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Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

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Mechanism and Machine Theory

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/mechmachtheory

Research paper

Formulation and optimization of involute spur gear in

external gear pump
Xinran Zhao∗, Andrea Vacca
School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, Lafayette, IN 47905 USA

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: External gear pumps (EGPs) have gained popularity among applications in many fields like
Received 30 November 2016 fluid power transmissions and systems, automotive, aerospace thanks to their advantage of
Revised 12 May 2017
simplicity, robustness and low cost. Several studies were performed to analyze and inno-
Accepted 27 June 2017
vate the gear profiles of EGPs to achieve better performance, in terms of flow smoothness
Available online 12 July 2017
power to weight ratio. Asymmetric gears represent one of the possible choices. This paper
is aimed at developing a methodology of designing asymmetric involute gear, and formu-
late analytical expression for the instantaneous flowrate and flow non-uniformity given
by asymmetric, non-standard involute gear pumps. These analytical expressions are then
used within a multi-objective numerical optimization algorithm aimed at minimizing both
the flow non-uniformity and the pump size to achieve a specific displacement. The results
illustrate the highly constrained nature of the optimization problem, and the relevant im-
pact of certain parameters of the tooth profile. It is shown how gears obtained with the
proposed procedure can have significantly higher performance of standard gears, and in
particular how the parameters affecting tooth profile asymmetry can further improve the
EGP flow irregularity and size.
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Among positive displacement machines, external gear pumps (EGPs) are often the preferred solution for many fluid
power, injection, lubrication, and fluid transport systems. Key reason for success for EGPs are their low manufacturing cost,
compact package, good energy efficiency, high reliability as well tolerance to contamination.
Traditionally, the design of the gear profile for an EGP has been taken advantage from the wide literature on gearboxes
for power transmission system. However, it is well known that the desirable operating performance of an EGP is in great
part given by the fluid dynamics features of the flow through the unit, rather than by the characteristics of the power
transmissions between the two matching gears. The force loading of the gears in an EGP essentially given by the fluid
pressure, and as documented in [1], for a high pressure unit the radial forces acting on the shaft bearing are significantly
higher than the contact forces between the gears. As a consequence, structural requirements typically affecting the gear
profile in mechanical power transmissions systems do not always apply in EGPs; and gears with significant modifications
are often found in commercial EGP designs. On the other hand, features of the flow as well as fluid compressibility effects
often determine the design of an EGP.

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: zhao596@purdue.edu (X. Zhao).

0094-114X/© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 115


EGP External Gear Pump

TW Tip width constraint (-)
CR Contact Ratio (-)
DC Displacement Chamber
V1 volume of DC1 (mm3 )
V2 volume of DC2 (mm3 )
ra outer radius of gear (mm)
rb radius of base circle (mm)
ruc radius of undercut circle (mm)
m module of gear (mm)
α pressure angle of cutting tool (o )
α working pressure angle of gear (o )
rp radius of pitch circle (mm)
x correction (offset) factor (-)
z number of teeth (-)
b whole thickness of gear (mm)
ω shaft speed (rad/s)
γ base pitch (mm)
u distance from contact point to pitch point (mm)
Q flow rate (mm3 /s)
i center distance (mm)
θ angular position of gear (o )
φ angle between inward tangential vector and the vector pointing to the center (o )
T Period of theoretical delivery flow (s)
ρ Fillet radius of rack cutter (mm)
e Offset distance (mm)

Flow non-uniformity at the outlet port is considered as one of the most important detrimental features for all positive
displacement pump designs. As a matter of fact, low level of outlet flow fluctuation leads to low levels of noise emissions
and reduced chances of mechanical vibration in the downstream systems [2,3]. Due to the high number of displacement
chambers, the EGP design is particularly prone to provide a low level of outlet flow fluctuation. For this reason, over the last
decades, significant research effort was put in studying the relations between gear profile and kinematic flow pulsations as
well as in formulating design solutions for lower flow pulsation. In this regard, one of the first relevant contributions known
by the authors is the work by Bonacini [4], who provided an analytical expression for the theoretical flow of an EGP, based
on the parameter of the involute profile of the gears. The same finding, with alternative analytical methods of derivations,
was also reported in the work by Ivantysyn and Ivantysynova [3], and Manring and Kasagaradda [5]. In both works, some
considerations about some relevant parameters, such as number of teeth, involute profile pressure angle and correction
factor for optimal flow pulsations were also reported. In a recent work [6], Zhou and Vacca proved the equivalency of the
analytical expression provided by mentioned works with a numerical control-volume based approach suitable for lumped
parameter modeling of the displacing action of an EGP.
Several state-of-the-art commercial EGPs have taken advantage of the considerations of the works above mentioned. A
significant example is given by the dual flank solution, as described in [7], which consists of gears able to reduce backlash to
a minimum value. The feasibility of such solution is proven by several commercial designs available in the market. In other
cases, flow non-uniformity is also reduced by adopting helical gear designs as well as unconventional gear profiles [8–11].
The latter solutions, however, penalize some typical advantages of traditional spur gear EGPs such as volumetric efficiency,
simplicity and design scalability to different geometric displacement. For this reason, spur gear EGPs with involute type gear
still represent the most desirable and cost-effective solution for an EGP.
Nevertheless, the literature for spur gear EGPs does not include a general design methodology for formulating optimal
profiles for gears obtained through traditional rack cutting processes. This is particularly true for the case of asymmetric
involute teeth, which also appears in some commercial solutions [12–15]. With the additional degrees of freedom given
by the separate definition of the drive and coast sides of the involute teeth, asymmetric gears could provide additional
potentials for reducing the level of flow non-uniformity in an EGP. This is a particular aspect that will be investigated in the
present paper.
It is important to remark that, similarly to what assumed in the past works mentioned above, all the considerations
made in this work are based on theoretical, or kinematic, flow displaced by the EGP. It is well known that actual port flow
oscillations are affected also by compressibility effects associated to the pressurization and depressurization of each tooth
space volume (TSV), and secondarily on the laminar/turbulent nature of the flow. Several studies focused on the analysis of
116 X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

Fig. 1. External gear pump. Lateral and radial gap affecting the energy efficiency.

