igus launches new “incredibly compact” slewing ring bearings that can be customized via 3D printing

Multinational polymer manufacturer igus has launched a new slewing ring that can be used to build lightweight, load-bearing systems which facilitate movement in a range of industrial equipment. 

While the firm’s ‘PRT-04’ bearing is 60% lighter and offers 50% of the size of its PRT-01 predecessor, it’s still ultra-resilient, and capable of transmitting axial and radial forces as well as tilting moments within machine-moving applications. Though the component comes injection molded as standard, igus also offers to 3D print the product, as a means of customizing it for clients with use case-specific needs. 

“Aluminum with plastic offers two decisive design advantages: it’s lightweight yet stable,” explains Fabian Wieking, PRT Slewing Ring Bearing Product Manager at igus. “Thus, despite its small size, the PRT-04 can hold its own against comparable products on the market and accommodate high loads (up to 3,500N) in the axial direction, even though it is much more compact.”

igus' PRT-4 slew ring bearing. Image via igus.
igus’ PRT-04 slew ring bearing. Image via igus.

igus’ broad industrial offering

Based in Cologne, Germany, but with operations in 35 countries and around 4,900 staff, igus is a major player in the world of polymer production. At present, the company utilizes its line of self-lubricating, high-performance plastics to create everything from highly-flexible cables, to the iglide range of plain bearings and bushings, which now includes the PRT-04. 

Over the last few years, igus has expanded via the creation of internal start-ups, many of which are based around advanced technologies, like its RBTX platform for Lean Robotics and its 3D printing service. Through the latter, the firm offers to produce prototypes and small batches of parts for clients seeking to harness the low-friction benefits of its iglide 3D printing materials, which are marketed as capable of lasting up to 50 times longer than normal. 

In the past, the service has been used to 3D print self-lubricating linear axes from igus’ proprietary iglidur I3 material. Others that have chosen to take advantage of the firm’s offering also include electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Easelink, which incorporated 3D printed cogs into its Matrix EV charging system back in 2018.

What’s a slewing ring and the ‘PRT-04?’

For those unfamiliar, a slewing ring is essentially a part designed to enable rotational motion between others in a system, whether that be in the process of moving a drill, crane or industrial packaging unit. The bearing is mainly composed of two concentric rings, with the outer element flat against a motionless surface, and the inner one affixed to a turning object, allowing it to rotate as needed. 

According to igus, however, installing the drives and systems needed to enable motion in tight spaces is a “challenge companies face in many areas,” especially as requirements around machine components are “becoming increasingly stringent.”

In an attempt to address this need for a space-saving bearing solution, the firm has therefore launched the PRT-04. Like all igus bearings, the PRT-04 is self-lubricating and insensitive to dirt, dust and moisture, but with an outer diameter of 60mm, it also has the smallest installation size of any of the company’s PRT range. 

In terms of layout, the product itself features three aluminum rings, as well as a newly-developed sliding element made from the firm’s iglide J polymer. The plastic is said to work exceptionally well with aluminum, ensuring good coefficients of wear, while furthering its moisture and chemical resistance credentials.

Practically, the PRT-04 is expected to allow for smooth rotary and swivel actions, even in tight spaces, with igus touting automotive and ‘moving head’ applications for the product, such as those in the swiveling tables seen on trains and planes. Although the firm has made less noise about the potential of tailoring the part via 3D printing, this is understood to be possible, with quotes available on request. 

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Featured image shows igus’ PRT-04 slew ring bearing. Image via igus.