Alternatives to Keyways in Motion Systems (2023)

The age-old tradition of using shaft keys in mechanical drives has served the power transmission industry well for many years. When appropriately sized, it guarantees that virtually no relative motion can take place between a shaft and its respective shaft hub in a unidirectional continuous motion application. Today’s increasing demands for speed, precision, and small size have changed the standard for shaft locking devices, and challenged motion components manufacturers to develop new methods of keyless shaft locking for dynamic loading. As motors and drives become increasingly capable of rapid acceleration and rotary positioning accuracy in smaller and smaller packages, backlash, stress distribution, and balance have all needed to be addressed in shaft locking devices, in many cases rendering the shaft key obsolete.

Backlash

Alternatives to Keyways in Motion Systems (1)
Keyway backlash is the area of primary concern when addressing such performance issues. Precise fitting and complicated machining can serve to reduce the clearance between the key and the shaft or hub keyway, though the backlash can rarely be fully eliminated. As an increasing number of frequent machine starts, stops, and load reversals — all at increasing acceleration and deceleration rates — emerge, keyway wear is increased in terms of both the frequency and force of the impact between the key and keyway. Backlash also will tend to increase at an accelerated pace over time. As material is compressed and removed from the keyway as the result of the impact, the keyway widens, and the velocity at which the key impacts the keyway will be higher at each load change. Under highly dynamic loading, keyways can wear to the point of problematic backlash or even failure in a very short time.

In cases where rotary positioning accuracy is critical, the problems associated with backlash are clear. A delay in angular transmission causes inaccuracy in the move, which in turn leads to an inaccurately positioned part of the machine. Small amounts of backlash can be compensated for in some servo systems; however, this is only with a compromise to the system’s speed and responsiveness to velocity and position commands. Depending on the method of position feedback employed in the motion system, backlash also can cause severe oscillations to occur in a servo motor shaft as it hunts for its true position.

Torque vs. Shaft

A further disadvantage to shaft keys in a world of increasingly compact motion components is the reduction in the torque density of the shaft and its respective locking element. The introduction of a DIN or ANSI standard keyway into a shaft normally reduces the shaft radius by 20 to 25%, and often as much as 50%. Larger diameters must be selected in order to ensure that the shaft will be able to withstand the full torque of the application. This is especially pertinent when considering that the vast majority of torsional stress is applied to the outer 40% of the shaft material. In shaft hubs, the keyway poses a similar torque density related problem. In many cases, shaft couplings, pulleys, sprockets, etc. that would otherwise be capable of transmitting all of the mechanical power required of them, must be selected in larger sizes in order to accommodate the increase in bore radius at the point of the key. This significantly can increase not only the outside diameter, but also the cost, mass, and moment of inertia of the driven element.

Balancing Act

Yet another concern associated with shaft keys, though not quite as widely applicable, relates to balance. In high-speed motion systems, balance and the smoothness of rotation become increasingly important. A growing number of shaft hubs are manufactured from high-strength aluminum rather than steel, as this helps to reduce inertia. The use of a steel key adds an imbalance to the system, which in many cases must be compensated. The concentricity and natural balance of most keyless locking devices eliminates the need for complicated, multi-component balancing procedures.

Clamping Solutions

Alternatives to Keyways in Motion Systems (2)
A variety of different keyless shaft locking devices have been developed over the years in order to address the backlash, density, and balance problems associated with dynamic loading of keys while guaranteeing adequate holding torque around the shaft. Clamping hubs with a single tangential screw are the most common because of their simplicity, low cost, and relative ease of assembly. When properly manufactured, a total shaft-hub clearance between 0.0004 and 0.002" is adequate to ensure that minimal torque applied to the clamping screw will guarantee a high-force frictional clamp connection.

