properties. Although not necessarily developed

7.2 Thermosets
Only a small number of thermoset plastics have
been used for gears to any substantial degree. The
properties of most of this class of plastics are
generally less favorable to gears than to other
applications. The different type of processing is
often an additional obstacle to broader use for gears.

Table 2 -- Plastic materials for molded gears

Chemical name
Commonly used
Abbreviation classification 1) Crystallinity 2)
(common name)
additives 3)
Phenol--formaldehyde (phenolic)
-- -O, L, R, I
Polyamide (nylon)
N, R, L, I, O
Polybutylene terephthalate
N, R, L, I
R, L, I
N, R, L, I, O
Poly--oxymethylene (acetal)
N, R, L, I
Polyphenelene sulfide
R, L, I, O
Thermoplastic polyurethane
N, R, L
1) TP -- thermoplastic; TS -- thermosetting.
2) C -- crystalline; A -- amorphous.
3) N -- none; R -- reinforcement; L -- lubricant; I -- impact modifier; O -- other filler.

Table 3 -- Plastic materials for machined gears

Commonly used
Chemical name
Abbreviation classification 1) Crystallinity 2)
additives 3) 4)
(common name)
Polyamide (nylon)
N, L, R
-- -N, L
N, L, R
Poly--oxymethylene (acetal)
N, L, R
-- -N, L, R
Ultra high molecular weight
Phenol--formaldehyde (laminated
-- -Cotton fabric
Nylon fabric
1) TP -- thermoplastic; TS -- thermosetting.
2) C -- crystalline; A -- amorphous.
3) N -- none; R -- reinforcement; L -- lubricant; I -- impact modifier.
4) See for machining reinforced materials.


AGMA 920--A01

8 Material selection procedure

The material selection procedure consists of
successively matching material properties against
application requirements and progressively narrowing the list of suitable candidates to a limited few, or
even only one. A systematic procedure is preferred
over a random search. In a random search, it is
possible to overlook some suitable material or to
ignore some important application requirements.
In the procedure described below, the various
conditions of the application are considered in an
order that generally speeds the selection process.
The types of application conditions are:











-- ambient temperature during shipping and

storage (the range may be more extreme than
during operation, and an extreme condition may
be carried over to the very start of operation).
In the material selection process, the possible short
term temperature effects on the plastic material are:
-- dimensional change
expansion or contraction;




-- reduction in strength and stiffness with

increasing temperature;
-- reduction in impact strength with reducing
If the application also requires that the gears be
maintained at a high temperature for extended
periods of time, the added effects are:
-- material degradation leading to loss of
strength properties;

stress relaxation (e.g., press--fit assemblies);

-- distortion due to creep if load is applied


8.1 Environmental considerations

8.1.2 Moisture absorption

The properties of plastic materials are influenced by

environmental conditions. Also, this influence can
vary significantly among the different materials
available for gear applications. Therefore, the
environmental considerations are often examined
first in the material selection process.

The level of moisture absorption experienced in

each application will be based on one or more of the

The common environmental conditions are described below. Each description consists of a list of
potential sources of the condition followed by a list of
possible effects on the plastic material properties.
The material selection process will consist of
identifying those materials that offer adequate
performance under all of the conditions that apply.
8.1.1 Temperature range (ambient, heat from
gear action)
The temperatures experienced in each application
will be based on one or more of the following:
-- ambient temperature (outside of gear unit)
during operation;
-- heating due to adjacent sources of heat, such
as the motor, other electrical components, or
process heaters;
-- heating of the gears during operation due to
some combination of friction and hysteresis

-- ambient humidity (outside of gear unit) during

operation, including submersion in water;
-- heating of any source which tends to drive off
-- ambient humidity during shipping and storage (the range may be more extreme than during
operation, and an extreme condition may be
carried over to the very start of operation);
-- moisture absorbed during special processing
prior to use, such as autoclave sterilization.
In the material selection process, the possible
moisture effects on the plastic material are:

dimensional change;

-- reduction in strength and stiffness with

increasing moisture content;
-- reduction in impact strength with reducing
moisture content.
8.1.3 Chemical exposure
Resistance to chemical exposure is often the reason
for the selection of a plastic material. However,
plastic materials may have greatly different resistance to individual chemicals. The selection process


must eliminate those plastics that lack the necessary

chemical resistance.
The source of the chemical exposure may be any of
the following:
-- process fluid or gas inside the geared
-- ambient atmosphere which has been
contaminated by adjacent process equipment;
-- chemicals coming from other components
found in the product.
Hostile chemicals can have the following effects on a
non--resistant plastic material:
-- crazing (surface cracks) which reduce gear
-- other chemical effects which degrade
material strength and wear resistance;

dimensional changes.

