The focus of this paper is the biphasic phenomena that occurs in a lubrication system of a CVT gearbox transmission of an agricultural tractor, in particular a Method of Analysis is outlined with the aim of mapping and assessing the behavior of the lubrication circuit.

The study of the lubrication in gearboxes is an important issue in the design of off-road machines because their reliability depends mostly on the lubrication performance, as well as the machine’s lifetime and overall energy efficiency of the transmission is strongly dependent on the lubrication system behavior. In fact the role of the lubrication system is twofold: firstly to remove the heat generated in the highly loaded rolling bearings and the gears found in the power and accessory gearboxes via heat exchangers; secondly to lubricate these parts. The trend in the development of gearbox transmissions has been towards lower consumption and higher power transmitted, consequently it is necessary to conceive more effective and efficient lubrication systems. Nonetheless the lubrication problem often relies on a trial and error approach and most available scientific literature is based on lumped element model dynamic simulation or one phase thermo-fluid dynamic simulations, overlooking the effects linked to cavitation and air inclusion.

One important phenomenon in lubrication systems is that of air suction. This can be seen in particular at high rotational speeds of shafts when the centrifugal force causes a positive pressure drop between inner lubrication pipes and outer radial conduits. In this case the air occupies part of the lubrication conduits, and since the domain is shared by the outflowing liquid phase and the air included, the monophase CFD simulation fails to predict the correct lubrication flow. If this effect is not carefully considered it could cause a lubrication unbalance among the various parts of the gearbox, creating a risk of transmission damage.

In this paper the methodology will be presented step by step until in final a complete map of operation condition is created. A preliminary analysis of the circuitry is an essential phase of the project since the tractor’s transmission is an extremely complex assembly composed by hundreds of components therefore the lubrication circuit appears as a large net of moving hydraulic connections and consumers. From this analysis a computational domain is obtained and appropriately meshed. After the pivotal choice of the proper turbulence model and boundary conditions, various runs at different rotating speeds corresponding to the different operating ranges will be performed. The result will be contextualized by commenting on the fluid dynamics phenomena involved and the influence parameters on flow rate distribution, finally evaluating the performances of the lubrication circuit, and in particular highlighting the most critical conditions in terms of speed condition and locating the most critical gearbox parts.

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