Alternatives to Keyways in Motion Systems (3)
Industry standards for precision motion components ensure that almost any motor or gearbox will present a rough machined (not ground or polished) and properly toleranced shaft for keyless locking devices. The diameter of the shafting in nearly all cases allows for much more surface area contact to exist between the shaft and hub than the power requirements would dictate. These types of clamping hubs normally are rated with a 1.5× or greater safety factor in terms of their holding torque relative to the peak output torques associated with their respective drive elements.

Tangential clamping collars more evenly distribute the stress associated with shaft locking and torque transmission. As demonstrated in Figure 1, the entire surface area in contact between the shaft and hub is utilized, as compared to the single face of a shaft key. This represents an average of a more than 10× increase in torque-related shaft-hub engagement when the surface area of one side of an ANSI standard square key is compared to its respective shaft circumference across the same hub fit length.

Conical clamping-type hubs provide further protection from torque overload and potential shaft slipping in applications where a hard stop or aggressive load reversal takes place. These normally are used only in applications where the nominal torque will exceed 150 lbs/in or more. Conical clamping hubs typically are manufactured from steel and would cause an increase in system inertia compared to aluminum tangential clamping hubs. Their torque rating, assuming the same conditions in terms of fit tolerance and engagement length, is several times higher. Other keyless clamping devices include expansion shafts, double screw clamping hubs, as well as some others, each with their own unique purposes.

The Future

As the field of precision motion control continues to develop faster, smaller, and more accurate systems, mechanical products are required to evolve in order to keep up with demands for acceleration and control that were not possible 50 years ago. Performance issues related to backlash, size, inertia, and balance have all led mechanical component suppliers to adapt to new standards and practices in order to eliminate shaft keys. While most keyless hub designs have existed for quite some time before the surge in popularity of servo motion control, their application in precision power transmission has increased widely over the past few years.

This article was written by Andrew Lechner, Product Manager at R+W America LP, 1120 Tower Lane, Bensenville, IL 60106. For more information, contact Mr. Lechner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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    FAQs

    What can be used in place of keys in shafts? ›

    Split collars are another very common form of keyless shaft locking device. Highly similar to a single-screw clamping collar, these types allow for easier assembly, better balance, and elevated holding torque.

    What are the different types of keyways? ›

    There are 7 different keyways C,CE,E,EF,F,FG and G. There is a special "P" keyway designed to accept any of the 7 keys and a special key blank designed to be accepted into all 7 keyways, 35-101 L which is made of stainless steel and requires a special machine to cut.

    Which key does not require keyway on the shaft? ›

    Saddle keys

    This shaft key installation requires a keyway on the hub and it does not require any keyway on the shaft. These two types of shaft keys are classified based on the base surfaces they have.

    What is difference between key and keyway? ›

    A key is usually made from steel and is inserted or mounted between the shaft and the hub of the component in an axial direction to prevent relative movement. Keyseat is a recess in the shaft and the Keyway is the recess in the hub to receive the key and thus securely lock the component.

    What are the disadvantages of Saddle key over flat key? ›

    The grip of the saddle key is due to friction on the shaft. These types of keys are rarely used in industry because they are not able to provide high torque and load.

    Should key be stronger than shaft? ›

    In this case, key stress is about 50% higher than shaft stress. This would appear to require that the key material be 50% stronger than that of the hub; however, because part of the torque is transmitted through friction between the shaft and hub bore, the key material need only be as strong as the shaft material.

    How do I make a keyway shaft? ›

    How to use and make keyways - YouTube

    What is the difference between SC1 and KW1? ›

    If the bow has straight sides and a triangle-shaped top (like a house), you probably have a KW1 keyway. If the key is diamond-shaped (narrower at the top and bottom and wide in the middle), you probably have a SC1 keyway. However, some aftermarket keys use the same bow shape, regardless of the keyway.

    What is the purpose of a keyway? ›

    Answer:A keyway is used to prevent components from slipping on a shaft and add torque capacity in driven systems. When rigid couplings are used without a keyway, torque is determined by the holding power of the screws.