Fig. 2. Two different configurations in the meshing region (a) single-flank (b) dual-flank contact [6].

the transient pressurization phases of the inter-teeth volumes during the meshing process, and to their reduction through
proper design of the recessed machined at the element of the EGPs facing the lateral sides of the gears. Some examples are
given by [16–18]. Other studies also addressed the pressurization phases of each TSV, as a function of the actual clearance
between tooth tip and internal pump case (radial gap, Fig. 1) [1,5,19]. The leakage flows taking place at both the radial and
the lateral gaps in an EGP represent an additional cause of deviation between the actual flow and the theoretical flow. This
latter aspect is often studied through CFD approaches, such as in the work by Castilla et al. [20].
Despite all the reasons explained above about the discrepancy between actual and theoretical flow in an EGP, an analysis
purely based on theoretical flow still provides the upper limit performance, in terms of minimum flow oscillations, of a given
gear profile. If a gear profile is then selected for actual implementation on an EGP, particular care should then be dedicated
to all design parameters that plays a role in reducing the actual pump performance with respect to the theoretical one. These
parameters, include those affecting radial and lateral leakages flow [1,21], TSV pressure peaks and localized cavitation during
the meshing process [1,22], and also the manufacturing tolerances on the actual tooth profile. Optimization techniques such
as the one described in [23] were proposed to limit these effects related to fluid properties on the outlet flow oscillations.
According to the general idea illustrated in the previous paragraph, this paper describes a procedure for determining the
optimal tooth profile for EGPs, spur gear type, including the case of asymmetric teeth. To accomplish this goal, the work
first introduces the method used to analytically describe the profile of asymmetric teeth, obtained through a standard rack
cut process (Section 2.1). Subsequently, an analytical derivation of the theoretical flow for asymmetric EGPs is provided,
considering the drive gear and the pinion with same profile and equal number of teeth. This part extends the findings
of the previous work [6], which was limited to the case of symmetric gears (Section 2.3). The main goal of investigating
the optimal tooth profile geometry is then accomplished through a numerical optimization procedure, which is detailed
in Section 3. This procedure assumes dual-flank operation for the gears, which is already proven to be intrinsically more
beneficial for reducing flow non-uniformity up to 75% respect to traditional single-flank technology [6], as shown in Fig. 2.
Beside the minimization of flow oscillation, objective of the optimization is also to provide the most compact EGP design
in terms of overall volume of the pumping elements (the gear ensemble). An important assumption made throughout this
work is given by assuming the driver and the driver gear with equal number of teeth. This assumption reflects the common
practice for gear pumps, particularly for high pressure operation. The last section of the paper illustrates the potential of
the procedure, showing the effect of the main design parameters of the tooth profile, such as the number of teeth, on the
theoretical pump performance.
X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 117

Fig. 3. Geometry of a rack-cutter for an asymmetric involute gear.

Fig. 4. Motion of a rack-cutter and decomposition into two sub-steps.

2. Design and theoretical flow rate of asymmetric gears under dual-flank operation

The kinematic (or theoretical) flow rate of a positive displacement machine consists on the theoretical fluid displaced by
the volume variations of its displacement chambers, under the assumptions of no leakages, negligible fluid compressibility
and inviscid flow. This paper aims at finding the best gear profile that can reduce the kinematic flow while minimizing the
size of the gears. For this reason, gears working at dual-flank contact (zero-backlash) are considered. For the sake of the
generality of the study, non-standard involute gear design is considered, introducing several degrees of freedom in order to
include the case of asymmetric teeth, also with profile shift factor. The case of standard gears will result as a particular case
of the considered domain of investigation.
The definition of the asymmetric profile-shifted for non-standard gear design is provided in Section 2.1, where the de-
sign starts from the asymmetric design of the generating rack-cutter. Analytical expressions defining the asymmetric gear
profile depending on several design parameters are here derived. The calculation of the center distance for dual-flank oper-
ation is then given in Section 2.2. Then Section 2.3 derives the analytical expression of theoretical flow rate for asymmetric
non-standard spur gears – never found in the literature known by the authors – by following a rotating control-volume
based approach. Related considerations regarding the proper contact and sealing of gears operating in dual-flank contact are
discussed in Section 2.4.

2.1. Asymmetric non-standard gear design

As this paper is aimed at studying the most general type of involute gears generated by rack-cutter, the undercutting that
results by the features of the rack-cutter shape has to be taken into account. In general, undercutting reduces the chance
of interference (non-conjugate contact), but it also reduces the contact ratio, and mechanically weakens the gear tooth.
While teeth strength considerations are out of the scope of this study, the effect on the contact ratio of gears given by the
undercutting is taken careful consideration.
A rack cutter of the general shape of Fig. 3 is taken as reference for the generation of gears with involute tooth profile.
The shape of cutter is asymmetric, to permit the gear generation of asymmetric gears. The fillet curve at the tip of the cutter
is formed by a circular arc with radius ρ d for the drive side, and ρ c for the coast side. The generating (cutting) process of
a gear can be viewed as the synchronization of a linear translation of the cutter and a rotational motion of the gear. After
a proper coordinate transformation, with a frame of reference fixed at the center of the gear, this process can be treated as
a composition of two motions of the rack cutter with respect to the gear: translational and rotational (as shown in Fig. 4).
Consequently, the profile of an involute gear can be created with the motion of the straight portion of the cutter, which is
118 X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

Fig. 5. Parameters definitions for the involute profile.

given by the parametric equation:

x cos φ − sin φ sin θ − θ cos θ
finv (θ ) = = rb (1)
y sin φ cos φ cos θ + θ sin θ

where φ is a constant given by:

