January 2009

Engineering Case Histories

Case 48: Troubleshooting a roller-bearing failure

Life to failure and design life aren't the same thing

Sofronas, A., Consulting Engineer

A small roller bearing failed in a prototype gearbox on the idler gear shaft (Fig. 1). The purpose of the idler gear was to reverse the rotation of the output gear.  Notice that the input and output gears have a single tooth loaded while the idler gear has two teeth loaded. The arrows show the load direction on the teeth. These two loads (F1 + F2) represent the force reaction the idler bearings must tolerate and are used to determine their life. One way to illustrate this is with an actual case history. This particular unit had an idler bearing fail due to spalling during prototype testing after only 635 hrs of operation. The following troubleshooting analysis was done: For a spur gear th

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