- Mark-15 -
Offset Propeller Reduction Gearbox
The Mark-15 gearbox is a new, lightweight, high-performance design which draws heavily on the success of the Mark-9 (described by several users as "bulletproof), and includes refined vibration absorption technology (now being used in NASCAR and in military applications), improved gearing design, and new housing technology to reduce costs and increase flexibility. It can be configured to handle in excess of 1600 lb-ft. of engine torque with an acceptable margin of safety.
The technology and implementations have been proven in thousands of hours of operational experience with the Mark-9. Inspections of Mark-9 gearboxes with more than 500 flight hours have revealed all the internal parts to be in like-new condition.
The Mark-15 incorporates all the proven features of the Mark-9 into a less expensive housing, which is easier to machine and assemble. The two-mesh version incorporates a new design feature which cures the only known Mark-9 issue (fretting of the idler-shaft after approximately 300 hours).
Recent (2010) developments have produced a business alliance between EPI, Inc. and an extremely competent and innovative machining company, which will enable the Mark-15 PSRU to be put into production, in a variety of configurations, while attempting to mitigate the effects of recent huge increases in the costs of quality metals, molds, high-quality castings, heat treating, gear grinding and other specialized processes.
As a part of the ongoing product development and improvement program, we have switched from the original Mark-15 cast, heat-treated housings to stronger, fully-CNC-machined-from-billet housings, and have done billet housings for both the two mesh configuration (prop rotates in the same direction as the engine) and a symmetric single-mesh (prop rotates in the opposite direction as the engine) configuration. The symmetric single-mesh version was initially done to provide an optimized PSRU for our soon-to-be-announced 1200-HP aircraft engine.
The vibration technology embodied in the proprietary EPI engine-to-gearbox coupling system ELIMINATES over 99% of all the torsional pulsing generated by a V8 engine, and over 99.8% of the torsional pulsing generated by an even-fire V12 engine. For a clear insight into this vibration technology, follow these four links, in order:
The Mark-15 housing design can be machined to attach to several popular engines, including: (a) the ubiquitous Small-block and Big-block Chevy engines, (b) GM LS-1 / LS-2 / LS-7 engines, (c) Ford Windsor engines, and (d) the Jaguar V12 engine. Other interfaces can be designed and built by special request.
CLICK HERE for Current M-15 status.
The picture below shows the two-mesh Mark-15 with the optional Lord-Mount "ears".
The housings and propshaft are designed to provide a comfortable margin of safety when exposed to the extreme gyroscopic, bending, thrust and torque loads generated by a 106-inch, 175-pound metal propeller spinning at 2000 RPM when subjected to the combined loads produced by the extreme conditions specified by 14-CFR-23.371(a)(2). (Those simultaneous operating conditions are: max thrust and max torque with 2.5 vertical g's, and aircraft rotations of 2.5-rps yaw velocity and 1.0-rps pitch velocity.)
The gears have been extensively analyzed under both static and dynamic loading conditions. As a result of the Mark-15 gear-design parameters and our proprietary vibration-absorbing technology, the Mark-15 can be equipped with gears which can handle over 1600 lb-ft of input torque with a good safety margin.
Our gear and vibration technology is so effective that the output gear for the M-15 with 800 lb-ft. of input torque capacity is only 1.0 inch wide. At 4000 RPM and 800 lb-ft. of input torque, the highest-stressed gear has a dynamic-load safety factor in excess of 1.8, and a calculated wear life in excess of 4000 hours.
Some of the other purveyors of propeller reduction gearboxes preach about the "requirement" that the PSRU must use different lubrication than the engine. One expert proclaims: "Sharing engine oil with the PSRU is asking for engine and/or PSRU failure in advance." Check out our Lubrication page to see just how wrong this "expert" is. (That same "expert" also says that planetary gears can not work in a propeller gearbox. He might be interested in examining the planetary reductions in the P&W 1830, 2000, 2800 and 4360, the Wright 1820, and the Garrett TPE-331.)
EPI gearboxes use hydrodynamic fluid-film bearings (just like the crankshaft bearings in your engine) for the propeller shaft and the drive-gear. These bearings have far greater capacity than rolling-element bearings of the same size, and are much lighter and physically smaller than rolling element bearings which could carry the large loads required. In addition, the thrust-handling capacity of ball bearings (which some PSRU's use for their propshaft) is EXTREMELY limited. The EPI hydrodynamic bearing system provides CONTINUOUS thrust capability in excess of 3,000 pounds in either direction. This system has been thoroughly proven in service in the EPI Mark-9 gearbox system. (One of the aircraft entered in the 2011 Reno Air Races is equipped with a special version of the EPI Mark-9).
Our hydrodynamic shaft bearings and high-capacity thrust bearings, and therefore, the gears, are completely lubricated and cooled by engine oil. That eliminates the complexity of a separate oil supply, a separate oil cooler and the associated ductwork and cooling drag.
Hydrodynamic bearings require a continuous supply of pressurized lube oil. The oil required to support the bearings and to cool the gears is in the neighborhood of 4 gallons per minute (depending on the power being transmitted).
