What are the mechanisms of friction that occur in the highly pressurized contacts between mating gear teeth, and how are these changed with for instance sliding speed, temperature and oil type? These are typical questions to be answered in this research projects which aims to provide knowledge to the Swedish automotive industry for more efficient drive trains leading to reduced fuel consumption, emissions and increased service life.
Reducing losses in transmissions has become a high priority in the automotive market during recent years, mainly due to environmental concerns leading to regulations placed on the automotive industry to drive the development of vehicles with lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Rising fuel prices and increasing environmental concerns have also made customers more prone to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles. In addition to the fuel savings that could be achieved by increased efficiency of transmissions there are other benefits as well. A more efficient transmission will in general generate less heat, and experience less wear. This will lead to fewer failures, longer service life of components, and possibly longer service intervals. Furthermore this implies a possibility to reduce coolant components, thus reducing the total weight of the system, leading to a further decrease in consumption and a lower impact on the environment due to a reduction of material usage. A low weight design is also beneficial for vehicle dynamics and handling. In addition to the automotive market, gears are extensively used in many other fields, such as wind power and industry.
In some cases a substantial part of the losses in a gear transmission is attributed to gear contact friction due to sliding and rolling between the gear teeth. To better understand the contact friction phenomena in gears an experimental apparatus capable of running under similar conditions to gears is chosen. By using a ball on disc test device the contact friction can be measured in a broad range of speeds and slide to roll ratios (SRR). The results are presented as a 3D friction map which can be divided into four different regions; Linear, Non-linear, mixed and thermal. In each of these regions different mechanisms are influencing the coefficient of friction. Several tests have been conducted with different lubricants, EP- additive packages, operating temperatures, surface roughness and coatings. The method gives a good overview, a system fingerprint, of the frictional behaviour for a specific system in a broad operating range. By observing results for different systems, it is possible to identify how different changes will influence the coefficient of friction in different regimes, and therefore optimize the system depending on operating conditions.
Among other things the tests have shown that reducing base oil viscosity increases contact friction in most operating conditions, introducing an earlier transition from full film to mixed lubrication, and increasing full film friction in many cases with high sliding speeds. An increase in operating temperature could both increase, and decrease the coefficient of friction depending on running conditions. Introducing smoother surfaces reduces the coefficient of friction at lower entrainment speeds since thinner lubricant films are required to avoid asperity collitions. By applying a DLC coating on one or both surfaces in a EHL contact, the friction coefficient is shown to decrease, even in the full film regime.