Proceedings of 2018 ASEE Northeast Section Conference

Contactless Magnetic Gears – A Project Based Learning Approach to Understanding Magnetic Gear Systems
Esther Hiamang, Peter Raymond Stupak

Contactless Magnetic Gears – A Project Based Learning Approach to Understanding Magnetic Gear Systems


E. Hiamang, and P.R. Stupak

Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg, NJ


During the Spring 2017 semester, Esther Hiamang, a Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) Engineering student, developed an interest in deepening her knowledge of mechanical gear systems and magnetism learned through standard course work.  Enrolling in a project-based Undergraduate Research course in Fall 2017, she combined both subject areas into a theoretical analysis and hands-on construction of a contactless magnetic mechanical gear system.  The results of the theoretical analysis predicted that maximum gear torque occurred when the “magnetic gear teeth” were slightly displaced from their fully meshed position.  The experimental hands-on model confirmed the theoretical analysis; several working model gears were built, and their function demonstrated. An unexpected positive outcome was that her research stimulated broad discussions amongst her peers and communication of her reasoning became a personal triumph.

A responsive spreadsheet made in Microsoft Excel increased the accuracy of the theoretical model significantly to guarantee a full analysis of magnetic mating gears based on user input. It consisted of two discs with “magnetic teeth” in the form of 16 magnets equally spaced (22.5 degrees) radially around each disc’s circumference. For simplicity, only the north-pole was modeled. The force between adjacent magnets on one disc was calculated relative to each magnet on the neighboring disc using an inverse-square law for magnetic force. The symmetry in the resulting calculations was used extensively as a guide to de-bug the program. Rotation was simulated by changing the magnets’ angular position in small increments, then applying color conditional formatting to each table of calculations to create a spectrum of data points that “moved” along the excel table.

The hands-on model was designed and built to maintain flexibility in gear configuration, so that when engaged, torque was transferred in motion across the system. Each gear was constructed from wooden discs with holes drilled through the center to accommodate the gear shaft and plastic plumbing parts for the bearings. Positioned radially on the edges were the 16-¼ “OD X ½” lengths N50 Neodymium “magnetic teeth” with north poles facing outwards. A handmade Amish yarning kit with two perpendicular arms that formed a 30” x 30” coordinate plane that served as a base which gears could be arranged with edges 2cm apart. Constant and careful attention to each detail of the gears’ assembly ensured that both models matched in theory and practicality.

Speaking with other RVCC students and weekly project meetings with an advisor emphasized the need for quality data results and a concise presentation. The key-learning objective became effective communication about the importance of theory in real-world applications like Contactless Magnetic Gears. Having been formally diagnosed with High-functioning Autism, the student had found peer-to-peer interactions and expression of ideas to be a major obstacle to a career in engineering research. The project-based Undergraduate research was encouraging, challenging and contributed significantly to her education and personal growth.

Last modified: 2018-04-27
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