π + 4x tan α
φ = tan α − α + (2)
In Eq. (2) α is the geometrical design pressure angle on either drive (α d ) or coast (α c ) side. θ is a parameter whose
physical meaning is shown in Fig. 5. For the gear tooth, the involute profile is defined in the interval
θ ∈ 0, ra2 − rb2 /rb (3)

where the outer radius ra and base radius rb can be expressed as:
ra = + m · x + ha (4)

rb = · cos α (5)
The lower limit and upper limit in Eq. (3) stand for the intersection of the involute curve with base circle and addendum
circle, respectively (Fig. 5).
After defining the involute portion, the next part consists in the definition of the root fillet profile of the tooth. This is
assumed to be formed by the circular arc portion of a cutter. Using an approach similar to what proposed by [24], complex
analytic function is used to represent the cutter motion on complex plane

w = [ν + (r − e )ϕ + i · (ζ (ν ) + r )] · exp(i · ϕ ) (6)
where e = x · m is the offset distance of the cutter, and r = mz/2 + e is the distance from the pitch line (y = 0 in Fig. 1) to
the center of the gear, ν is the horizontal coordinate in Fig. 3, and ζ (ν ) is the circular arc profile in the vertical direction
in Fig. 3. The second term in the square brackets of Eq. (6) represents for the translational motion, while the third term is
the initial positioning of the gear. The exponential multiplier of Eq. (6) stands for the rotational motion. Notice that when
a non-zero correction factor x is applied, the translational velocity does not change; in fact, the only modified term is the
positioning of the cutter with respect to the gear. The term ϕ indicates the rotation angle, which can be expressed as a
function of ν , i.e. ϕ = ϕ (ν ), by solving following differential equation:
∂ ∂
(Im(w(ν, ϕ ))) (Im(w(ν, ϕ )))
∂ϕ ∂
= u (7)
∂ ∂
(Re(w(ν, ϕ ))) (Re(w(ν, ϕ )))
∂ϕ ∂u
The physical meaning of Eq. (7) is that a point on the cutter can actually cut the profile only when the local slope of its
trajectory of motion is the same as the local slope on the cutter, as shown in Fig. 6.
The solution can be derived from Eqs. (6) and (7):
−ζ  (ζ + e ) − ν
ϕ= (8)
X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 119

Fig. 6. Interpretation of the physical meaning of Eq. (7).

Substituting Eq. (8) in the former expression of Eq. (6) gives w = w(ν ), which represents the root fillet profile created by
the cutter on complex plane:
ζ  (ζ + e ) + ν
w(ν ) = [−ζ  (ζ + e ) + i · (ζ + r )] · exp i · − (9)
Taking the root fillet profile at the drive side as an example (the coast side can be solved in a similar fashion), on cutter
coordinate (Fig. 3), the fillet arc on the drive side of the cutter is written as

ζ ( ν ) = y0 − ρd2 − (ν − x0 )2 (10)

and consequently its derivative with respect to ν is:

ν − x0
ζ  (ν ) =  (11)
ρd2 − (ν − x0 )2
where (x0 , y0 ) is the center of the drive circular fillet arc in cutter coordinate, which can be determined by simple geometric
h b − ρb m·π ρd
x0 =  + + (12.1)
tan π2 − αd 4 cos αd

y0 = −hb + ρb (12.2)
with the range of ν :

ν ∈ ρd cos(π + αd ) + x0 , ρd cos π + x0 (12.3)
Sub Eqs. (10) and (11) into Eq. (9), the closed form of the root fillet profile on the drive side can be written as
−(ζ + e ) · ζ  cos (β ) + ζ + m2·z + e sin β
froot (ν ) =   (13)
(ζ + e ) · ζ  sin (β ) + ζ + m2·z + e cos β

(ζ + e ) · ζ  + ν
β (ν ) = m·z ν ∈ ρd cos (π + αd ) + x0 , ρd cos π + x0 (14)
The intersection between involute profile and root fillet profile can be captured by solving for the minimum value of the
g(θ , ν ) ≡ |finv (θ ) − froot (ν )| (15)
in range of two variables θ and ν in the intervals given by Eqs. (3) and (12.3), respectively. If there is an intersection between
the involute profile and the root fillet profile, the minimum of g should be zero. In the special case where g has a minimum
greater than zero, that means there is no intersection; this means that the involute profile does not exist for the given set
of geometrical parameters and not in the scope of this paper. This situation can happen when the outer radius specified is
unrealistically small. This condition will be used as a constraint in the proposed optimization procedure (Section 3.1). The
distance from the intersection point to the gear center is denoted as ruc (Fig. 7 left), because it stands for the actual starting
point (undercutting point) of the involute portion of the tooth profile. The undercutting radius is greater or equal to the
base circle radius, (i.e. ruc ≥ rb ), and it is written as
ruc = |finv (θ ∗ )| = |froot (ν ∗ )| (16)
120 X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

Fig. 7. Real starting point of involute i.e. working profile (left) and root fillet profile given by the analytical expressions compared to a cutting simulation

Fig. 8. Tooth thickness on gear pitch circle.

where θ ∗ and ν ∗ are the solutions corresponding to the minimum value of g(θ , ν ) given by Eq. (15). In the following part
of the paper, ruc, d and ruc, c will represent the distance between the start point of the involute profile and the gear center,
respectively for the drive and the coast sides.

2.2. Dual-flank interaxis distance

To achieve dual-flank (no-backlash) contact, the working center distance for the general case of asymmetric non-standard
gears has to be calculated. As it is well known, for x = 0 the working pressure angle is different from the design pressure
angle, i.e. a = α . The case of same geometry for the drive gear and driven gear is considered. Thus, as shown in Fig. 6,
for the case of corrected tooth profile (x = 0), the pitch circle results to be different from the centrode circle. The radius
of centrode circle is r p = m · z/2. This value is defined regardless of x, as the profile correction changes only the position
of rack-cutter, without affecting the translational velocity of the cutter. In this case, the pitch circle stands for the circle at
which the tooth circumferential width equals to the gap width. On the centrode circle, the width of tooth (or of the gap) is
equal to the linear length of the cutter on the centrode line:

t p = mπ /2 + xm(tan αd + tan αc ) (17)

w p = mπ /2 − xm(tan αd + tan αc ) (18)

X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 121

Fig. 9. The DC volume curve and the different shapes that each DC assumes at minimum volume, maximum volume, and intermediate volume conditions