8.1.4 Lubrication
The lubricant, either an oil or grease, may act as one
form of chemical exposure. If the type of the
lubricant is dictated by conditions necessary to other
aspects of the application, the plastic gear material
must be selected with appropriate chemical resistance. With less restrictive conditions on the choice
of lubricant, it may be possible to select a type which
is chemically compatible with an otherwise preferred
plastic material.
8.1.5 Abrasive particles
The source of such particles may be:
-- external dust entering into an inadequately
sealed gear case;

particles in an inadequately filtered lubricant;

-- wear particles from one or more mating

gears, including particles of potentially abrasive
-- wear particles from bearings or other sliding
The major effect of such particles is the increased
wear rate on the contacting gear surfaces. In some
reinforced materials, this wear may rapidly remove a
polymer--rich tooth surface exposing the reinforcing
material which may further increase wear. While
material selection can play a role in reducing a gears
susceptibility to wear caused by these particles, it is
generally preferred to design the abrasives out of the

AGMA 920--A01

system. In general, materials with good toughness

and impact resistance (nylons, elastomers) perform
relatively well in abrasive environments.
8.1.6 Radiation exposure
The source of such radiation may be:
-- ultraviolet light from natural (sunlight) or
artificial sources;
-- gamma and electron beam (e--beam)
radiation for sterilization of medical devices;

x--rays for medical or industrial inspection.

The effect of radiation exposure may reduce the

strength of some plastic materials.
8.1.7 Electrical effects
A variety of electrical considerations may be encountered in some plastic gear applications, such as:
-- generation of static electricity from the rubbing action of tooth contacts (leading to sparking
or dust attraction);
-- insulating or grounding (electrostatic dissipation) requirements for sources of electricity
outside of the gears;


While sparking can have a damaging effect on the

plastic gear, the electrical properties of the material
are generally selected to support the performance of
the product. This may mean the choice of a material
with relatively high electrical conductivity or other
special electrical properties.
8.1.8 Flammability
For many plastic applications, the consequences of
exposure to an actual flame must be considered.
This is important not only in electrical applications,
but also in any application where the plastic constitutes a significant percentage of the exposed area of
a defined enclosed space, i.e., plastic housings.
Typical tests measure combustibility, smoke generation, and ignition temperatures. The most common
test for thermoplastics are the UL Subject 94
Flammability Class (see 5.5.4).
8.2 Mechanical considerations
Once the list of materials has been narrowed by the
elimination of those that do not satisfy environmental
requirements, the selection procedure should look at
mechanical requirements. These can then be
matched against the appropriate mechanical properties as discussed elsewhere in this document.


AGMA 920--A01


8.2.1 Gear tooth loading

8.2.4 Friction conditions

The information on tooth loading will be derived from

the product operating conditions translated into the

Operational requirements may place limits on the

coefficients of friction and thereby also restrict
material selection.
The role of these friction
properties are:


load magnitude;


type of load: static, dynamic, impact, or stall;


load rate and frequency;

-- number of repeated load cycles over the life

of the product;
-- direction of repeated load on each tooth: one
direction or reversed, as in an idler gear or
reversing drive device.
This load information can be translated into material
strength requirements either by analytical or test
means, or by comparison to experience with similar
applications, with attention to bending, shear and
contact stresses.
8.2.2 Speed
This information is applied as follows:
-- along with duty cycle, to determine if
operational heating is a factor;
-- along with gear accuracy, to evaluate potential dynamic effects (increase in tooth loading
from induced vibration);
-- along with tooth contact pressures, to
determine effect on wear.
8.2.3 Wear conditions
The rate of wear generally cannot be predicted from
comparison of calculated wear factors to laboratory
test data on plastic materials. However, such
factors, in combination with data from similar applications, may be useful for qualitative comparisons
of candidate materials. The application data used
-- tooth contact pressures, calculated from
tooth loads and gear geometry;
-- tooth sliding velocity, calculated from rotational speed and gear geometry;
-- PV factor for gears, calculated as the product
of the above items;
-- a relative measure of the total wear duration,
such as the number of tooth load cycles.

