UWaterloo's collaborative research with ODG brings growth and new technology

Project Summary

The Precision Controls Laboratory at the University of Waterloo (UWaterloo), part of WatCAR Manufacturing, brings Industry 4.0 to life in conquering the complexity of gear manufacturing with an automated, virtual simulation tool that uses intelligent algorithms to optimize the machining of gears. UWaterloo developed virtual modelling software as a result of collaborative research with Ontario Drive & Gear (ODG) to increase production efficiency, improve gear quality, and reduce production costs, by eliminating much of the manual effort involved with traditional process development and quality control.

Gear examples from ODG.

“The impact of our work with the Precision Controls Laboratory at UWaterloo has significantly increased productivity and decreased costs by enhancing the capabilities of ODG engineers.”

– Liam Tiernan, General Manager and Vice President, Gear Division, Ontario Drive & Gear

Partner

Ontario Drive & GearFounded in 1962, ODG operates from three facilities in New Hamburg, Ontario with 150,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space. ODG designs, manufactures, assembles and tests over 1,000 unique gear and transmission products. Their diverse client base includes industrial, military, forestry, oil & gas, agricultural, automotive, and more. ODG has reported measurable productivity improvements and business growth as a direct result of collaboration with UW researchers.

Challenge

The traditional approach to process development and quality control in gear manufacturing relies on technician experience, trial and error, and practical recommendations. These methods are expensive, tedious, and can also result in sub-optimal process parameters, wasted machine time and materials, or sometimes damage to tooling.

To overcome this challenge, UWaterloo researchers developed a virtual simulation of the physics of gear manufacturing, through in-depth mathematical analysis and intelligent algorithms, to represent the complex gear cutting mechanics, dynamic interactions between the CNC control system, the tooling and the workpiece. This enables process metrics and quality prediction to be achieved for ‘virtually machined’ gears.

Solution

A unique virtual machining program was developed and licensed by UWaterloo as a result of this collaborative research. The program requires input of dimensions, materials, tooling, machine/process parameters to employ a holistic approach to modelling the kinematics and dynamics of gear shaping. Process simulation and quality control in a virtual environment enables numerous iterations to optimize performance without wasting machine time and materials.

The software generates data and associated graphics that illustrate flaws and opportunities for optimization, and the integrated metrology allows the majority of the quality control to occur in a virtual simulation, thereby reducing process development time and cost.

In this successful technology transfer, UWaterloo researchers deployed the software at ODG, trained engineers and process developers on-site, and offer continued training support for current applications and future collaborative research.

Impact

ODG engineers and process developers were trained on-site by the UWaterloo team, resulting in successful technology transfer to fill the gap between scientific research and productivity on the shop floor.

ODG reported up to 24% production improvement for high-volume gear production for major Canadian customers, including a forestry equipment producer and a Tier 1 automotive supplier.

The reduction in production cycle times freed up machine capacity to grow the existing business and develop new customer relationships. This business growth has translated to a proportionate increase in shifts and hiring new manufacturing, quality control and support staff.

Future

UWaterloo and ODG continue to collaborate on optimizing a broad suite of gear manufacturing operations (e.g., hobbing and power skiving), which is expected to result in additional cost savings, production efficiencies, improved part performance and business growth.

UWaterloo retains the software licensing and is eager to expand to new industry partners.