Geometrically, the involute function inv(x ) ≡ tan(x ) − x accounts for the angle shift from the centrode circle to the pitch
circle (see Fig. 8). In particular, the angular interval on the pitch circle for tooth and gap is given by:
t p tp    
= − inv(α  c ) − inv(αc ) − inv(α  d ) − inv(αd )
r p rp
π + 2x(tan αd + tan αc )    
= − inv(α  c ) − inv(αc ) − inv(α  d ) − inv(αd ) (19)

w p wp    
= + inv(α  c ) − inv(αc ) + inv(α  d ) − inv(αd )
r p rp
π − 2x(tan αd + tan αc )    
= + inv(α  c ) − inv(αc ) + inv(α  d ) − inv(αd ) (20)
Equating t p /r p to wp /r p gives

inv(αd ) + inv(αc ) = + 1 (tan αd + tan αc ) − αc − αd (21.1)
It can also be observed that the pitch circle radius is the same for both drive and coast sides, therefore:
cos α  d cos αd
= (21.2)
cos α  c cos αc
These two equations with respect to two variables αd and αc can be solved by numerical root-finding method such as
Newton Iteration. The solution of Eqs. (21.1) and (21.2) can be used to calculate the pitch circle, which corresponds to half
of the dual-flank interaxis distance:
1 m · z · cos αd
r p = i = (22)
2 df 2 cos α  d

2.3. Theoretical flow rate

The kinematic flow rate can be determined by first introducing the concept of a displacement chamber (DC) for an EGP.
A DC is a moving control volume, which relates to the tooth space between adjacent teeth of a gear, and rotates as the
gears rotate. In an EGP, there are 2z DCs, as shown in Fig. 9. With the meshing process realized by the gears, each DC first
reduces then increases its volume, realizing the displacement of the fluid from the inlet to the outlet. Considering the inlet
and outlet environments, the total internal fluid volume bounded by the gears and the housing of can be divided into 2z + 2.
For every angular position of the gears, the sum of their volume is always equal to a constant value.
The theoretical (kinematic) flow rate for an EGP can be formulated based on DC volume conservations, with the algorithm
already presented by the authors in [6]. Overall, a formula expressing the theoretical flow rate for the case of symmetric
gears was already found by several authors [3,5,6,25]. Those expressions apply also to the case of asymmetric gears, but
only if they operate in single-flank contact conditions. However, a formula that expresses the theoretical flow rate in case
of asymmetric dual-flank gear with profile correction is not available literature. For this reason, in the following part of this
section this particular case is studied using a method similar to differential volume approach used in [6].
For an EGP, unless different timing strategies are purposely introduced (like for the case of variable timing in a EGP
introduced by the authors in [26]), it is reasonable to assume that an increase of each DC volume always contributes to
122 X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

Fig. 10. Differential volume of a DC at dual-flank contact (a); distance of two contact points with the gear centers, denoted by l1 , l2 , l3 and l4 , respectively.

fluid delivery, and similarly a decrease of each DC volume yields to suction of fluid from the inlet. This implies that only
the DCs with an increasing volume contribute to the fluid delivery. According to Zhao and Vacca [6], with this assumption
the instantaneous flow rate is given by
Qout = − = b · ω · ra2 − r 2p − u2 (23)
Eq. (23) is valid for all cases, including dual-flank or single-flank, symmetric gear or asymmetric gear. The value of u is
the distance from the pitch point to the contact point on the low-pressure side which is delimiting the boundary of all
DCs that are decreasing volume. As also observed in [6], u has a definition that depends on the particular gear profile. It is
therefore important to find the position corresponding to the minimum DC volume. After the DC reaches that position, it
will start increasing its volume, and therefore it will not be counted as part of volumes contributing to the outlet flow.
As shown in Fig. 10(a), during an infinitesimal rotation of the gears four sub-differential volumes, from V1 to V4 , can be
found with a first order accuracy as
1 2
V1 = (l − rr1
)d θ (24.1)
2 1

1 2
V2 = (r − l22 )dθ (24.2)
2 a2

1 2
V3 = (r − l42 )dθ (24.3)
2 a2

1 2
V4 = (l − rr1
)d θ (24.4)
2 3
Therefore, the differential volume dV can be formulated as:
dV = −V1 + V2 − V3 + V4
1 2 
= −l1 + l32 − l22 + l42 dθ (25)
In order to make DC volume V to be the minimum, it must have dV = 0. It yields
−l12 + l32 − l22 + l42 = 0 (26)
Using the geometric identity shown by Fig. 10(b)
l12 + l22 = 2r 2p + 2d12 l32 + l42 = 2r 2p + 2d22 (27)
By combining Eqs. (26) and (27), it yields d1 = d2 . This value can be denoted as d∗ , i.e.
d ∗ ≡ d1 = d2 (28)
This result indicates that a DC in dual-flank contact condition reaches its minimum volume when two contact points
confining it have the same distance to the pitch point. It further indicates that, for a contact point moving away from pitch
point - either on drive side or coast side of a tooth - once its distance from the pitch point reaches d∗ , the DC will begin to
increase its volume and it will not be considered to find u in Eq. (17) any more. At this point, another contact point, on the
X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 123

Fig. 11. Reference Position (a) and the position with minimum DC2 volume (b).

other line of action (drive or coast), with also has a distance d∗ from the pitch point but moving toward it, will start to give
the correct value of u.
Therefore, the value of d∗ gives the range of variation of u in Eq. (23), which needs to be determined. For this purpose, a
reference position is selected, where the coast contact point coincides with pitch point, as shown in Fig. 11. At this position,
two DCs are symmetric with respect to the coast contact point (i.e. pitch point). Being the line of action also symmetric
with respect to the pitch point, for a gear with contact ratio greater than one two contact points on drive side of the gears
have to exist, and they will have the same distance to the pitch point, which is equal to the half of the base pitch γ d :