    What keyway does Yale use? ›

    1. Standard Simplex Keyway - Yale cylinders are supplied with the E1R (PARA) simplex keyway as standard unless otherwise specified. 2. Simplex Keyways - Single key- ways which are used for keyed dif- ferent, keyed alike or small master key systems when only one keyway is required.

    What is the effect of keyways on strength of shaft? ›

    The keyway cut into the shaft reduces the load carrying capacity of the shaft. This is due to the stress concentration near the corners of the keyway and reduction in the cross-sectional area of the shaft i.e. the torsional strength of the shaft is reduced.

    What is a Barth key? ›

    The barth key is a square key with bottom too corners beveled. The beveled corner ensures tight fitting and lessing the tendency to twist when driving in either direction. There is a small clearance to permit easy removal and assembly.

    Why is it called a Woodruff key? ›

    Named after the Woodruff Manufacturing Co, in Hartford, Connecticut, who first manufactured it in 1892.

    What is the difference between a Keyseat and keyway? ›

    Key, Keyway, and Keyseat

    Usually the term keyseat is referred as a groove or pocket on a shaft, and a keyway is a slot in a hub in which the key fits into. The complete system is called a keyed joint (Figure 2). Keys are made of varied types of materials, and also come in different shapes and sizes.

    What is a Woodruff key used for? ›

    A woodruff key, also known as a half‑moon key, is a semi-circular machine shaft key that prevents gears, hubs, or other components from moving independently of a rotating shaft or spindle. Woodruff keys are inserted into a key seat created by a woodruff key cutter or arbor cutter.

    What is SC1 keyway? ›

    The SC1 Keyway provides an avenue through which consumers can experience the convenience of patented SmartKey® technology, which allows locks to be rekeyed without taking the lock off the door or hiring a locksmith, and without worrying about lost or unreturned keys.

    What is a Scotch key? ›

    A Scotch key or Dutch key features a circular keyway hole (instead of rectangular), produced by drilling axially into the assembled hub and shaft, with a metal dowel pin serving as the key.

    What is a Kennedy key? ›

    [′ken·ə·dē ‚kē] (design engineering) A square taper key fitted into a keyway of square section and driven from opposite ends of the hub.

    Which type of key provides easy removal? ›

    A gib head sunk key is either rectangular or square in shape with a taper on the top surface to get a tight fit. It's employed so that it can be easier to remove.

    What grade of steel is key stock? ›

    Typically, key stock is made from carbon steel or stainless steel, but can also be made from aluminum, brass, copper, monel, and even nylon, all with varying material grades. AISI 316 stainless is also available for marine applications.

    What is the difference between key and spline? ›

    A key is a feature that assembles with a keyway (or slot) on a cylindrical feature (shaft) to prevent rotation. A spline is a series of grooves cut along the length of a shaft (usually for a short length of the shaft).

    What is a feather key? ›

    Definition of feather key

    in machinery. : a sunk key without taper that is permanently fixed in one of the connected pieces and that is a sliding fit in a keyway in the other so as to permit relative longitudinal motion. — called also spline.

    How keyways are cut? ›

    A notch called a keyway is cut on the inside of the gear along with another notch cut, longways, into the shaft. Then and a piece, usually metal, called a key is inserted into the shaft keyway. The gear can then be fitted onto the shaft and the keyway on the gear will fit over the key, inserted in the shaft.

    How are keyways made? ›

    Keyways are formed by milling groves into the key blade creating a final shape. (Watch: Video of Key Milling Tool). There can be one or more milling groves in a key blade. A key blank can be cut into any number of keyways, but the correct tools are required to achieve more complex keyways.

    What is saddle key? ›

    Definition of saddle key

    : a key for securing a member to a machine shaft that fits into a keyway in the secured member and is concave to grip the shaft by friction — compare flat key, sunk key.