-- static coefficient, used to determine starting

-- dynamic coefficient, used to determine
operating efficiency.
8.2.5 Noise
The source of audible noise in gearing has generally
been recognized to be the impacting and/or squeaking of the engagement/disengagement of gear teeth
and/or of gears turning on shafts. Wave energy from
initial events (impacts and/or squeaking) are then
conducted through the gear material to and through
the materials of associated components of the
assembly, e.g., shafts, housings, etc. This conducted wave energy can then be radiated from
surfaces of gears and the associated components of
the assembly. Additionally, forced/resonant vibrations of the structure of gears and associated
components of the assembly can amplify audible
Audible noise reduction in assemblies that include
gears can be a high priority for engineers/designers.
Reduction of noise can sometimes be accomplished
by judicious selection of materials for gears and
associated components in the assembly. In order to
achieve reduction in audible noise, selected materials should lessen the impact and/or squeaking,
reduce conduction of wave energy, and reduce the
radiation of audible noise from surfaces.
In solids, impact and/or squeaking, conduction of
wave energy, and radiation of audible noise from
surfaces are determined, essentially, by six material
properties: 1) lubricity; 2) wear; 3) hardness;
4) mass; 5) stiffness; and/or 6) damping. Audible
noise generation in plastic materials is generally
recognized as less of a problem when compared to
metals. This has been attributed to lower hardness,
higher lubricity, lower mass, lower stiffness and
higher damping.
Lubricity (see 5.2), wear (see 5.2), hardness (see
5.5.1 and 5.5.2), mass (see 5.5.3), stiffness (see
5.1.2), and damping (see 3.3.3 and 5.1.3) among
plastics materials differs. Therefore, like the comparison between plastics and metals, the judicious


choice of plastics materials through comparisons of

these parameters need to be investigated.
Another type of noise encountered by engineer/designers is visual noise as is experienced in poor
print quality in copiers, computer printers, fax
machines, etc. This noise can be, generally,
correlated with some degree of loss of conjugate
action of gear interfaces. Typically, for visual noise
reduction through judicious materials selection,
similar procedures as for audible noise reduction
should be followed. However, increased emphasis
on wear resistance (see 5.2), needs to be
8.3 Regulatory requirements
This exposure may take place with the gears in food
processing and serving devices. The primary
consideration is generally of the possible contaminating effect of the plastic on the food. Other
products, such as dental or medical devices, may
also contact substances that later enter the human
body or other living organisms. As a result, the
plastic material selected must meet approval of the a
regulatory organization such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA). These applications may also
require biocompatibility testing as outlined in ISO
10993, Biological Evaluation of Medical Devices.
8.4 Manufacturing considerations
The material selection may be further influenced by
manufacturing considerations.

AGMA 920--A01

8.5 Cost considerations

If the material selection process at this point is left
with multiple choices, cost considerations may be
responsible for the final selection. In evaluating the
costs associated with each of the materials, it is
important to consider all the cost elements, not just
the bulk cost of each material. These cost elements
will include:
-- tooling cost, especially the cost of molds for
molded gears;
-- raw material, where the relative scale of use
in other molded parts may be a significant cost
factor, and where regrind use and disposal may
be an additional factor;
-- processing, which may include cycle time and
number of mold cavities for molding, cutting rate
for machining, tool maintenance, scrap rate, and
frequency to process adjustments to maintain
-- secondary operations, including part handling and packing, made necessary for some
materials and not for others because of relative
difficulties in initial processing;
-- assembly, where some materials may impose
restrictions on some cases of press--fit or adhesive bonded joints.
8.5.1 Tooling (including mold)
In selecting the plastic material, it is important to
consider whether it will impose special conditions on
the tools used to produce the gear. Tool costs may
be greater for one material than for another,
potentially both in initial cost and in the frequency of
maintenance or replacement.

8.4.1 Molding Molding tools

The molding process generally presents a wide

choice of available materials, both in unmodified
form and as compounded with various additives.
Even among the moldable materials, there may be
wide differences in the resulting gear quality. The
choice of the material may require changes in part
design to reduce any molding difficulties.

