Lubrication testing in gearboxes is one of the central tasks of the Institute for machine components and methods of development at Graz University of Technology. In order to do justice to its role as an expert in this field, the IME has set itself the task of further developing the investigation methods currently used in this area and of significantly improving the quality and significance of the results. With the current state of the art, various tests are used to analyse the lubrication circuits in gearboxes. So-called dye tests and visual examinations by means of transparent gear structures play an essential role. Challenges in these tests, which are usually carried out on swivel position test benches, are above all the limited informative value and the enormous time expenditure of these procedures. Colouring agent tests characterise the lubrication condition only at one speed and transparent structures such as gearwheels or similar cannot be used everywhere due to the mechanical stresses. Furthermore, a visual examination does not allow an objective statement about the lubrication condition of the gear and the installation of complex sensor technology is very difficult due to the spatial conditions and the increasing structural nesting. These challenges were taken by IME as an opportunity to launch a new research project and to advance into a new field. With the establishment of an electronics laboratory and the employment of a team of electrical engineers, the IME is for the first time dealing with the development of electronic sensor technology and can already show first successes after a short time in the form of a functional sensor prototype.
The developed sensor with the working name FMwMD was designed for the metrological quantification of flow and temperature of the lubricant and is also suitable for the detection of air bubbles and oil splashes, among other things. Due to its miniaturised design, the sensor can be applied directly at critical measuring points such as oil wells and the like in gearboxes, thus enabling a better understanding of the lubrication condition over the entire operating range at any speed, temperature and swivel position. This new approach has the potential to significantly improve currently used methods and, in addition to more accurate measurement results, brings not only qualitative but also time and cost advantages. Initial tests in pilot projects with customers and partners of the IME delivered promising results and confirmed the necessity and relevance of this new test method or sensor.
Further technological development steps provide for the realisation of a minimally invasive design. In addition, work is being carried out on wireless data transmission in order to be able to transmit the measured data from the gearbox. With this development, the IME is pursuing the goal of setting a new standard for lubrication testing based on the numerous improvements and establishing the patented sensor as a "must-have" for swivel position testing and oiling analyses.
Institute of Machine Components and Methods of Development