Is 3D printing the future of Bearings?

Photo of igus tribo-optimized 3D printer filament

igus has launched a new 3D printing material that could radically change the bearing and manufacturing industry. The filament (iglide tribo-filament)  is up to 50 times more resistant than conventional 3D printing materials such as ABS, and is the world’s first to be enhanced with tribological, or low-friction, properties.

But what is tribology?

Tribology is the science and engineering of surfaces in relative motion and includes the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication and wear. – The IET Tribology Network

This is especially important in the design and manufacturing of bearings, which need to have low levels of friction to extend the life of a machine and to ensure minimum energy use.

Bearings are at least as old as the Egyptians, they used tree trunks under sleds and there are drawings of them using bearings with hand drills. Through the ages the design and uses of bearings has evolved, from wooden bearings to steel bearings, and now with advanced 3D printing technology bearings meet the future.

igus filamPhoto of igus tribo-optimized 3D printer filamentents and bearings

igus has been researching tribological filaments for some time now in response to customers requests to be able to design their own custom parts and prototypes using igus plastic materials. This new filament integrates lubricant in the plastic itself, making it more durable in motion applications, even bearings.

And 3D printing?

3D printing is an up and coming technology that makes CAD (computer aided design) and CAM (computer aided manufacturing) more accessible and cheaper to use. They are able to ‘print’ full-size, three dimensional objects and have been used to make everything from your dinner to a house in Amsterdam and everything in between.

It will be able to reduce the cost of production and waste is essentially eliminated, as only the object is printed, with space being left and not having to be cut away and the material discarded.

Your views

But what do you think? Will 3D printing bring a second industrial revolution? Will it replace traditional manufacturing? What impact will it have on the bearing industry? Let us know your views in the comments below, tweet us or leave a Facebook comment!