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MDA Technologies 3/2016

MDA Technologies 3/2016

Differential roller

Differential roller screw and electromechanical actuators vs. hydraulics Craig Hooker, Gregory Falco Power density. It is one of the primary reasons why design engineers and manufacturers rely on hydraulics when they want their machines to move something. Hydraulic systems offer very high force density in a compact, relatively economical design. But there are inherent drawbacks to hydraulics that are leading more and more designers and manufacturers to consider an electromechanical system as an alternative to its hydraulic counterpart. Until now, however, replacing that hydraulic cylinder with an actuator and screw driven by an electric motor meant, depending on the type of screw, settling for lower load capacity, lower duty cycles, poor efficiency, or prohibitively high costs. To help solve this dilemma, Schaeffler has introduced its PWG differential roller screw: a combination of affordability and high power density in a versatile package that could finally allow the electromechanical actuator to step out of the hydraulic system’s shadow. An electromechanical system offers a number of advantages over its hydraulic counterpart. With a hydraulic system, there is always the potential for leakage because high-pressure fluid is basically being transported through a tube. Heat and thermal expansion have a way of wreaking havoc on joints and gaskets over time, especially when adding fluid that is under thousands of psi of pressure. With an electromechanical system, the potential for leaks goes away. Lead screws are a low-cost option that can work well for intermittent applications which require only low duty cycles. However, the lead screw is let down by its low load capacity and poor efficiency. Ball screws, by comparison, are far more efficient, as they provide very good accuracy, repeatability, and mechanical advantage. The ball screw’s improved efficiency is due to the rolling motion of the balls inside of the nut, which contrasts with the lead screw’s sliding motion. But ball screws have drawbacks, too: they are more prone to contamination entering the ball track and clogging up the balls’ ability to recirculate; they can be louder than lead screws because of the recirculating balls; and ball screws are more expensive than lead screws. Despite their inherent virtues, neither of the first two options provide what is truly needed to allow the electromechanical actuator to act as a viable alternative to the workhorse hydraulic system. That would be power density. MACHINE ELEMENTS Electric motor vs. fluid power From a performance standpoint, a device that is powered by an electric motor typically offers better controllability than a mechanism that relies on fluid power. Using simple software programming, one can take a motor and command it to move to a specific position. Connect that motor to a screw, and that screw will do what the motor does. No need for the hydraulic system’s sophisticated valving, or an understanding of flow rates or pressure. Similarly, an electromechanical system is typically faster to respond and more rigid in its location than a hydraulic system, in addition to being more precise. An electromechanical system also offers far more sophisticated move profiles than one can expect with a hydraulic system, without really much added cost at all. So if one accepts the premise that an electromechanical system is better than its hydraulic counterpart in many applications, then the next step is to choose the best method for optimizing the system from an actuator standpoint. Here, the core component is typically the screw, and the design engineer can choose between lead screw, ball screw, and roller screw. Author: Craig Hooker and Gregory Falco, Schaeffler, Inc. in Fort Mill, South Carolina Two to five times more force This is where the third alternative - the roller screw - comes in, as it has the ability to generate two to five times the force of an equivalent ball screw. In addition, roller screws are quite efficient. They also offer accuracies similar to that of ball screws, and they deliver high duty cycles. Most importantly, roller screws have outstanding load-carrying capacity, which makes them an excellent option for use inside an electromechanical actuator that could replace a hydraulic system. However, the roller screw’s main Achilles’ heel has typically been its high cost. Extremely precise grinding tolerances are required to get the load-sharing across the many points of contact in the roller screw’s assembly or in the nut. This exacting manufacturing process means that a roller screw can be ten times as expensive as an equivalent ball screw. Such a profound increase in cost can present an insurmountable hurdle to a design engineer who is just trying to replace a hydraulic system inside a machine that, ultimately, still has to be affordable for the end user. Many years of experience To address this issue, Schaeffler set out to develop a solution that would deliver the high forces of a traditional ground roller screw product, but at a price point closer to that of a precision-rolled ball MDA Technologies 3/2016

screw. The key to making this solution a reality was Schaeffler’s many years of experience with complex manufacturing technologies, specifically forming techniques. That solution is now known as the PWG differential roller screw. The key to making the PWG a reality was to produce its spindle and planet gears by forming (rolling) instead of grinding - which is the time-consuming, wasteful, and expensive process ordinarily used to manufacture traditional roller screws. So why not use forming instead of grinding for all roller screws? The short answer: forming threads is extremely difficult. Unless it is done right, forming is not as precise as grinding away material. And if the threads are not sufficiently precise, then the points of contact between the planets and spindle may not line up properly, which ultimately diminishes the system’s load capacity. Thanks to Schaeffler’s remarkable engineering prowess and decades of experience manufacturing high-precision products using complex forming technologies, the electromechanical actuator may be well on its way to displacing the venerable hydraulic system in more than just a few applications. And at the core of this revolution is the PWG differential roller screw, with its ingenious combination of affordability, high load-carrying capacity - and high power density! Photographs: Schaeffler www.schaeffler.com About Schaeffler Schaeffler’s PWG differential roller screw - whose spindle and planets are manufactured using forming, instead of traditional grinding, methods - is characterized by a very high power density The Schaeffler Group is a leading global integrated automotive and industrial supplier. The company stands for the highest quality, outstanding technology, and strong innovative ability. The Schaeffler Group makes a key contribution to “mobility for tomorrow” with highprecision components and systems in engine, transmission, and chassis applications as well as rolling and plain bearing solutions for a large number of industrial applications. The technology company generated sales of approximately EUR 13.2 billion in 2015. With around 84,000 employees, Schaeffler is one of the world’s largest family companies and, with approximately 170 locations in more than 50 countries, has a worldwide network of manufacturing locations, research and development facilities, and sales companies. keeps you up to date www.mda-technologies.com www.facebook.com/ mdatechnologies www.google.com/ +Mda-technologies www.twitter.com/ MDA_Technology www.vimeo.com/ channels/ mdatechnologies Follow us online! MDA Technologies 3/2016

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