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Prototyping wear resistant gears with igus 3D printing service

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Start-ups often find it economically challenging to deal with the time and costs involved in the production of prototypes. The high-tech company Easelink from Graz, Austria, therefore, relies on the 3D printing service from motion plastics specialist igus. Components such as gears can be configured online, printed cost-effectively and delivered quickly; the gears are made from wear-resistant and friction-optimised high-performance plastics, which can be ordered directly from Treotham .

Easelink is an innovative start-up that’s focussed on improving the existing charging infrastructure available for electric vehicles. Easelink’s 'Matrix Charging' is a vehicle charging system consisting of a charging pad connected to the mains, which is installed in the car park. A connector on the bottom of the e-car drops down when parked over the pad and the charging process starts automatically without the driver having to connect a cable; this is similar to inductive charging, but with up to ten times the charging power and with 99 percent efficiency.

During the development process, the designers created a production-ready component through several prototypes. To ensure cost and time didn’t get out of control during the prototyping phase, Easelink used the 3D printing service from igus to make the gears for the connector prototype.

The igus 3D printing service includes an online configurator that enables engineers to design a gear in seconds. The designer only needs to select the gear module, and set the number of teeth and the torque transmission, following which the configurator creates a 3D model of the gear. Hundreds of variants of single and double gears can be created without using CAD software.

The gears are printed on industrial selective laser sintering (SLS) machines and are usually ready to ship within just 24 hours.

Observing that high flexibility and fast delivery times are crucial in prototype construction, Easelink founder Hermann Stockinger says igus’ online configurator allows them to quickly select and print gears in many variations.

The components are printed by igus using their iglidur I6 as the printing material. The high-performance plastic withstands ambient temperatures of -40 to +80 degrees Celsius, is pressure-resistant up to 44 MPa and has high wear resistance. igus engineers have proven in laboratory tests that it is significantly more robust than the classic plastic polyoxymethylene (POM). Here, gears were operated at 12 revolutions per minute (RPM) and loaded with 5 Nm torque. The result: The 3D-printed gear made of iglidur I6 was still fully functional after a million cycles, and the wear hardly measurable unlike a machined gear made from POM, which wore out after 321,000 cycles and broke down after 621,000 cycles.

For more information, please visit the Treotham Automation website www.treotham.com.au or call 1300 65 75 64.

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