Reciprocating Engine Starting Systems (Part Two)

in Engine Starting Systems

Direct Cranking Electric Starting System for Large Reciprocating Engines

In a typical high horsepower reciprocating engine starting system, the direct cranking electric starter consists of two basic components: a motor assembly and a gear section. The gear section is bolted to the drive end of the motor to form a complete unit.

The motor assembly consists of the armature and motor pinion assembly, the end bell assembly, and the motor housing assembly. The motor housing also acts as the magnetic yoke for the field structure.

Figure 5-6. Starter gear section.

Figure 5-6. Starter gear section. [Click image to enlarge]

The starter motor is a nonreversible, series interpole motor. Its speed varies directly with the applied voltage and inversely with the load. The starter gear section consists of an external housing with an integral mounting flange, planetary gear reduction, a sun and integral gear assembly, a torque-limiting clutch, and a jaw and cone assembly. [Figure 5-6] When the starter circuit is closed, the torque developed in the starter motor is transmitted to the starter jaw through the reduction gear train and clutch. The starter gear train converts the high speed low torque of the motor to the low speed high torque required to crank the engine. In the gear section, the motor pinion engages the gear on the intermediate countershaft. [Figure 5-6] The pinion of the countershaft engages the internal gear. The internal gear is an integral part of the sun gear assembly and is rigidly attached to the sun gear shaft. The sun gear drives three planet gears that are part of the planetary gear assembly. The individual planet gear shafts are supported by the planetary carrying arm, a barrel-like part shown in Figure 5-6. The carrying arm transmits torque from the planet gears to the starter jaw as follows:

  1. The cylindrical portion of the carrying arm is splined longitudinally around the inner surface.
  2. Mating splines are cut on the exterior surface of the cylindrical part of the starter jaw.
  3. The jaw slides fore and aft inside the carrying arm to engage and disengage with the engine.

The three planet gears also engage the surrounding internal teeth on the six steel clutch plates. [Figure 5-6] These plates are interleaved with externally splined bronze clutch plates that engage the sides of the housing, preventing them from turning. The proper pressure is maintained upon the clutch pack by a clutch spring retainer assembly. A cylindrical traveling nut inside the starter jaw extends and retracts the jaw. Spiral jaw-engaging splines around the inner wall of the nut mate with similar splines cut on an extension of the sun gear shaft. [Figure 5-6]

Being splined in this fashion, rotation of the shaft forces the nut out and the nut carries the jaw with it. A jaw spring around the traveling nut carries the jaw with the nut and tends to keep a conical clutch surface around the inner wall of the jaw head seated against a similar surface around the underside of the nut head. A return spring is installed on the sun gear shaft extension between a shoulder, formed by the splines around the inner wall of the traveling nut, and a jaw stop retaining nut on the end of the shaft. Because the conical clutch surfaces of the traveling nut and the starter jaw are engaged by jaw spring pressure, the two parts tend to rotate at the same speed. However, the sun gear shaft extension turns six times faster than the jaw. The spiral splines on it are cut left hand, and the sun gear shaft extension, turning to the right in relation to the jaw, forces the traveling nut and the jaw out from the starter its full travel (about 5⁄16 inches) in approximately 12° of rotation of the jaw.

The jaw moves out until it is stopped either by engagement with the engine or by the jaw stop retaining nut. The travel nut continues to move slightly beyond the limit of jaw travel, just enough to relieve some of the spring pressure on the conical clutch surfaces. As long as the starter continues to rotate, there is just enough pressure on the conical clutch surfaces to provide torque on the spiral splines that balance most of the pressure of the jaw spring. If the engine fails to start, the starter jaw does not retract since the starter mechanism provides no retracting force. However, when the engine fires and the engine jaw overruns the starter jaw, the sloping ramps of the jaw teeth force the starter jaw into the starter against the jaw spring pressure. This disengages the conical clutch surfaces entirely, and the jaw spring pressure forces the traveling nut to slide in along the spiral splines until the conical clutch surfaces are again in contact.

When the starter and engine are both running, there is an engaging force keeping the jaws in contact that continue until the starter is de-energized. However, the rapidly moving engine jaw teeth, striking the slowly moving starter jaw teeth, hold the starter jaw disengaged. As soon as the starter comes to rest, the engaging force is removed and the small return spring throws the starter jaw into its fully retracted position where it remains until the next start. When the starter jaw first engages the engine jaw, the motor armature has had time to reach considerable speed because of its high starting torque. The sudden engagement of the moving starter jaw with the stationary engine jaw would develop forces sufficiently high enough to severely damage the engine or the starter were it not for the plates in the clutch pack that slip when the engine torque exceeds the clutch-slipping torque.

In normal direct cranking action, the internal steel gear clutch plates are held stationary by the friction of the bronze plates with which they are interleaved. When the torque imposed by the engine exceeds the clutch setting, however, the internal gear clutch plates rotate against the clutch friction, allowing the planet gears to rotate while the planetary carrying arm and the jaw remain stationary. When the engine reaches the speed that the starter is trying to achieve, the torque drops off to a value less than the clutch setting, the internal gear clutch plates are again held stationary, and the jaw rotates at the speed that the motor is attempting to drive it. The starter control switches are shown schematically in Figure 5-7.

Figure 5-7. Starter control circuit.

Figure 5-7. Starter control circuit. [Click image to enlarge]

The engine selector switch must be positioned and the starter switch and the safety switch—wired in series—must be closed before the starter can be energized. Current is supplied to the starter control circuit through a circuit breaker labeled “Starter, Primer, and Induction Vibrator.” [Figure 5-7] When the engine selector switch is in position for the engine start, closing the starter energizes the starter relay located in the engine nacelle area. Energizing the starter relay completes the power circuit to the starter motor. The current necessary for this heavy load is taken directly from the master bus through the starter bus cable.

All starting systems have operating time limits because of the high energy used during cranking or rotation of the engine. These limits are referred to as starter limits and must be observed, or overheating and damage of the starter occurs. After energizing the starter for 1 minute, it should be allowed to cool for at least 1 minute. After a second or subsequent cranking period of 1 minute, it should cool for 5 minutes.