If the material must be processed at higher temperatures, the complexity and cost of the mold will be
increased. Plastics with abrasive additions will
require more frequent replacement of mold components and, often, molding machining components as
well. Some other additives may produce a tough
adhering film on mold surfaces, increasing mold
maintenance and reducing mold life.

8.4.2 Machining
Producing gears by machining introduces its own
restrictions on material selection. These restrictions
may be the commercial availability of some materials. They may also come from practical considerations in the machining process. Machining tools

Frequency of resharpening and replacement, and
the associated loss of productivity, will be increased
when the plastic material contains additives that
more rapidly dull or coat the cutting tools. If the
selected material tends to leave firmly attached burrs


AGMA 920--A01

after machining, more frequent sharpening may be

needed to minimize this effect. This may also be
required when machining a material that more
readily deteriorates under the influence of the heat
produced by the cutting action. This heating may
need to be limited by not allowing an otherwise
acceptable degree of dulling of the tools cutting
edges before tool replacement is required.
8.5.2 Raw material -- cost and availability
The many types of plastic materials for use in gear
applications described in this document are readily
available on a commercial scale from a number of
sources. Typically, plastics for gears will be purchased in one of two forms, either as ready--to--use
pellets for a molding operation, or as bar or rod stock
for a machining operation. The pellets for use in
molding operations may be purchased either directly
from the manufacturer, or through a distributor
authorized to sell by the manufacturer. The pelletized materials typically come packaged either in
bags (23 or 25 kg per bag, packaged on a pallet of up
to 1000 kg in total weight) or lined boxes (usually
between 450 and 1000 kg in weight, depending upon
the manufacturer and the grade of material).
Packaged materials are shipped via truck, with
delivery times dependent upon shipping distance.
Lead times necessary for an order to be shipped
once it is received by the manufacturer or distributor
may vary from a few days or less for the most
commonly used products, to six weeks or more for
custom formulations or unusual materials.
These products are typically sold on a delivered
basis (freight pre--paid and absorbed by the seller),
F.O.B. shipping point. The selling prices are set by
the manufacturer, and are expressed as dollars per
kilogram of product.
Since plastics are sold on a weight basis, with the
specific gravity of differing grades of material often
varying substantially, but finished products such as
gears are defined by a specified volume of material,
it is advisable to compare relative prices of plastic
raw materials on a kilogram--volume cost basis.
Once the plastic material is received, it should be
handled according to the manufacturers recommendations, which may include specific instructions
for drying the product prior to use or other cautions
(for example, acetal polymers should never be
mixed with polymers containing PVC).


Excess or unused material must be disposed of

properly, according to prevailing environmental law,
or may possibly be returned to the manufacturer if
the containers are unopened. The manufacturers
policy for these situations should be checked.
Material purchased for a machining operation will be
supplied in rod or bar form by a stock shape supplier.
These products will be priced based upon their
dimensions (length and diameter, for example).
Most stock shape suppliers carry a wide variety of
products, produced from plastics supplied by many
manufacturers. It may be possible, in some cases, to
specify the precise type and grade of plastic material
8.5.3 Regrind
It is common in injection molding of plastic gears for a
significant percentage of the plastic material to be in
the sprue and runners that feed the resin to the gear
cavities. The weight of this material may be
substantial in relation to the weight of the molded
gears, and its cost becomes part of the total material
cost. To offset this added cost, consideration is often
given to regrinding some part of the runner systems,
or other scrap of the same material, and blending this
regrind in to the virgin plastic material used for the
gears. Not only is there a savings in the reduction of
purchased material, but there may be added savings
through a reduction in any scrap disposal costs.
For many plastics, if regrind is properly processed
and limited in percentage of the total mix and in the
number of regrind cycles, this practice may be
followed without significant loss of material properties. For other plastics, for example those with long
fiber reinforcements, successive processing does
degrade their properties and adding regrind may be
restricted. In considering material cost as a factor in
material selection, the suitability of using regrind and
its percentage in the mix helps determine the true
8.5.4 Processing
The term processing is a general but extremely
important component of injection molding. Processing refers to the establishment and documentation of
a stable thermoplastic injection molding process.
The principal component or variables of the process
are time, temperature and pressure. Uniform processing plays an important role in controlling the
accuracy and strength of gears. Lack of accurate
processing can cause gears to be undersized,