γd = m · π · cos αd (29)
If the time for the reference position of Fig. 11 is denoted as t0 , considering a motion of the contact point on the line of
action, the minimum volume position for DC1 can be found by solving the equation d1 (t ) = d2 (t ). With the knowledge on
the initial position and the speed of movement of each point on respective line of action:
d1 (t0 ) = γd /2 = mπ cos ad d2 (t0 ) = 0 (30.1)

dd1 1 dd2 1
vd = = − mz cos αd · ω vc = = mz cos αc · ω (30.2)
dt 2 dt 2
by solving the problem

d1 (t0 + t ) = d2 (t0 + t ) (31.1)

It gives
π cos αd
t= (31.2)
z · ω cos αd + cos αc
π cos αd · cos αc
d∗ = d1 (t0 + t ) = d2 (t0 + t ) = m (32)
2 cos αd + cos αc
Notice that d∗ is also the solution of d∗ = d1 (t0 − t ) = −d2 (t0 − t ), which corresponds to the minimum-volume position
of DC2. The sign convention is given in Fig. 11 with proper arrows along the lines of action.
It is therefore clear that the value of u in Eq. (23) changes periodically from −d∗ to d∗ . Due to the fact that the lower
boundary of control volume with decreasing volume is delimited by drive contact point and coast contact point alternatively,
for which u(t) has different expression, too. For simplicity, t0 , which is the time instant when coast contact point coincides
with pitch point, is set to be 0:
This, for the coast side:
1 d∗ d∗
uc (t ) = mz cos αc · ω (t − T ) for t ∈ − + T, +T (33.1)
2 vc vc
124 X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

Fig. 12. Kinematic flow rate calculated for a 12-tooth gear with b = 32 mm, shaft speed of 10 0 0 rpm, ra = 18.5 mm, r p = 16 mm, x = 0, pressure angle of
15° and 45° for coast and drive side of gear, respectively.

While for the drive side:

1 1 d∗ d∗ 2d ∗
ud (t ) = − mπ cos αd + mz cos αd · ω (t − T ) for t ∈ + T, + +T (33.2)
2 2 vc vc vd
where the period is given by

1 1

T = 2N d ∗ + N∈Z (33.3)
vd vc
Combining Eqs. (23), (32) and (33.1), the theoretical flow rate for asymmetric involute spur gear pump working at dual-
flank condition can be expressed by a piecewise function:
1 2 

⎪ · ω · 2
− 2
− α · ω ( − )

b r a r p mz cos c t T

⎪ 2

⎪ π cos αd π cos αd
⎨ for t ∈ − + T, +T
 zω (cos αd + cos αc ) zω (cos αd +cos αc )
Qout (t ) =
1 2 (34)

⎪ 1
b · ω · ra − r p − − mz cos αd + mz cos αd · ω (t − T )

2 2

2 2

⎪ π cos αd π cos αd + 2π cos αc
⎩ for t ∈ + T, +T
zω (cos αd + cos αc ) zω (cos αd + cos αc )
This formula captures the important feature that the theoretical flow ripple given by asymmetric gears is also asymmet-
ric. Fig. 12 shows the theoretical flow given by a reference gear with highly asymmetric gear. The peak-to-peak difference
(magnitude of the fluctuation) and mean flow rate are written as:
 cos αd ·cos αc2

(π m cos αd +cos αc )
Qmean = b · ω · ra2 − r p2 − (35)

cos αd · cos αc
δ= πm (36)
4 cos αd + cos αc

2.4. Contact ratio

The starting point of the involute portion of the profile, i.e. the intersection between the root fillet profile and the in-
volute profile, is important for determining the contact ratio. This point is also important for determining the dual flank
operation, which is guaranteed by the sealing through a contact point on the coast side. For involute gears, proper contact
conditions can be realized only on the involute profile. The contact ratio (CR) can be expressed as the ratio between the
length of the line of action with involute-involute contact and the base pitch on drive side γ d given by Eq. (37).
min L1,drive , L2,drive
CR = (37)

L1,drive = 2 r p sin α p − 2
ruc ,d
− rbd
2 (38.1)

L2,drive = 2r p cos(π /2 + αd ) + (2rp cos(π /2 + αd ))2 − 4(rp2 − ra2 ) (38.2)

As shown by Fig. 13, L1, drive represents the double of the length of segment OB, and L2, drive represents double of the
length of segment OA. Point B is a point on the drive-side of the line of action with distance rbd, real to the gear center. Point
B is closer to the pitch point O than to the point C, which is the tangential point between the base circle and the line of
action. Point A is the intersection between the addendum circle of the mate gear and the line of action.
X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 125

Fig. 13. Schematic of the segment on the line of action representing the occurrence of the contact point. Point O is the pitch point. Point A, B, C are the
intersection of the line of action with the outer circle of the mating gear, the real base circle, and the base circle, respectively. The actual contact length
on the pressure line is the smaller one between OA (i.e. half of L2 ) and OB (i.e. half of L1 ).

Table 1
Normalization of variables.

ha = ha /m rp = r p /m = z/2

hb = hb /m rp = r p /m = 2z cos αd
cos αd
d = ρd /m 
ruc,d = ruc,d /m
ρc = ρc /m ruc,c = ruc,c /m
w ˆ tip = wtip /m rp = r p /m = z/2
ra = ra /m = z/2 + ha + x δˆ = δ /(m2 bω )

r = r /m = z/2 − h − x
r r b Q˙ mean = Q˙ mean /(m2 bω )

To accomplish dual-flank gear contact, the contact on the coast side is also needed to be considered, which is related
to the backlash of the gears. Only when the contact point exists on the coast side to separate the trapped volume in the
meshing zone into two disconnected displacement chambers, the condition of dual-flank operation can be satisfied from
fluid dynamic point of view. The detailed explanation can be found in [6]. Therefore, in a similar fashion, another contact
ratio can be defined for the coast.

3. Optimization algorithm

This section formalizes the optimization problem, in terms of design variable, constrains and objective functions, utilized
to study the optimal gear profile. All the derived quantities from previous Section 2 are used but in normalized form.
Variables with length scale in radial direction and axial direction are normalized by module m and length of the gear b,
respectively, while volume is normalized by m2 b, and flowrate is normalized by m2 bω. The normalized variables are shown
in Table 1.

