Intech Power-Core Thermoplastics Engineering Blog

Anti backlash gear design at the heart of clear tomography imaging

Posted by Alexander Bartosch on Sep 21, 2012 1:58:00 PM

 

Special gear design is at the heart of clear image in multi-axis tomography device.

For the rotational machines used to gather dental X-ray images, motion chatter can produce a fuzzy image, which is not suitable for diagnostic purposes.

Panoramic radiography is a branch of rotational tomography where the creation of images are through the movement of a source and receptor in such a way as to cause the foreground and background structures to blur, leaving a defined focal trough.

As a panoramic radiographic device, the Vantage Panoramic X-ray System, designed and manufactured by Progeny, Lincolnshire, IL, incorporates a DC X-ray source, CCD digital receptor, distributed processing circuitry, and an LCD touchscreen control panel for ease of use. What makes the Vantage system unique is that it is adjustable to the patient’s height via a motorized, 3-speed, telescoping column. The use of multiple lasers is to locate the patient and configure the device to the patient’s morphology. In addition, a workstation coordinates the individual processors.

The system incorporates an overhead, swing arm (lateral Y-axis) that supports a C-arm, which is the rotating member that moves around the patient’s head. The C-arm includes a tube-head, which produces the X-ray beam, and a removable CCD sensor, which is the digital image receptor. If this arm does not operate smoothly, a distorted image results.

The swing arm pivots on bearings located in the mounting casting fastened at the top of the column. Producing its motion is a ball screw drive, one end of which connects to the mounting casting and the other end to the swing arm. A step motor mounts at the column end. Both mechanical connections of the drive assembly are through ball bearing assemblies.

Suspension of the C-arm is on a pair of bearings mounted to the underside of the X-axis translation plate. The C-arm casting incorporates a 10" ID internal tooth ring gear that meshes with a pinion gear on a step motor mounted on the stationary X-axis translation plate. The motor is spring-mounted to maintain positive mesh and to minimize slop. The internal ring gear and pinion are sized and shaped to engage on the inside surface of the C-arm. With activation of the motor, the stationary pinion engages the teeth in the internal ring gear causing rotation of the C-arm.

The engineering team at Progeny worked with Intech to help design the C-arm casting and its interface with the gear drive for the C-arm’s rotation. Design of the company’s Power-Core products is specifically to reduce noise and vibration and run without lubrication, an important factor (a must) for medical equipment designers. Intech components are far lighter in weight than metal parts and offer longer life (less wear) and lower maintenance costs. Intech engineers used a proprietary gear load/life calculation to verify that the gears designed into the dimensionally restricted place would last at least 8,000 hours of operation or about 15 years in field use.

The challenge was to design a backlash free gear to produce a steady rotational movement of the image producing components. There was no room to employ the traditional split gear design. To eliminate backlash, installation of a spring, on slight angle relative to the axis connecting the gear centers attached to the pinion, pulls the pinion toward the 10" ID internal ring gear. The spring arrangement did eliminate the backlash, but caused the gear teeth to bottom out, resulting in chatter. The chatter registered on the X-ray image.

The precision gearing for the Vantage Panoramic X-ray System uses Intech’s Power-Core nylon materials for reduced chatter, resulting in clearer images from the system.

Drawing on its expertise in gear design, Intech engineers designed and precision-machined the pinion and the internal gear to incorporate a special contact surface, which allowed the components to control the center-to-center distance between the inner tooth gear and the motor pinion. Adding the center-to-center distance management element presented a method for precise gear positioning in the mesh, and drastically reduced system vibration generated by the spring force and the resulting bottoming out of the gear teeth in the earlier design.

This configuration provides precise control over gear mesh vibration and backlash, resulting in high image quality in both a clockwise and counterclockwise rotation of the C-arm. It also adds a robust design element, which helps to increase product life so that image quality does not degrade with component wear and tear. With no fuzzy imaging due to chatter, dentists can make better diagnosis and provide better service to their customers.

Shown is the Vantage Panoramic X-ray system with the C-Arm that holds the lasers as well as the removable CCD receptor..

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This article was featured in Today's Medical Developments magazine and can be viewed at http://www.onlinetmd.com/TMD-0912-motion.aspx

Topics: Power-Core gears, vibration, PA12GC, calculating backlash, plastic gears, PA12C, PA12G, anti-backlash backlash gers, Medical