Modern wind turbines are designed to cope with their increased size and capacity. One of the most expensive components of these machines is the gearbox. Its design is more complex than a mere upscaling exercise from predecessors. The stress levels experienced by the different gear stages, the dynamic effects induced by their size and the unparalleled loads transmitted are some of the challenges that design engineers face. Moreover, unexpected events that load the wind turbines such as voltage dips, wind gusts or emergency breaking are expected to be major contributors to the premature failure of these gearboxes. The lack of engineering experience at this scale calls for accurate and efficient simulation tools thereby enabling reliable gearbox design.
Standard lumped-parameters models or rigid multibody approaches do not provide a sufficient level of details to study the dynamic effects induced by e.g. gear design modifications (micro-geometry) or to analyze local stress concentrations.
More advanced numerical tools are available such as flexible multibody or non-linear FE and allow to model complex contact interactions including all the relevant dynamic effects. Unfortunately the level of mesh refinement needed for an accurate analysis causes these simulations to be computationally expensive with time scales of several weeks to perform a single full rotation of a gear pair.
This work introduces a novel efficient simulation tool for dynamic analysis of transmissions. This tool adopts a flexible multibody paradigm but incorporates several advanced features that allows to run simulations up to two orders of magnitudes faster as compared to non-linear FE with the same level of accuracy. A unique non-linear parametric model order reduction technique is used to develop a simulation strategy that is quasi mesh-independent allowing the usage of very fine FE meshes.
Finally, in order to limit the memory consumption, a technique is developed to be able to finely mesh only a few of the gears teeth while the remaining gears are coarsely meshed. The main novelty of this approach lies in the possibility to perform full gear rotations without losing spatial resolution as compared to a finely meshed gear.
After an accuracy check performed with a sample pair of helical gears, the framework is used to simulate the high speed stage of a three-stage wind turbine gearbox. The combined efficiency and accuracy of the approach is demonstrated by performing a dynamic stress analysis of the high-speed stage with and without a tip-relief modification. Accuracy of the results, simulation time, and memory usage are assessed.