System checks automotive gears

Automotive gearboxes interconnect a complex set of mechanical parts, including constant mesh gear sets, synchronizer rings, dog clutches, and shifting forks. Should any part fail completely, the complete gearbox often needs to be re-built.

Nov 1st, 2001
Th 78210

Andrew Wilson,Editor,andyw@pennwell.com

Automotive gearboxes interconnect a complex set of mechanical parts, including constant mesh gear sets, synchronizer rings, dog clutches, and shifting forks. Should any part fail completely, the complete gearbox often needs to be re-built. During the manufacture of gearboxes, automotive manufacturers must therefore pay careful attention to the mechanical quality of each part before it is assembled into the finished gearbox. A major automotive company, Volkswagen (Kassel, Germany), builds several different gearboxes that use numerous types of gears. If the gear teeth are faulty, "grinding" can occur during shifting.

Click here to enlarge image

Volkswagen enlisted the help of HGV Vosseler (Oehringen, Germany), a specialist in integrating industrial image-processing systems and custom systems. HGV developed a vision system that uses a conveyor to carry gear wheels into the inspection workcell. After an initial reference run determines the starting point of the inspection and defines an acceptable gear tooth, the gears are inspected tooth-by-tooth using as many as four CCD cameras.

At the VISION 2001 trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany, HGV sales engineer Michael Koch explained how the system had been designed. "To image the integrity of each of the gear teeth," says Koch, "it was necessary to inspect the gear wheels from both sides as well as inspect the inside of the gear at each tooth point."


Using multiple cameras attached to an off-the-shelf frame grabber, the HGV inspection system measures the integrity of gear teeth from several angles (a). While two cameras are dedicated to inspecting the outside of the gear teeth, a third camera images the inside surface of the teeth using a image reflected from a mirror placed 45° to the horizontal (b).
Click here to enlarge image

To image both sides of the gears, two XC-75 CCD cameras from Sony Deutschland GmbH (Köln, Germany) are mounted diametrically opposite the path of the gear on the conveyor belt. These images are captured using two PC-based PCEye frame grabbers from Eltec Elektronik AG (Mainz, Germany). To image the inside of the gear at each tooth, an M50 CCD camera from JAI Camera Solutions (Glostrup, Denmark) images the reflection from a mirror positioned at 45° to the horizontal plane. Images from this camera are digitized by a third PC-based PCEye frame grabber.

Rather than use off-the-shelf software to inspect the captured images, HGV uses its SMF-50 PC-based vision software. Via a graphical user-interface, the software measures the parameters of each gear tooth, checks the integrity of the gear teeth, and detects any damage. After each tooth is examined, the vision system triggers a programmable logic controller (PLC) to move the gear in a circular fashion so that the next tooth can be inspected.

The inspection process is then repeated until all the gear teeth are examined. According to Koch, this process takes approximately 20 seconds for each gear, depending on the number of gear teeth to be inspected. In addition to teeth inspection, the soldered joints on the gear wheel are also inspected. A good/ bad/rework switch guides the faulty gear wheels or associated plate bushings to the next processing step.

More in Cables & Connectivity