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Machine Design

Software simulates mechanical systems with chains, gears, and belts

MSC Software (MSC) recently showed me its new Adams/Machinery program that works inside of the Adams/View interface (Adams lets users build and simulate models of any mechanical system with moving parts.) Adams/Machinery was developed to help manufacturers of machinery equipment and other mechanical systems like cameras and power tools efficiently build functional virtual prototypes of components and systems early in the design cycle, before building physical prototypes. As such, it includes customized productivity tools for modeling and pre-processing chain, gear, and belt components.

The clean-looking interface includes in-line help and information about components, their connections, and various modeling-fidelity options. Wizards help guide users through model setup, manipulating model parameters, and modeling options.

For instance, in the gears module, users can simulate the backlash of a gear pair in a streamlined fashion using a gear-creation wizard. And in the belts module, users can predict belt tension and loads using pulley and belt wizards. Additionally, in the chains module, users can study contact forces between sprockets and chains.

In the gear-creation wizard, engineers can choose either the simplified modeling method, which neglects friction and quickly calculate the contact force between teeth, or a 3D contact-modeling method to study the backlash based on the actual working center distance and tooth thickness. Adams/Machinery supports a variety of gear types, including spur, helical, straight bevel, and spiral-bevel configurations.

In the belts module, engineers can predict the tension and load of belts in models built using the pulley and belt wizard. Users can also run design studies to find the proper tensioner stiffness to minimize slippage and minimize peak belt loads. Adams/Machinery includes Poly-V grooved belts as well as smooth and toothed belts.

The chains module lets engineers study contact forces between sprockets and chains and examine how the change of contact forces affects the overall mechanical system’s performance. The software supports involute and roller chains.

According to MSC, the new modules make engineers more productive. The company provided a table it says shows how much time can be saved using the new modules as opposed to describing components directly using the traditional method (i.e., using Adams/View alone to build them).

  Traditional Method Using Adams/Machinery Time saved
Base model creation (frame and shafts) 0.25 day 0.25 day 0
Building the gear box

1.0 day
(requires external geometry and limits modeling method options)

0.25 day
(external geometry unnecessary; more modeling method options)

0.75 day
Building the belt system 5.0 days 1.0 day 4 days
Building the chain system 5.0 days 1.0 day 4 days
Post-processing (defining desired output) 0.5 days 0 days 0.5 days
Total time 11.75 days 2.5 days 9.25 days


The company also claims that belt and chain systems which once took even proficient Adams/View users a week to finish can be completed in one day using Adams/Machinery.

In addition to handling chain, gear, and belt systems, future releases of Adams/Machinery are planned which will include modules for bearings, cables, and electric motors.

For more information, contact MSC Software Corp., 2 MacArthur Place, Santa Ana, Calif., 92707, (714) 540-8900,

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