3.1. Design variables and constraints

The geometry of an involute asymmetric gear can be fully described by combination of 8 non-dimensional design vari-
ables, 6 of them are describing the geometry of the cutter, which are shown in Fig. 3. The remaining two are given by the
126 X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

Table 2
Design variables and the ranges of their variation.

Parameter Range Parameter Range

Number of teeth z [-] 12–19 Drive pressure angle α d [ ]

Correction factor x [-] −1.0–2.0 Coast pressure angle α c [o ] 0–30
Normalized addendum ha [-] 0.0–3.0 Drive fillet radius ρc [-] 0–0.5
Normalized deddendum hb [-] 0.0–3.0 Coast fillet radius ρ
d [-] 0–0.5

number of teeth, z, and the profile correction factor, x. Among eight design variables, the number of teeth z is an integer,
for which objective functions and constraints are not continuous functions. For this reason, and also to better highlight the
effect of the number of teeth on the optimization results, optimization algorithm is conducted by studying each number
of teeth as separated case. The eight parameters after scaling are given in Table 2 together with their range of variation
considered in this study.
In order to exclude designs not corresponding to gears that can properly work in dual-flank conditions, 13 constraints
in total are considered. As for the scope of this paper, all the constraints we used are purely geometrical, and they do
not account for these structural aspects. Constraints (C.1) to (C.5) are related to the cutter geometry, and they ensure that
a given combination of parameters forms a closed cutter profile. In particular, constraints (C.1) and (C.2) state that the
addendum/deddendum should be large relative to the fillet radius. To simplify the problem, it is assumed that the center of
the root fillet arc is in between the top land and the root land of the cutter:
ha + hb > ρ
d (C.1)

ha + hb > ρ

c (C.2)
Constraints (C.3) and (C.4) give the fact that the addendum/deddendum cannot exceed the position of the intersection of
two straight lines of the cutter which have slopes equal to the geometric pressure angles:
π /2
hb < (C.3)
tan(αd ) + tan(αc )
π /2
ha < (C.4)
tan(αd ) + tan(αc )
Constraint (C.5) expresses the requirement that the tip of the cutter should be flat, i.e. the calculated position of the
center for the coast root fillet arc should be on the right, or coincide with that of drive fillet arc (based on the coordinate
configuration of Fig. 3):
hb − ρ
d ρ
d −hb + ρ
c ρc π
 + −  − ≤ (C.5)
tan π2 − αd cos(αd ) tan π2 − αc cos(αc ) 2

Constraint (C.6) states that the addendum radius has to be greater than either the drive base circle radius or the coast
base circle radius, so that the involute profile exists for both drive and coast side:
z z


+ x + ha > max cos αd , cos αc (C.6)
2 2 2
For gears operating in dual-flank contact, switching the features (pressure angle and fillet radius) among the drive side or
the coast side does not change the performance of the unit in terms of fluid displacement. Therefore, in order to reduce the
degree of freedom of design space, the drive pressure angle is arbitrarily assumed to be larger than the coast pressure angle
i.e. (C.7). Also, small pressure angle on the drive side generally gives smaller contact ratios, so (C.7) will promote fulfilling
the contact ratio constraint.
Asymmetric tooth can have different pressure angles α d and α c on drive and coast flanges. It is shown in Eqs. (35) and
(36) that exchanging the value of α d and α c will not change the kinematic displacement and fluctuation. However, higher
pressure angle on the drive side α d will be favorable for increasing the contact ratio, which makes it easier to fulfill the
contact ratio requirement, i.e. to make a design feasible. Therefore, the Constraint (C.7) is used:
αd ≥ αc (C.7)
(C.8) related to the minimum width of gear tooth tip. Pointed teeth (corresponding to zero width) are normally avoided for
reasons that include manufacturing feasibility, proper sealing of the DCs and reduction of the effects of gear wear on the
EGP performance. In this work, this constraint is written in non-dimensional form:
ˆ tip ≡
w ≥ TW (C.8)
For a general representation, TW should be greater than 0, i.e. TW > 0.
X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 127

Fig. 14. Virtual bounding box for external gear pump used for volume calculation.

The calculation for the contact ratio is given in Section 2, which needs to be greater than unity of ensure enough contact
on drive:
CR > 1 (C.9)
Interference between the gears needs is further check as last step. There are two types of interferences that can most
commonly happen which can be described by closed equations. The first type of interference is when the tip of one gear is
touching the root land of the other mating gear. For this case, the interaxis distance needs to be greater than the sum
of addendum and deddendum radii. In general, a root clearance croot is specified such that 2r p ≥ rr + ra + croot . In this
work, croot = croot /m ≥ 0 is used. Another type of interference occurs when the center distance is small enough that contact
happens out of the working profile. To avoid this under dual-flank contact conditions, the pitch radius should be larger than
either ruc, d or ruc, c . Summarizing the two cases, an interference constraint can be written in the form of (C.10)
2rˆP ≥ max rr + ra + c
root , 2rˆuc,d , 2rˆuc,c (C.10)
An additional – and trivial – consideration is that, in order to mesh, two gears needs to have a pitch radius smaller than
the addendum radius, i.e. r p < ra , substitute in Eqs. (4) and (22).
z cos αd z
< + ha + x (C.11)
2 cos α  d 2
The last constraint (C.12) states that the intersection between involute profile and root fillet profile must exist on both
drive and coast sides, as given by Section 2.3. This can be written as:
|g(θ ∗ , ν ∗ )| <  · m (C.12)
where a common value for  is 1 × 10−4
is used in the present work. Among 13 constraints mentioned above, (C.1)–(C.7) are
explicit constraints, which can be expressed explicitly by design variables, while (C.8)–(C.12) they are implicit constraints,
which are based upon intermediate calculation results.

