Gear racks are utilized to convert rotating movement into linear motion. A gear rack has straight teeth cut into one surface of a square or round section of rod and operates with a pinion, which is a small cylindrical gear meshing with the gear rack. Generally, gear rack and pinion are collectively called “rack and pinion”. There are many ways to use gears. For example, as shown in the picture, a gear is used with the gear rack to rotate a parallel shaft.
To provide many variations of rack and pinion, KHK has many types of gear racks in stock. If the application requires a long length requiring multiple gear racks in series, we have racks with the tooth forms correctly configured at the ends. These are described as “gear racks with machined ends”. When a gear rack is produced, the tooth cutting process and the heat treatment process can cause it to try & go out of true. We can control this with special presses & remedial processes.
There are applications where the gear rack is stationary, while the pinion traverses and others where the pinion rotates on a fixed axis while the gear rack moves. The former is used widely in conveying systems while the latter can be used in extrusion systems and lifting/lowering applications.
As a mechanical element to transfer rotary into linear motion, gear racks are often compared to ball screws. There are pros and cons for using racks in place of ball screws. The advantages of a gear rack are its mechanical simplicity, large load carrying capacity, and no limit to the length, etc. One disadvantage though is the backlash. The advantages of a ball screw are the high precision and lower backlash while its shortcomings include the limit in length due to deflection.
Rack and pinions are used for lifting mechanisms (vertical movement), horizontal movement, positioning mechanisms, stoppers and to permit the synchronous rotation of several shafts in general industrial machinery. On the other hand, they are also used in steering systems to change the direction of cars. The characteristics of rack and pinion systems in steering are as follows: simple structure, high rigidity, small and lightweight, and excellent responsiveness. With this mechanism, the pinion, mounted to the steering shaft, is meshed with a steering rack to transmit rotary motion laterlly (converting it to linear motion) so that you can control the wheel. In addition, rack and pinions are used for various other purposes, such as toys and lateral slide gates. Gear Rack and Pinion – creation of linear motion
A rack and pinion are used when converting rotational movement to linear motion (or vice versa). A bar shaped gear with an infinite (flat surface) radius of a cylindrical gear is called a rack, and a meshed spur gear is called a pinion. A rack can be used by extending it combining as many racks with machining operation on the end faces when necessary.
A helical rack is a bar shaped gear with slanted linear tooth trace that is used when silence and high speed rotation are required, and it can be meshed with a helical gear.
Rack and Pinion Used in Automotive Steering Mechanisms
The steering mechanism is used to change the direction of automobiles and are mainly classified into rack-and-pinion and ball nut types.
Of these two, the rack and pinion type steering mechanism has become the mainstream used in many small cars. Its construction is simple with other characteristics such as lightweight, high strength, low friction, superior responsiveness, etc.
The rack and pinion type steering mechanism consists of a pinion attached to the tip of the steering shaft on which the steering wheel is mounted. The pinion is meshed with a rack so that the movement of the handle rotates the pinion which in turn moves the rack sideways. The wheel is moved left and right through the system of tie rods connected to the ends of the rack.
(Caution : Currently, KHK does not supply rack and pinion for automotive steering mechanisms.)
Materials and heat treating racks and pinions
As for the materials of a racks and pinions, strength, abrasion resistance, and absorbency are considered.
With steel, S45C (1045 in AISI/SAE, C45 in ISO, equivalent to C 45K in DIN), SCM440 (4140 in AISI/SAE, equivalent to 42CrMo4V in ISO and DIN), 16MnCr5 (name in ISO, equivalent to 17Cr3 in DIN), with stainless steel, SUS303 (303/S30300 in AISI/SAE, 13 in ISO, equivalent to X10CrNiS18-9 in DIN), SUS304 (304/S30400 in AISI/SAE, 6 in ISO, equivalent to X5CrNi18-10 in DIN), with plastic material, reinforced nylon called engineering plastic, polyacetal (equivalent to Duracon and POM), polyamide, are used.
Regarding the heat treatment of a rack and pinion, thermal refining, carburizing and quenching, tooth face high frequency hardening, and tooth face laser hardening are used depending on the kinds of materials and purposes.
Overall length and cross-sectional shape of a rack
The overall length of standard racks on the market is generally not more than 2000mm, and offered in 500mm units such as 500mm, 1000mm, 1500mm.
Furthermore, the cross-sectional shape is often a square or rectangle, and some are round called round rack type.
Production of racks and pinions
Although the difficulty in production varies depending on the accuracy classes and specifications, the basic production of the rack and pinion is possible with a rack cutting machine and gear hobbing machine. They are produced by many gear manufacturers and rack specialized manufacturers in the world. They are especially produced on a large scale by famous rack manufacturers in Germany and Taiwan.
Using Racks and Pinions
The rack and pinion are used mainly for carrier devices, steering gear mechanisms for vehicles, machine tools, lifting apparatus, and printing machines.
When attaching a rack to a machine, mounting holes drilled though the bottom or through the side are frequently used, additional methods include counterbored bolt holes and tapped holes.
Table of Comparative Gear Pitch
There is no interchangeability between pinion and rack if different pitch systems are used in the pair.
In addition, KHK offers tapered racks and pinions. These are produced by angling each tooth of the rack and pinion. Conventionally, in order to adjust the backlash, it was necessary to change the distance between the rack and the axis of the pinion. But with tapered rack and pinion, this difficult task can be easily accomplished by simply shifting the pinion in its axial direction. Because of the taper in the teeth, they are not interchangeable with regular rack and pinion.