Niklas Lingesten (LTU)

Published: 19 March 2012

Wear behavior of wet clutches

 

Human civilization is largely based on the transformation of stored chemical energy in the form of fossil fuels into usable work through the use of the combustion engine. In recent years, the awareness of problems such as global warming due to emissions of greenhouse gases and the depletion of fossil fuel reserves has increased. New regulations have been put into place in order to limit these effects and as a result, the efforts made by the automotive industry to limit the emissions and fuel consumption of their products has taken a higher priority. Attempting to minimize power losses is one approach taken, where the knowledge of Tribology is often made use of to lower the fuel consumption. 

In heavy duty equipment such as wheel loaders and articulated haulers, a large portion of the mechanical power is lost in the transmission. One of the largest contributors to the transmission power losses is the viscous drag in disengaged wet clutches. While the method of reducing these losses are quite clear (e.g. a reduction in clutch size will yield lower losses), the effects of the subsequent increase in power and energy density in clutch engagements are less clear.

In this thesis, the effects of increasing the load, i.e. increasing energy input density and power absorption density, on the clutch are investigated. The main concern with increased load on the clutch is the durability of the clutch. In particular, wear of the paper-based friction material lining of the friction discs has been evaluated, as well as the influence of friction material wear on the clutch performance. 

A new type of test rig has been developed to quantitatively measure the clutch wear throughout a durability test. The wear measured continuously in the test rig correlates well with verification measurements performed while the engagement behavior could be clearly distinguished through the measured torque transfer.

At high energy densities and high power levels, a wear phenomenon was observed where the wear rate suddenly changed. During and after the change there was no significant change in engagement characteristics. However, if a clutch which experiences two different wear rates are to be used in a transmission, it is necessary to accurately model the wear so that a compensation can be implemented in the clutch control system. The model was derived in the form of a wear equation where the clutch pack thickness is described in terms of the number of clutch engagements, employing two different wear constants. 

Total clutch failure due to wear occurs once most of the friction lining has been removed from the friction discs. Up to that point, the clutch is still able to deliver the required torque transfer granted that the increased distance between discs can be compensated for by smart control of the clutch. Heavy duty wet clutches need to be designed in such a way that maximum power and energy density is achieved without reaching the point where the friction lining is totally removed within the required clutch life. The use of the proposed wear model can aid in the design of new wet clutch systems to minimize the clutch's size without compromising the length of its service life.

Read the thesis