The blower consists of two assemblies, each with the cast lobes, shaft and a drive gear. The 33 year old drive gears were replaced although there was no readily apparent damage such as broken teeth, etc. but wear was evident by the noise generated by the lobes and the gears. Since these gears are critical to the timing of the blower assembly, brand new gears were installed.
How it works
While the lobes do the work, the set of drive gears is the heart of the blower. The power to move the blower comes from a 1000 hp diesel/flex fuel engine which drives on shaft/gear and that in turn drive the second shaft and its lobe. The result is a coordinated rotation where the first lobe collects incoming air, pass the air to the second lobe and forces it out of the blower. The unit does not compress the air. That occurs when the air passed into a confined conduit.
The lobes rotate by each other with no seals or gaskets, so the tolerances between them are extremely tight (from .0012 to .0040 inch depending on the location). his critical gap between the lobes is adjusted by the alignment of the gear set. The drive gear is permanently set onto the shaft in our shop and the driven gear is partially set on the shaft allowing for final adjustment once in place in the blower casing.
The basic design of the Roots blower has not changed for more than 150 years. Yet in specific applications it is still a very efficient air handler.
Since the actual installation and removal of the gears is complex and time consuming, it is important to understand all the subtleties involved. The adjustment has to take into account both the gear and lobe tolerances. Although there is a fairly large range in the operating temperature, an unanticipated rise in the temperatiure of the lobes and gears will result in the tolerances being reduced and damage to the blower.
The "black art" aspect of the work comes into play when the gear moves into its final position. The gear moves. The trick is to anticipate how much and in what direction so that when the gear locks into place, it's the correct position.
Going with the flow...
As described above, setting the right tolerances is one thing, setting the gear in place is another. It is not a simple matter of backing off a bolt and resetting the gear.
The gear and the shaft are tapered and that allows the gear to slide up the shaft. Unaided, the gear will reach approximately 1" from its final position on the shaft before the inside bore of the gear matches the shaft diameter.
Although the gear is a solid machined unit the bore on the gear can be expanded to reach its designated position on the shaft. This is done through hydraulics. The gear has channels in the bore and up into the collar of the gear. A high pressure line and pump are attached to the opening in the face of the gear.
A high pressure hydraulic pump is needed to supply enough pressure to expand the gear bore. As the correct pressure (35,000 psi) is reached the gear will move and finally "pop" the gear into its final position.
There are times when the "personality" of the gear is not inclined to cooperate so easily and requires some additional finesse or pressure to get the gear to seat. This is where experience comes in on how to apply that pressure so it is balanced and doesn't wedge the gear on the shaft.
Right the first time
The time and effort taken to align and position the gear is well worth it to avoid having to back everything off and go through the procedure again to get it right.
The shop work and the onsite work were not unusual, but did require attention to details when reinstalling gears, o-rings and bearings. Due to the tight tolerances at the end of the mechanical line, each element was critical in its own way. There was no "good enough" factor.