    What is the difference between KW1 and KW5? ›

    The KW1 is for picking and reading 5 pin Kwikset locks and the KW5 is for 6 pin Kwikset picks. The KW1 and KW5 picked the sample Kwikset locks as expected. One of the major advantages of the new Lishi Picks will be the ability to read the depths of the lock once it is picked and you will be able to make a key.

    Are KW1 and SC1 compatible? ›

    No, Only SC1 keys are compatible with the new cylinder.

    What keyway does Schlage use? ›

    S145 is the default keyway for new Schlage master key systems. Additional keyways are used to expand systems which need more than one keyway. Everest 29 S family products are available through Schlage authorized distributors and professional locksmiths.

    What goes in a keyway? ›

    A keyway is a square channel machined into round a steel bar. The channel, or keyway, provides a place for a square piece of metal known as a key to lock a pulley or sprocket onto the round bar. The square key fits in both the keyway and a square slot machined into the sprocket or gear.

    What is mechanical keying? ›

    Mechanical keying held the structures together without anything cementatious between the stones. This is the Sun Temple. The steps indicate the past, present and the future. III. Amazing workmanship.

    Which type of key is used for having relative axial motion between hub and the shaft? ›

    Feather key

    A feather key is a parallel key which allows relative axial movement between shaft and hub. These can be used with gears or clutches.

    Are Yale keys compatible with Kwikset? ›

    You will not be able to use your current Kwikset keys in your new Yale lock. We can custom cut new Yale KW1 keys (available at checkout) to your existing Kwikset KW1 keyway number, so you can use one set of keys in both your new Yale locks, and existing locks with KW1 keyways.

    How do I find my Yale key code? ›

    Your key codes are found on your key code card attached to your original yale superior keys. If your codes are DEF you need a Yale Platinum Key.

    What is a rim cylinder lock? ›

    What are Rim Cylinders? Rim cylinders are part of a Rim nightlatch system (often referred to as a Yale type lock ) found on wooden and timber doors, they are the outer part that you interact with on the outside to open the door with a key.

    How do you repair key way on a shaft? ›

    How to Repair a Shaft Keyway with Belzona 1111 - YouTube

    How is shaft keyway calculated? ›

    Design of Shaft, Keys and Couplings - Machine Design 1 - YouTube

    Which of the following relation for the weakening effect of the keyway is based on the experimental results by HF Moore? ›

    The following relation for the weakening effect of the keyway is based on the experimental results by H.F. Moore. e = 1 – 0.2 (w/d) – 1.1 (h/d) where e = Shaft strength factor.

    What is square key? ›

    [′skwer ′kē] (design engineering) A machine key of square, usually uniform, but sometimes tapered, cross section.

    What is hollow saddle key? ›

    b) Hollow saddle key A hollow saddle key is a taper key which fits in a keyway in the hub and the bottom of the key is shaped to fit the curved surface of the shaft. Since hollow saddle keys hold on by friction, therefore these are suitable for light loads.

    What is square sunk key? ›

    Square sunk key: Rectangular sunk key having equal width and thickness is called square sunk key. Parallel sunk key: If no taper is provided on the rectangular or square sunk key, it is called parallel sunk key i.e. it is uniform in width and thickness throughout.

    How tight should a woodruff key be? ›

    It is important for key to be somewhat snug and stable in the key seat. If key is not snug/stable then key can easily slide out of key seat due to the curved profile on the bottom. This is very inconvenient in cases where it is difficult to see as the pulley is installed.

    Do woodruff keys wear out? ›

    Two possibilities; wrong size key fitted originally (unlikely, I'd have thought) or wear which sods law says will be in the keyway itself, not the key. Woodruff keys tend tend to last forever unless they develop a bit of looseness which then develops quickly. Check the keyways (both in the shaft and in the gear).

