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Produce prototypes at full throttle: wear-resistant igus gears from the 3D printer15/10/2018

Easelink relies on quickly configurable and wear-resistant gears from the igus 3D printing service

If time and costs involved in the production of prototypes pile up, it can become economically challenging for start-ups. 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 within 24 hours. Here, wear-resistant and friction-optimised high-performance plastics are used.

E-mobility has not yet experienced the big breakthrough. One of the reasons for this is that the charging infrastructure is in its infancy. For many drivers, the available recharging facilities are very rare. Easelink wants to change this. The innovative start-up has developed 'Matrix Charging', a vehicle charging system consisting of two components: A charging pad connected to the mains is installed in the car park. A connector on the bottom of the e-car drops down when parked over the pad. The charging process starts automatically, without the driver having to connect a cable – 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. If costs and time get out of hand during this phase, prototyping can become a stumbling block. But Easelink skilfully manufactured the components. They used the 3D printing service from igus to make the gears in the mechanism of each of the connector prototypes.

Gears configured quickly online
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. The configurator creates a 3D model of the gear, the basis for 3D printing. Hundreds of variants of single and double gears can be created without using computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Wear-resistant gears ready to ship from 24 hours
Industrial selective laser sintering (SLS) machines print the gears. They are usually ready to ship within just 24 hours. "In prototype construction, high flexibility and fast delivery times are crucial," says Hermann Stockinger, Easelink founder. "It is precisely these factors that we appreciate - to quickly select and print gears in many variations via the igus online configurator." igus uses 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 a high wear resistance. The 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. It was worn out after 321,000 cycles and broke down after 621,000 cycles.