Many industrial applications require machinery to be powered by engines or electric motors. The power source usually runs most efficiently at a narrow range of rotational speed. When the application requires power to be delivered at a slower speed than supplied by the motor, a speed reducer is introduced.

The speed reducer should transmit the power from the motor to the application with as little energy loss as practical, while reducing the speed and consequently increasing the torque. For example, assume that a company wishes to provide off-the-shelf speed reducers in various capacities and speed ratios to sell to a wide variety of target applications. The marketing team has determined a need for one of these speed reducers to satisfy the following customer requirements.

Design Requirements
Power to be delivered: 20 hp
Input speed: 1750 rev/min
Output speed: 85 rev/min
Targeted for uniformly loaded applications, such as conveyor belts, blowers,
and generators
Output shaft and input shaft in-line
Base mounted with 4 bolts
Continuous operation
6-year life, with 8 hours/day, 5 days/wk
Low maintenance
Competitive cost
Nominal operating conditions of industrialized locations
Input and output shafts standard size for typical couplings

In reality, the company would likely design for a whole range of speed ratios for each power capacity, obtainable by interchanging gear sizes within the same overall design. For simplicity, in this case study only one speed ratio will be considered.

Notice that the list of customer requirements includes some numerical specifics, but also includes some generalized requirements, e.g., low maintenance and competitive cost. These general requirements give some guidance on what needs to be considered in the design process, but are difficult to achieve with any certainty.

In order to pin down these nebulous requirements, it is best to further develop the customer requirements into a set of product specifications that are measurable. This task is usually achieved through the work of a team including engineering, marketing, management, and customers.

Various tools may be used (see Footnote 1) to prioritize the requirements, determine suitable metrics to be achieved, and to establish target values for each metric. The goal of this process is to obtain a product specification that identifies precisely what the product must satisfy. The following product specifications provide an appropriate framework for this design task.

Design Specifications
Power to be delivered: 20 hp
Power efficiency: >95%
Steady state input speed: 1750 rev/min
Maximum input speed: 2400 rev/min
Steady-state output speed: 82–88 rev/min
Usually low shock levels, occasional moderate shock
Input and output shaft diameter tolerance: ±0.001 in
Output shaft and input shaft in-line: concentricity ±0.005 in, alignment
±0.001 rad
Maximum allowable loads on input shaft: axial, 50 lbf; transverse, 100 lbf
Maximum allowable loads on output shaft: axial, 50 lbf; transverse, 500 lbf
Base mounted with 4 bolts
Mounting orientation only with base on bottom
100% duty cycle
Maintenance schedule: lubrication check every 2000 hours; change of lubrication
every 8000 hours of operation; gears and bearing life >12,000 hours;
infinite shaft life; gears, bearings, and shafts replaceable
Access to check, drain, and refill lubrication without disassembly or opening of
gasketed joints.
Manufacturing cost per unit: <$300
Production: 10,000 units per year
Operating temperature range: −10◦ to 120◦F
Sealed against water and dust from typical weather
Noise: <85 dB from 1 meter

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