    How do you replace a woodruff key? ›

    You can try tapping a nail on one end of the key, drilling into the center of the key and removing it with a nail, or even heating the key up with a blowtorch and letting it cool repeatedly to loosen it. Remember that damaging the key is a far better alternative than damaging the shaft or other part around the key.

    What are the different types of keyways? ›

    There are 7 different keyways C,CE,E,EF,F,FG and G. There is a special "P" keyway designed to accept any of the 7 keys and a special key blank designed to be accepted into all 7 keyways, 35-101 L which is made of stainless steel and requires a special machine to cut.

    Which key does not require keyway on the shaft? ›

    Saddle keys

    This shaft key installation requires a keyway on the hub and it does not require any keyway on the shaft. These two types of shaft keys are classified based on the base surfaces they have.

    What is a Woodruff cutter? ›

    Woodruff cutters are used to cut the keyway for a woodruff key. Woodruff cutters are slightly hollow ground on the sides for relief and the teeth are not side cutting. The teeth come in both straight and staggered varieties.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of woodruff key over flat key? ›

    Disadvantages of woodruff key :

    The extra depth of keyways in the shaft increases stress concentration and reduces its strength. The key does not permit axial movement between the shaft and the hub.

    Why is a woodruff key used to prevent the flywheel from turning on the crankshaft? ›

    Why is a woodruff key used to prevent the flywheel from turning on the crankshaft? Because this cannot slip out during operation, holds the flywheel in place.

    What is the advantage of using gib headed key? ›

    6. Gib Head Keys: ( Types of Shaft Keys ) These keys are notched machine keys which are tapered and are used for power transmission in keyed shaft for holding the gears and pulleys tightly on the shaft. The head of the key reduce the effect of hammering and prevent the damage to the shaft.

    What is the difference between SC1 and KW1? ›

    If the bow has straight sides and a triangle-shaped top (like a house), you probably have a KW1 keyway. If the key is diamond-shaped (narrower at the top and bottom and wide in the middle), you probably have a SC1 keyway. However, some aftermarket keys use the same bow shape, regardless of the keyway.

    What does SC4 mean on a key? ›

    SC1 is a 5 pin key, SC4 is a 6 pin.

    What keyway does Yale use? ›

    1. Standard Simplex Keyway - Yale cylinders are supplied with the E1R (PARA) simplex keyway as standard unless otherwise specified. 2. Simplex Keyways - Single key- ways which are used for keyed dif- ferent, keyed alike or small master key systems when only one keyway is required.

    Why is it called a Woodruff key? ›

    Named after the Woodruff Manufacturing Co, in Hartford, Connecticut, who first manufactured it in 1892.

    What is a tangent key? ›

    The tangent keys or sometimes called Tangential keys are fitted as a pair at right angles as shown in figure 15, where each key withstands torsion in one direction only. These are used in large heavy-duty shafts.

    What is sunk key? ›

    Definition of sunk key

    : a key that fits into keyways in both the shaft and the secured member in machinery — compare saddle key.

    How does a Woodruff key work? ›

    A woodruff key, also known as a half‑moon key, is a semi-circular machine shaft key that prevents gears, hubs, or other components from moving independently of a rotating shaft or spindle. Woodruff keys are inserted into a key seat created by a woodruff key cutter or arbor cutter.

    How many different key shafts are there? ›

    There are five main types of shaft keys: sunk, saddle, tangent, round, and spline: Sunk Keys. Rectangular & square keys.

    Where are feather keys used? ›

    Feather key joints are distinguished by the function of the feather key within the joint. They serve for fixing a machine part on a shaft, if the respective part need not be moved on the shaft. The keys are placed into accurately fitting shaft keyways and only transmit the rotary power between shaft and hub.

    Are dimple keys more secure? ›

    Contrary to popular belief, dimple locks are neither more secure or less secure than other conventional pin tumbler locks. This impression might arise from the fact that dimple keys have dimples cut into the grooves while standard keys do not.