oversized, have a poor physical appearance, and in

extreme cases can cause brittleness. When processing unfamiliar material, pay special attention to
the recommended setting on the material data
sheets supplied by the material manufacturer.
8.5.5 Packing and handling
A plastic material that is more vulnerable to collision
damage at its gear tooth surfaces may require
special protective packaging and additional handling. This greater tendency for damage may result
from a lower surface hardness when the part is
released from the mold, or from a generally lower
resistance to impact.
8.5.6 Secondary operations for molded gears
Post molding operations may be needed for a variety
of reasons. Machining is used to add features that
were not practical to be introduced in the molding
process. Material selection will then be influenced
by the need to maintain ease of machining and low
cost. Another kind of post mold operation is
annealing or other thermal treatment used to reduce
internal stresses or to increase dimensional stability.
The need for such treatment, or its greater complexity and cost, can result from ill advised selection of
one material over another.
8.5.7 Assembly operation
Some plastic materials are better suited to the use of
snap--fits or similar assembly aids. Molded distortions that substantially add difficulty to the assembly
process may result from material selection. Such
distortions often require greater assembly forces

AGMA 920--A01

and greater risk of cracking and rejection of

assembled parts.
8.6 Quality
Meeting gear quality requirements may be of
primary importance in the material selection process. Quality generally refers to the geometry of the
plastic gears, typically features defined by dimensional measurements, including those related to the
shape and proportions of the individual teeth.
8.6.1 Machining
When the gear is to be manufactured by machining,
the resulting quality is less often dependent on the
material selected. For most materials, the gear
geometry quality is determined by the machine and
cutting tools used, and by the care in establishing
and maintaining the process.
8.6.2 Molding
The results of this process may vary depending on
the material selected. Molding gears of satisfactory
geometry requires tight control of shrinkage, both its
uniformity within the individual gear and its predictability and consistency over long runs. As mentioned in 4.2, some plastics do not shrink uniformly
and this can affect gear quality. Variations in
lot--to--lot consistency of material should also be
considered. Other material related issues which
may affect gear quality include tool wear, plate--out,
process instability and regrind usage. These
considerations are best confronted by consultation
with the molder, tool builder and material supplier
early in the material selection process.


AGMA 920--A01


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AGMA 920--A00


The following documents are either referenced in the text of AGMA 920--A00, Materials for Plastic Gears or
indicated for additional information.
ANSI/AGMA 1006--A97, Tooth Proportions for Plastic Gears
ASTM D256--97, Standard Test Methods for Determining the Izod Pendulum Impact Resistance of

ASTM D792--98, Standard Test Methods for Density and Specific Gravity (Relative Density) of Plastics
by Displacement
ASTM D1822--99, Standard Test Method for Tensile--Impact Energy to Break Plastics and Electrical
Insulating Materials

ASTM D543--95, Standard Practices for Evaluating

the Resistance of Plastics to Chemical Reagents

ASTM D2240--97e1, Standard Test Method for

Rubber Property--Durometer Hardness

ASTM D570--98, Standard Test Method for Water

Absorption of Plastics

ASTM D2990--01, Standard Test Methods for

Tensile, Compressive, and Flexural Creep and
Creep--Rupture of Plastics

ASTM D635--98, Standard Test Method for Rate of

Burning and/or Extent and Time of Burning of
Plastics in a Horizontal Position
ASTM D638--99, Standard Test Method for Tensile
Properties of Plastics
ASTM D648--98c, Standard Test Method for Deflection Temperature of Plastics Under Flexural Load in
the Edgewise Position
ASTM D671--93, Standard Test Method for Flexural
Fatigue of Plastics by Constant--Amplitude--of-Force
ASTM D696--98, Standard Test Method for Coefficient of Linear Thermal Expansion of Plastics
Between --30C and 30C With a Vitreous Silica
ASTM D732--99, Standard Test Method for Shear
Strength of Plastics by Punch Tool
ASTM D746--98, Standard Test Method for Brittleness Temperature of Plastics and Elastomers by