3.2. Objective functions

In this work, the performance of a given design is measured by the flow non-uniformity, which needs to be minimized
in order to obtain an EGP design with low flow pulsation. This can be quantified by the objective function OF1, the ratio
between peak-to-peak value in the delivery flow and the mean flow rate, which has to be minimized:

cos α · cos α 2
π d c
δˆ cos αd + cos α
OF1 = =
cos α · cos α 2 (41)
Qˆmean 1
4rˆa2 − 4rˆp2 − π d c
3 cos αd + cos αc
In addition, compactness is of great importance in an EGP, since it relates to the power to weight ratio of the unit.
Therefore, it is desirable to minimize the overall size of the pump required to realize a certain target unit displacement.
For each set of design parameters, the total volume occupied by the gear set is estimated as the volume of the minimum
bounding box for two mating spur gears (Fig. 14):
Vpump = 2ra (2r p + 2ra )b (42)
128 X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

In normalized form:

Vˆpump = Vpump /(m2 b) = 4rˆa (rˆp + rˆa ) (43)

In first approximation, this volume relates to the overall size of the EGP. Obviously, the overall size of the EGP will be
higher to include a casing containing the journal bearings of the gears. In this work, the ratio between pump volume and
the specific displacement (mean flowrate per angular velocity) is defined as the objective function to be minimized, which
stands for the minimum volume required for achieving a certain displacement:

Vˆpump 4rˆa (rˆp + rˆa )

OF2 = =  cos αd ·cos αc 2 (44)
Qˆmean rˆa2 + rˆp2 − 12
π cos α +cos αc

3.3. Results and discussions

The optimization algorithm described in the previous sections was implemented and executed with the commercial soft-
ware modeFRONTIER®. The highly-constrained nature of the problem makes difficult to generate an initial set of design
parameters corresponding to feasible designs. Also the high number of non-linear constraints makes the design space highly
separated. Therefore, in order to solve this global optimization problem, an initial coordinate search is necessary to create a
suitable set of initial designs. In this work, for each number of teeth, 10 0,0 0 0 initial random designs are generated by the
SOBOL algorithm, in such a way that these designs automatically satisfy all the 7 explicit constraints of the problem, (C.1–
C.7 in Section 3.2). Then feasible designs from these initial random designs are found checking the remaining constraints.
These feasible designs are then used as Design of Environment (DOE) for the main optimization workflow. Typically, despite
a low feasible rate, from 10 to 100 feasible designs can be found from the initial 10 0,0 0 0 random designs.
The presence of two objective functions, a suitable scheme for multi-objective optimization needs to be utilized. NSGA-II
algorithm [27] in modeFRONTIER® was selected and executed for each number of teeth. For any given number of teeth, a
Pareto front can be found with more than 10 0 0 design evaluations. In the design selection process, linear Multiple Criteria
Decision Maker (MCDM) is selected with equal weights flow non-uniformity (OF1) and volume (OF2). The optimum designs
for different number of teeth conditions are reported in Table 3, for TW = 0. The plots of the gears with the optimum design
in Table 3 for 12-tooth and 16-tooth conditions are shown in Fig. 15.

Table 3
Optimization results for selected number of teeth with constraint wtip /m ≥ 0.

No. of teeth 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Addendum ha 1.3617 1.4762 1.5040 1.5346 1.5755 1.5641 1.5981 1.6711
Deddendum hb 1.5147 1.5771 1.6180 1.6542 1.6649 1.7346 1.8106 1.8016
Drive Pressure Angle [deg] 26.115 19.777 20.933 20.845 19.54 21.861 21.598 18.699
Coast Pressure Angle [deg] 22.411 17.134 17.992 17.868 17.97 19.625 19.243 16.708
Drive Fillet Radius ρ d 0.0798 0.4850 0.3262 0.1905 0.101 0.0963 0.2415 0.2318
Coast Fillet Radius ρc 0.0699 0.2225 0.2770 0.2483 0.453 0.2712 0.0632 0.3259
Correction Factor x −0.2117 −0.0215 −0.0998 −0.1197 −0.1246 −0.2371 −0.2589 −0.1440
Contact Ratio 1.0817 1.0 0 0 1.0 0 0 1.0 0 0 1.0099 1.037 1.0 0 0 1.0 0 0
Tooth tip width w ˆ tip 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0
OF1 Non-uniformity grade: [%] 2.8838 2.6256 2.3894 2.1973 2.0268 1.8801 1.7445 1.6393
OF2 Normalized volume [-] 20.8013 21.7377 22.4247 23.2583 23.993 24.7453 25.3673 26.3182

Fig. 15. Geometry of gears with optimized geometry for different number of teeth (a) 12-tooth (b) 16-tooth with constraint wtip /m ≥ 0.
X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 129

Fig. 16. Increased number of teeth of gear pump (from 10 to 15) tends to decrease the flow non-uniformity but it increases the pump size.