The Mark-15 is available in several different lengths (the distance from the engine block to the propeller flange face). The minimum length is 14.00 inches, but that can be varied within limits by means of an extended propshaft. We prefer to extend the propshaft rather than using a spacer between the propshaft and the propeller.
Here is a summary of the Mark-15 features:
- The Mark-15 has provisions to fit these popular engines: Smallblock and Bigblock Chevy, GM-LS, Ford Windsor, Jaguar-V12, Falconer V12, and othjer custom configurations as well.
- The vertical offset between the crankshaft centerline and the prop centerline is 7.90 inches;
- The available ratios are: 1.724, 1.821, 1.926, 2.038, 2.160, 2.292, 2.435, 2.591, 2.762, 2.950, and 3.158;
- It can provide either direction of prop rotation with either direction of engine rotation;
- The input torque capacity exceeds 1600 lb-ft. (depending on the required safety-margin);
- The propeller thrust capacity (all configurations) is 3000 lbs. in either direction (pusher or tractor applications);
- The propeller flange conforms to SAE ARP-880, which is the 8-bolt, 2-dowel configuration used on the P&W PT-6 and Garrett TPE-331 turbine engines, and most Continental GTSIO-520 engines;
- The minimum length from engine to prop flange is 14 inches. It is available with extended propshafts to move the propeller further away from the engine to assist with specific cowling issues;
- The integrated controllable propeller system is the common single-acting hydraulic configuration (Hartzell, McCauley, AeroComposite, MT, Hoffmann, etc.) found in most piston-engined aircraft. The propeller governor drive is integrated into the gearbox and provides an AND-20010 governor mounting pad, vibration-isolated gear-drive, and internal propeller control plumbing;
- The Mark-15 includes provisions for a reversing prop and the PT-6-style beta-feedback mechanism for the control of a reversing prop;
- The Mark-15 uses engine oil for lubrication, cooling and propeller control, so it requires no additional heat exchangers, which helps to reduce cooling drag;
- The Mark-15 contains several gearbox "health-monitoring" features, including (i) a chip detector, (ii) two temperature sensors (for incoming and exiting oil) and (iii) an oil pressure sensor location.
- The lightest version (single-mesh) weighs 86 pounds (NOTE: weight varies with ratio, torque capacity and direction of prop rotation).
The 7.90 offset Mark-15 gearbox was designed initially for a cropduster application using a high-output (725 lb.-ft. torque) big-block Chevy-based engine. With the 7.90-inch vertical offset and very high torque and thrust capacities, the Mark-15 is also ideal for replica-fighter applications.
Here is a picture of the Mark-15 on the EPI Cropduster big-block engine, with a 20-inch spinner.
Here is a picture of the Mark-15 on an LS engine, with an 18 inch spinner.
The fact that the Mark-15 can be configured for either direction of prop rotation (same-as-engine or opposite-of-engine) makes it ideal for a lightweight 500-HP V-8 conversion for a high-performance cabin-class twin-engine aircraft (Cessna 421, Pressurized Navajo, Aero-Commander 685, for example) using counter-rotating propellers for the safest engine-out performance.
In order to determine the suitability of the Mark-15 for a specific application, a few critical dimensions are often needed. We have provided, on a subsequent page, several 2D views of the Mark-15 with important dimensions shown, as well as side-views with different size spinners installed. There is also a 3D-solid-model file of the Mark-15 to help potential customers with aircraft design and lofting efforts.
To view these drawings, or to access the 3D-solid-model, CLICK HERE.
(October, 2011): After the design and analysis of the Mark-15 gearbox was complete, we began manufacturing the prototype. We completed several critical components, including prototype, heat-treated housing castings. Since mid-2010, EPI has completed several high-priority projects, including a custom system for a leading NASCAR team, which left no time for development work, so the Mark-15 was put on temporary "hold".
In Mid-2011, EPI formed a new business alliance with an extremely competent and innovative machining company, for the purpose of manufacturing both engines and PSRU's. That company has acquired the Mark-15 PSRU product line, and is now manufacturing the parts for the first run of production gearboxes. EPI will continue to provide all the engineering and technical support for the Mark-15. CLICK THIS LINK to see a video showing the CNC machining of the complex Mark-15 governor drive housing from billet 6061-T6 aluminum on a state-of-the-art 5-axis mill.
In an effort to mitigate the effects of recent huge increases in the costs of molds, high-quality castings, high-quality metals, heat treating, gear grinding and other specialized processes, we have discarded the cast housings, and have developed much stronger, CNC-from-Billet housings for the original two-mesh gearbox (prop rotates same direction as engine) as well as a new, single-mesh version (symmetric housing, prop rotates opposite to engine).
Whereas the original cast housings were a two-piece design, the new billet housing set is a three piece design, in which the bellhousing / engine adapter component is now a separate piece which attaches to the two gear housings. That provides additional stiffness and strength, as well as added efficiency in manufacture and inventory and a substantial improvement in application flexibility, allowing the Mark-15 to be used on just about any engine platform imaginable.
The single-mesh, 1200-HP version will most likely be the first Mark-15 into production because it is that version which supports our new, 1200 HP V12 engine. Most of the innards of the single-mesh are the same as the two-mesh, so producing the two-mesh version will be a direct development from the single-mesh program. We will have pictures of the single mesh on the website soon.