Multinational polymer manufacturer igus has released a new Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D printing material that’s said to last up to 60 times longer than those of its competitors.
Developed using igus’ proprietary ‘tribo-technology,’ iglide i3000 is tribologically-optimized in a way that enables it to produce accurate, highly wear-resistant parts. When DLP 3D printed, the firm says that its resin is ideal for creating tiny, detailed components like 0.2mm-tooth module gears, as well as any others that usually require filigree recesses or ultra-fine drill holes.
“We were able to prove in laboratory tests that the service life of iglide i3000 is at least 30 times longer than 10 tested commercially 3D printing resins,’’ says Tom Krause, Head of Additive Manufacturing at igus. “In some applications, we even expect an increase in service life by a factor of 60.”
igus’ polymer 3D printing portfolio
Headquartered in Cologne, Germany, igus is an industrial polymer manufacturer and part production service provider, with around 4,900 staff and operations in 35 countries. The company’s offering revolves around the ‘self-lubricating’ materials it has developed, which it both markets directly to customers, and uses to create everything from highly-flexible cables to parts like gears, bushings and bearings.
Leveraging its expertise in polymer formulation, igus has also developed a range of filaments and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) materials under its iglidur and igumid labels, enabling it to address the 3D printing market. As well as allowing customers to order these plastics, the firm offers services through which they can upload CAD models, before ordering parts made from the materials directly in small batches.
In the past, igus has used its in-house SLS and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) capabilities to develop custom lead screw units with a self-lubricating linear axis, in addition to cogs for Easelink’s Matrix EV charging system, and with its offering now set to expand into DLP, this should open new applications to its customer base.
Tribo-optimized DLP production
According to igus, many existing 3D printing resins suffer from a “common problem” when it comes to making tiny parts for applications like model-making, in that they’re “not particularly robust and fail quickly.” To combat this, the company has turned to the tribo-technology it previously used to develop its J260-PF filament, in which a material’s properties are tuned for lubrication in high-friction use cases.
Leveraging this tribology optimization approach, igus has now developed iglide i3000, a material enriched with solid lubricants that make it ideal for DLP 3D printing self-lubricating, low-maintenance components. Thanks to the company’s tribo-technology, the resin is also capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 80°C for long periods, potentially lending it applications in thermally-demanding areas.
Alongside its new material, igus has announced an expansion of its capabilities to include DLP 3D printing as well, so it’s now able to produce parts with fine features down to a size of just 0.035 millimeters. As such, the company says that clients will soon be able to take advantage of a revised service, to order high-durability parts with complex internal channels, and details sized half the thickness of a human hair.
Though iglide i3000 is only currently in the beta phase with initial customers, igus says that it 3D printed over 200,000 abrasion-resistant parts in 2021 alone. With no minimum order quantity, a capacity of up to 10,000 units per batch and several updates being developed for its online platform, the firm is now encouraging those interested in testing its new service to produce high-wear parts to reach out.
“We are working on ensuring that DLP 3D printing is also available in the online tool, which customers can use to upload STEP files for their components or configure gears in just a few clicks,” adds Krause. “Thanks to the combination of 3D printing and online configuration, weeks of waiting for wear-free special components are a thing of the past.”
3D printing high-wear bearings
While the self-lubricating properties of igus’ materials are relatively unique in the industry, it has previously proven possible to 3D print high-durability parts like bearings via other means. In March last year, Jabil launched the durability-focused PA 0600, a filament that teams a high level of resistance with a smooth surface, making it ideal for manufacturing low-friction gears, fixtures and tooling.
Back in 2019, researchers at the Politehnica of Bucharest University also developed vibration-free FDM materials for Geneva gear systems. At the time, the team suggested that their material featured the properties needed to be 3D printed into affordable, functional mechanisms like springs, bearings, clutches and sliders.
Elsewhere, in a similar application, CeramicSpeed has worked with the Danish Technological Institute to 3D print a durable pulley wheel for pro cyclists. Produced using an SLM Solutions 3D printer, the lightweighted gear is designed to be resilient enough for applications in race conditions at events like the Tour de France.
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Featured image shows a bottle of the new igus iglide i3000 DLP 3D printing material. Image via igus.