    What is a Kennedy key? ›

    [′ken·ə·dē ‚kē] (design engineering) A square taper key fitted into a keyway of square section and driven from opposite ends of the hub.

    What is a key on a shaft called? ›

    Key, Keyway, and Keyseat

    Usually the term keyseat is referred as a groove or pocket on a shaft, and a keyway is a slot in a hub in which the key fits into. The complete system is called a keyed joint (Figure 2). (Figure 2)

    Why key is used in shaft? ›

    In mechanical engineering, a key is a machine element used to connect a rotating machine element to a shaft. The key prevents relative rotation between the two parts and may enable torque transmission.

    What is the difference between keys and splines? ›

    The main difference between splines and keys is that splines are integral with the shaft but keys are inserted between shaft and hub. As compared with one or two keys used for load transmission, there are usually four or more splines on a shaft.

    What are shaft keys made of? ›

    Typically, shaft keys are made from either medium carbon steel or stainless steel. But they can be made from many different types of material such as aluminium alloy, bronze, copper, and brass to suit different application environments.

    What is a Barth key? ›

    The barth key is a square key with bottom too corners beveled. The beveled corner ensures tight fitting and lessing the tendency to twist when driving in either direction. There is a small clearance to permit easy removal and assembly.

    Why is it called a woodruff key? ›

    Named after the Woodruff Manufacturing Co, in Hartford, Connecticut, who first manufactured it in 1892.

    Why are keyways used? ›

    Answer:A keyway is used to prevent components from slipping on a shaft and add torque capacity in driven systems. When rigid couplings are used without a keyway, torque is determined by the holding power of the screws. When the clamping force is overcome the coupling will slip on the shaft.

    What is the disadvantage of keyed joint? ›

    Too much securely fixed keyed joint might become difficult to dismantle. Causes shaft imbalance. They introduce stress points due to the notch effect and reduce shaft strength. Possible axial displacement of hub unless locked by an extra component such as circlip or set screw.

    What is the difference between key and coupling? ›

    such type of keys are in circular shape and in this case there will be semi circular hole in shaft and hub for fixing the circular keys , circular keys are also known as Pin keys. A coupling is used for connecting one shaft end with another shaft end for transmitting the power from one shaft to another shaft.

    What is Woodruff key used for? ›

    A woodruff key, also known as a half‑moon key, is a semi-circular machine shaft key that prevents gears, hubs, or other components from moving independently of a rotating shaft or spindle. Woodruff keys are inserted into a key seat created by a woodruff key cutter or arbor cutter.

    What are the advantage of using splines over keys? ›

    The benefits of using a splined shaft in the place of a keyed shaft are many: The spline connection provides an equally distributed load along the sides of the teeth. This shared load provides a longer fatigue life vs. a keyway drive.

    Are splines stronger than keys? ›

    Although a splined shaft looks like having a series of shaft keyways with keys pushed in, splines are considerably stronger than the keyed joint as the keyways weaken the shaft and reduce its torque carrying capacity.

    What is a feather key? ›

    Definition of feather key

    in machinery. : a sunk key without taper that is permanently fixed in one of the connected pieces and that is a sliding fit in a keyway in the other so as to permit relative longitudinal motion. — called also spline.

    What is the best material for shaft? ›

    The material used for ordinary shafts is mild steel. When high strength is required, an alloy steel such as nickel, nickel-chromium or chromium-vanadium steel is used. Shafts are generally formed by hot rolling and finished to size by cold drawing or turning and grinding.

    What is Keysteel made of? ›

    A bright drawn steel in square and rectangular bar, key steel is an unalloyed medium carbon steel with reasonable tensile strength.

    What material is Keystock? ›

    Key stock (and machine keys) can be made from many types of materials. Typically, key stock is made from carbon steel or stainless steel, but can also be made from aluminum, brass, copper, monel, and even nylon, all with varying material grades. AISI 316 stainless is also available for marine applications.

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