Viewpoint Systems Improves Gear Finishing Using Real-Time Embedded Control System With NI RIO Hardware

The Gleason Works sought to create a dynamic, torque-controlled lapping solution with responsive, real-time feedback to create better quality gears and reduce cycle time for its gear lapping machines.

Gleason Corporation and The Gleason Works create the machines, tooling, processes, and services needed to produce the bevel and cylindrical gears found virtually everywhere—from automobiles and airplanes to trucks and tractors, and from giant wind turbines that can power a thousand homes to the lawn mowers and power tools found at these homes.

Gear tooth surfaces and spacing are never perfectly machined, and consequently, noise and vibration are often present in applications where the gears are later used. Gears, after the typical heat treatment process, are commonly lapped or ground to smooth the gear teeth surfaces and improve operational characteristics. The goal of lapping is to reduce surface and tooth spacing deviations that may produce noisy gear sets.

Gleason machines lap gears in pairs, the mating gear and pinion members rotating together at a high speed with an abrasive lapping slurry applied. After machining and heat treatment, however, the spacing deviations that need to be lapped are at unknown locations on the gears and can show themselves as run-out (i.e., an off-center axis). To further complicate finding the deviations, the run-out is actually composed of multiple orders, likely making the run-out for each order different than the others.

One conventional approach to lapping employs machines with relatively high-inertia spindles to carry the gear set members. At moderate speeds, this configuration can somewhat reduce spacing errors during lapping, but is far from optimal in refining the tooth surfaces. Another approach employs at least one low-inertia spindle. This configuration can refine tooth surfaces well, but tends to increase spacing errors—especially at higher speeds. In both conventional cases, one spindle is operated in a simple constant torque command mode to control lapping force, but the critically important dynamic torque components are left to passive physics.

To get the best of both worlds, Gleason could no longer rely on passive physics, and turned to Viewpoint Systems to help develop and implement an embedded control system that could measure deviations in real-time and apply dynamic corrective torque.

Solution: Viewpoint Systems, a member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), provided system integration using NI RIO technology and LabVIEW FPGA code for real-time measurement and control.

Gleason engaged Viewpoint Systems to implement this real-time measurement and control system because of their expertise with the leading reconfigurable I/O (RIO) hardware from National Instruments. Viewpoint used the NI RIO technology and developed LabVIEW FPGA code to create a real-time measurement and control solution for the lapping machine.

Viewpoint equipped an NI cRIO-9076 controller with an NI 9411 digital input (DI) module and an NI 9263 analog output (AO) module. The DI module monitors two digital rotational encoders, one on each spindle carrying the bevel gear set members. Innovative analysis of these angular signals can tease out subtle variations in the average rotational speed. Coupled with sophisticated order analysis, these variations are used to modify the torque applied to the gear set at the proper angular positions and with the appropriate amplitude. Thus, the high-frequency dynamic torque components experienced by the gear set during lapping are no longer dominated by passive physics, but are actively controlled to achieve desired results.

Viewpoint created the system to manage all of the measurements, analyses, and torque corrections in the RIO FPGA with specific, efficient coding in LabVIEW FPGA using Viewpoint’s FPGA IP toolset. The cRIO controller provides data collection and even data archiving functions to support other advanced post-processing. The controller also provides an API to control the adaptive lapping process from a supervisory application.

Products Used

NI LabVIEW FPGA, NI cRIO-9076 controller, NI 9411 digital input module, NI 9263 analog output module.


With this new, patent-pending system founded on embedded control and dynamic real-time process monitoring technologies, Gleason and Viewpoint bring exciting new capabilities to a worldwide and well-established gear finishing process. The unprecedented ability to improve gear set quality during lapping, and to do so at higher speeds, provides a winning market proposition—one made possible by intelligent application of today’s leading-edge technologies. With its new solutions, Gleason gear manufacturing systems now produce higher quality gears in 30 percent less time.

Throughout the process, Gleason appreciated Viewpoint’s expertise and synergy achieved when working together. More than just an implementer, Viewpoint’s experts worked alongside their own to develop new techniques and solutions in an agile and collaborative environment.

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manages the design and creation of enhanced machine automation systems. Before starting Viewpoint Systems, he was a primary developer of commercial software for automated data collection, signal processing, and numerical analysis. He has a strong interest in making machines smarter with sophisticated control schemes and remote monitoring.
of Rochester, N.Y., partners with product development and manufacturing companies to enhance productivity and quality through automated measurement and control systems integration. A member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), Viewpoint’s expertise includes test software and systems, custom electronics instrumentation, real-time control, and data management. For more information, visit Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) is a global non-profit professional association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration for the success of members and their clients. For more information, visit