Table 3 shows the design parameters and the main numerical results, which depicts the trend of the optimal design
at convergence of the optimization with wtip /m ≥ 0. The table shows that an increased number of teeth gives lower flow
non-uniformity; however, in reality high number of teeth is not always desirable, as it increases the pump size. Therefore,
there is a trade-off between volume and flow non-uniformity; but the trend for the optimal desings show how pumps with
higher volume-specific displacement tends to give higher flow fluctuation.
Also, it can be noticed that the optimization algorithm finds optimal values for the OFs by reaching constrains bounds,
namely, the minimum contact ratio and the minimum tip width. Therefore, these constrains behave as important limiting
factors. As reflected by the data in Tables 2 and 3, the designs with optimum performance in flow non-uniformity and pump
size always reached a limiting bound in contact ratio or tip-width.
The results also shows that the profile correction factor x gives the optimum performance when it has a value very
close to zero. However, this also depends on the value assumed for the TW as constraint. Also, the optimum designs have
addendum values close to 1.5 (increased with number of teeth from 1.4 to 1.7). Both facts are in contrast to the conclusion
given by several references, such as [3], which recommend higher profile correction x and outer radius to reduce flow
pulsation. This is due to the fact that in this past mentioned work, constraints such contact ratio, tip width are not taken
into account.
It can be interesting to observe how the optimal designs always give asymmetry in the flank pressure angles, as shown
in Table 3. This emerges from the fact that the contact ratio on the coast side is always easier to satisfy than the drive-side
contact ratio constraint. This gives room to further reduce the coast pressure angle to minimize the backlash interval to
turn improve the flow non-uniformity. At last, the fillet radius shows less effect than other parameters in this optimization.
In reality root fillet radius affects the compressibility effects in the meshing process mentioned in the introduction, since it
changes the trapped volume between teeth, as well as the connection to the trapped volume. However, this is out of the
scope of this paper, where root fillet radius serves only as constraints for tooth size, contact ratio, etc.
The optimal parameters shown in Table 3 results from a numerical optimization, therefore they are close to the actual
optimum but they not represent the exact analytical optimum solution. Moreover, the trend of the optimal designs of Table
3 can depends on the value assumed for the constraints. Changes in one or more constraints, results in a different set of
optimal designs. For example, Fig. 16 represents the effect of the TW (toot tip width constraint value in (C.8)) on the Pareto
front found by the optimization algorithm. The figure graphically shows how higher number of teeth gives smaller flow
non-uniformity, but larger pump size. Additionally, the figure shows how the change in the value of TW gives significant
influence on the optimal performance of both objective functions. Fig. 17 shows the details of the local Pareto frontiers
found by the optimization algorithm. The Pareto front near the global optimal point is quite narrow, which is given by the
highly constrained nature of this optimization problem. With the optimal parameters for different number of teeth being
shown, the decision of the proper number of teeth to be used is often up to specific designs and customer requirements.
In general, typical consideration will cover the following aspects: higher number of teeth will give not only larger pump
size and lower power density, but also higher-frequency noises. Also the actual operation conditions and pump designs, and
associated natural modes and harmonics are also important.
In order to quantify the advantages given by the designs found in this optimization, the results of Table 2 are compared
with those of a standard spur gear used as reference by Litvin and Fuentes in [28] (ha = 1.00, hb = 1.25, pressure angle
α =20° without profile offset, working in dual-flank condition). As shown in Fig. 18, asymmetric gear profile optimization is
able to give 1/3 additional decrease in flow non-uniformity compared to standard full-depth gear.
Fig. 18 also compares the results from the optimization algorithm for the case of asymmetric design with the case of
symmetric tooth profile with T W = 0 (dual flank condition for both cases). This permits to quantify the advantage given by
the use of asymmetric teeth. As shown in figure, asymmetric designs (evident by the different pressure angles at drive/coast
sides) give improvem‘ents around 5% to flow non-uniformity (OF1) and about 3% of pump size (OF2). Therefore, compared
130 X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132

Fig. 17. Optimizatioin for 18-tooth gear pump with TW = 0 (1) Pareto Frontier between pump volume required for 30 cc-rev displacement and flow non-
uniformity given by the pump given by the multi-objective optimization for (2) distribution of feasible designs.

Fig. 18. Flow non-uniformity given by optimized gear geometry, and comparison to standard full-depth gears working at single-flank and dual-flank contact

to the influence given by other parameters defining the tooth profile, advantages due to profile asymmetry are not of a great
impact on the objective functions. The optimization results for symmetric tooth with T W = 0 for different number of teeth
is shown in Table 4.

4. Conclusions

This paper has presented an original approach to analytically study the fluid displacing action realized by external gear
pumps (EGPs) with asymmetric tooth profiles. The generation of the profile as well as physical constrains that guarantee
correct meshing of the gears are presented. The study particularly concentrates to the derivation of equations that expresses
the theoretical performance of a given design, in terms of flow uniformity and pump size. These expressions form the basis
X. Zhao, A. Vacca / Mechanism and Machine Theory 117 (2017) 114–132 131

Table 4
Optimization results with symmetric tooth design and constraint wtip /m ≥ 0.

No. of teeth 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Addendum ha 1.3276 1.3662 1.3907 1.4525 1.4494 1.5724 15.469 1.5877
Deddendum h b 1.4629 1.4833 1.5445 1.5749 1.6412 1.6615 17.212 1.7496
Pressure Angle [deg] 25.527 25.140 25.182 23.39 24.637 19.697 22.340 21.468
Fillet Radius ρ
d 0.1376 0.1326 0.0845 0.1375 0.0510 0.2706 0.0871 0.0599
Correction Factor x −0.2274 −0.2668 −0.313 −0.2668 −0.3738 −0.15667 −0.32528 −0.30784
Contact Ratio 1.0 0 0 1.0 0 0 1.0 0 0 1.015 1.0 0 0 1.0 0 0 1.0 0 0 1.0 0 0
Tooth Tip Width w ˆ tip 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
OF1 Non-uniformity grade: [%] 2.9156 2.6346 2.4029 2.2119 2.0311 1.9004 1.7584 1.6462
OF2 Normalized volume [-] 21.1764 21.8550 22.6153 23.4886 24.0625 25.1516 25.6668 26.4690

of a multi-objective numerical optimization algorithm formulated to find the best EGP design for a given number of teeth.
The optimization scheme uses a NSGA-II algorithm, implemented within the commercial software modeFRONTIER®. The op-
timization study focuses on the case of dual-flank operation, which is already proven to be an efficient solution for reducing
flow oscillations. Optimization results show that the number of teeth has primary influence on the EGP performance: a
higher number of teeth reduces outlet flow oscillations but increases the overall volume of the unit. The resulting optimal
profiles are strongly affected by physical constraints such as the minimum contact ratio on drive and coast side, minimum
tip width, etc. These constraints are also the reason why certain parameters such as profile correction factor cannot be used
in practice to increase pump performance, as often indicated in the known literature.
The results also shown that asymmetric designs for the drive/coast sides of a tooth can give advantages in terms of flow
non-uniformity (5%) and EGP size (3%) with respect to the case of optimal symmetric gears. Much larger improvements
can be noticed by comparing a standard gear profile with one optimized with the proposed procedure. This confirms the
importance of using methods such as the one described in this work to determine the optimal shape of the gears for EGPs.


The authors would like to thank Esteco for the use of the software modeFrontier.


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