ASTM D2863--97, Standard Test Method for Measuring the Minimum Oxygen Concentration to
Support Candle--Like Combustion of Plastics (Oxygen Index)
ASTM D3702--94 (1999), Standard Test Method for
Wear Rate and Coefficient of Friction of Materials in
Self--Lubricated Rubbing Contact Using a Thrust
Washer Testing Machine
ASTM D3801--00, Standard Test Method for Measuring the Comparative Burning Characteristics of
Solid Plastics in a Vertical Position
ASTM D4065--95, Standard Practice for Determining and Reporting Dynamic Mechanical Properties
of Plastics
ASTM D4092--96, Standard Terminology Relating
to Dynamic Mechanical Measurements on Plastics
ASTM D5023--99, Standard Test Method for Measuring the Dynamic Mechanical Properties of Plastics Using Three Point Bending
ASTM D5024--95a, Standard Test Method for
Measuring the Dynamic Mechanical Properties of
Plastics in Compression

ASTM D785--98, Standard Test Method for Rockwell Hardness of Plastics and Electrical Insulating

ASTM D5026--01, Standard Test Method for

Plastics: Dynamic Mechanical Properties: In

ASTM D790--99, Standard Test Methods for Flexural Properties of Unreinforced and Reinforced
Plastics and Electrical Insulating Materials

ASTM D5279--99, Standard Test Method for Measuring the Dynamic Mechanical Properties of Plastics in Torsion


AGMA 920--A00

ASTM D5418--99, Standard Test Method for Measuring the Dynamic Mechanical Properties of Plastics Using a Dual Cantilever Beam
ASTM E662--97, Standard Test Method for Specific
Optical Density of Smoke Generated by Solid
ASTM F433, Standard Practice for Evaluating
Thermal Conductivity of Gasket Materials
IEC 60695--2--10, Fire hazard testing -- Part 2--10:
Glowing/hot--wire based test methods -- Glow wire
apparatus and common test procedure
IEC 60695--2--11, Fire hazard testing -- Part 2--11:
Glowing/hot--wire based test methods -- Glow--wire
flammability test method for end products
IEC 60695--2--12, Fire hazard testing -- Part 2--12:
Glowing/hot--wire based test methods -- Glow--wire
flammability test method for materials
IEC 60695--2--13, Fire hazard testing -- Part 2--13:
Flowing/hot--wire based test methods -- Glow--wire
ignitability test method for materials
ISO 10350--1:1998, Plastics -- Acquisition and
presentation of comparable single--point data -- Part
1: Moulded plastics
ISO 10993--1:1997, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 1: Evaluation and testing
ISO 10993--2:1992, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 2: Animal welfare
ISO 10993--3:1992, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 3: Tests for genotoxicity,
carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity
ISO 10993--4:1992, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 4: Selection of tests for
interactions with blood
ISO 10993--5:1999, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 5: Tests for in vitro
ISO 10993--6:1994, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 6: Tests for local effects after
ISO 10993--7:1995, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 7: Ethylene oxide
sterilization residuals


ISO 10993--8:2000, Biological evaluation of

medical devices -- Part 8: Selection and
qualification of reference materials for biological
ISO 10993--9:1999, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 9: Framework for identification and quantification of potential degradation
ISO 10993--10:1995, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 10: Tests for irritation and
ISO 10993--11:1993, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 11: Tests for systemic
ISO 10993--12:1996, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 12: Sample preparation and
reference materials
ISO 10993--13:1998, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 13: Identification and
quantification of degradation products from
polymeric medical devices
ISO 10993--14:2001, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 14: Identification and
quantification of degradation products from
ISO 10993--15:2000, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 15: Identification and
quantification of degradation products from metals
and alloys
ISO 10993--16:1997, Biological evaluation of
medical devices -- Part 16: Toxicokinetic study
design for degradation products and leachables
ISO 11403--1:1994, Plastics -- Acquisition and
presentation of comparable multipoint data -- Part 1:
Mechanical properties
ISO 11403--2:1995, Plastics -- Acquisition and
presentation of comparable multipoint data -- Part 2:
Thermal and processing properties
ISO 11403--3:1999, Plastics -- Acquisition and
presentation of comparable multipoint data -- Part 3:
Environmental influences on properties
U.L. 94, Test for Flammability of Plastic Materials for
Parts in Devices and Appliances
U.L. 746B, Polymeric Materials -- Long Term
Property Evaluation