Vibration monitoring is widely used to determine the condition of various mechanical systems. Traditionally a transducer is attached to the structure under investigation and the vibration signal recorded. This signal is then processed and the required information extracted from the signal. With epicyclic gearboxes this traditional approach is not advisable. This is in part due to the fact that the planet gears rotate internally on a planet carrier. Special techniques are therefore required to extract a viable data signal from the measured vibration signal. These techniques require an additional post-processing step in which a compiled data signal is extracted from the measured data signal. This work investigates the possibility of mounting transducers internally on the rotating planet carrier. Mounting transducers at this location removes the relative motion seen in traditional measurement techniques. An epicyclic gearbox is modified to facilitate the internal mounting of the accelerometers. A number of implementation problems are highlighted and solutions to these problems are discussed. A large portion of the work is dedicated to implementing and qualifying the epicyclic time synchronous averaging technique which is traditionally used to evaluate epicyclic gearboxes. As this technique forms the basis to evaluate the data obtained from internal measurements, it is of fundamental importance that the technique is implemented correctly. It is shown that vibration data can be reliably measured internally, by means of accelerometers mounted on the planet carrier. The internally measured data is compared to data obtained by traditional techniques and shown to be equally adept in detecting deterioration of a planet gear tooth. Simple condition indicators were used to compare the vibration data of the two techniques. It was seen that the data obtained from the internally mounted accelerometers was equally, and in certain cases, slightly more sensitive to planet gear damage. This implies that the technique can be used successfully to evaluate epicyclic gearbox damage. There are a number of practical implementation problems that will limit the use of this technique. As the technology becomes available to transmit measured vibration signals wirelessly, the application of the internal measurement technique will become more viable. A preliminary investigation was also launched into the relationship between a planetary gearbox with a single planet gear and one with multiple planet gears. It is illustrated that vibration data, measured from a gearbox containing a single planet gear, shows an increased sensitivity to planet gear damage. Although a special test rig might be required, the increased sensitivity to damage can provide a method to test planet gears in critical applications such as aircraft gearboxes. Copyright
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2010.