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Durable 3D printed worm gears

Durable worm gears: up to 80% more wear-resistant than machined or injection-moulded gears

► Fast manufacture: ready to ship in 1 to 3 days
► Specially developed for worm drives - iglidur i6 material with optimised sliding properties
► No minimum order quantity: from 1 to 10,000 pieces

Extremely long service life of worm gears with optimised sliding properties

Test parameter:

  • Torque 4.9Nm
  • Speed: 12rpm
  • Counter partner: hard anodised aluminium
  • Duration: two months
► POM (machined): Total failure after 621,000 cycles
► iglidur i6 (laser sintered): Low wear after 1 million cycles

3D printed gears made of iglidur high-performance polymers

► Predictable service life
► Any geometry possible: special shapes and replacement parts
► Optimised tooth root geometry for longer service life
► Self-lubricating: dry operation thanks to solid lubricants
Last up to 5 times longer than regular plastic gears
Tested and proven: gears made of iglidur have a considerably longer service life than machined or injection-moulded gears made of regular plastics.

What material is better for what type of gear? 

  • iglidur i3  is characterised by higher strength, is especially well-suited for spur gears and helical-bevel gears, and can be used  for all other kinds of wear-resistant gears.
  • iglidur i6  has optimised sliding properties and is therefore ideal for worm gears or other gears where conformity with food standards is required.
  • iglidur i8-ESD is suitable for gears where ESD properties are necessary, e.g. for ATEX 
3D printed polymer gears

Customer applications with 3D printed gears

Polymer gear wear tests

3D printing wear tests

iglidur polymers are more wear-resistant than PLA, ABS and other materials and manufacturing processes
Information about 3D printing at igus®

Why 3D printing at igus?

Further information about
  • our materials
  • additive processes
  • Services and support
igus 3D printing news

3D printing news

Innovations in the field of industrial 3D printing. New products and services for additive manufacturing with wear-resistant polymers.

FAQ: Your most frequent questions and our answers

3D printed worm wheels made of iglidur polymers

What is iglidur i6, and why is this material especially well-suited to worm wheel design?

iglidur i6 is a laser-sintering material that was specifically developed for worm wheels. In addition to the general advantages of all iglidur polymers, such as wear resistance and lubrication-free properties, iglidur i6 is remarkable for its especially great sliding capacity, which optimises worm wheel functionality. The idea for the development came from our robolink robot arm design engineers. In testing, worm wheels manufactured from iglidur i6 proved many times more wear-resistant than other 3D printed polymer worm wheels. Plastic worm wheels are suited to industrial use only if high-quality polymer is used. Earlier tests with PLA and ABS were unsuccessful, since the high coefficient of friction caused the components to wear relatively quickly. That is why new polymers with the desired properties were developed. Special designs for high temperatures or the food industry are available. Wear tests for these materials show that they are very abrasion-resistant. The material data for iglidur i6 can be found here.


Advantages of 3D printed worm wheels

The most important advantages are wear resistance, impact resistance, inherent elasticity for reducing surface pressure, especially great resilience, self-lubricating properties, corrosion resistance, quiet operation, freedom from maintenance and good emergency running properties. The most important criterion is the polymer in use. Special materials are remarkable for great abrasion resistance and toughness, high-precision, detailed surface creation and extremely long service life in worm wheel applications.


Advantages of polymer worm wheels over metal ones

Basically, polymer gears are suited to dry running without lubricating oil - this allows worm gears printed from iglidur to run without lubrication. The user enjoys great advantages, since maintenance costs and downtime are much lower when worm wheels made of high-quality polymer materials are used. 3D printing production is more flexible for design engineers than the milling of gears from metal or polymer. Worm gear geometry can be absolutely optimised in the former, whilst compromises must be made in the latter. The optimised geometry means that it takes longer for play to develop in polymer worm gears than in milled gears. Surface pressure and abrasion are greatly reduced thanks to large contact areas.


To which applications are metal worm wheels better suited?

A worm wheel is generally used in a gearbox's output. Traditionally, it is made of a copper-tin alloy. This material exhibits excellent emergency running properties in conjunction with steel components. This is an important point in favour of using metal worm wheels when a great deal of heat is generated or high torques are transmitted. Worm gears made of metal are also often integrated into the cooling and lubricant circuits. In many cases, a worm made of hardened steel is used with a worm wheel made of a softer material, such as brass or bronze. But self-lubricating polymers are increasingly being used for worm wheels.


Worm wheel and worm gear design requirements

Worm wheel and worm gear design requires precise harmonisation of tooth flank geometry. This is necessary for transmitting the intended torques and ensuring that the flanks are wear-resistant and abrasion-resistant. Simple, economical manufacturing processes for one-off productions and small series are important if the design is to be transferred to computer and 3D printing systems, making it commercially attractive.


Worm gear material combination

Worms made of hard anodised aluminium are especially well-suited to high loads. However, suitable worms from the igus 3D printing service made of the material iglidur i3 are sufficient for normal loads, since such worms are remarkable for their great strength. The great advantage here is also freedom of design, since even complex, rare worms such as globoid screws can be printed in 3D, quickly and at low cost.

What is a worm wheel?

A worm wheel is the counter-component to the worm in a worm gear. As sliding capacity is especially important for worm wheels, they are often manufactured from bronze. Printing lower quantities of worm wheels in 3D from high-performance polymer is significantly more cost-effective and, most importantly, faster - whilst delivering comparable properties.

What is a worm gear?

Worm gears are used wherever reliable, precise, quiet gearbox function is necessary. Quiet, robust operation is especially important. Worm gears can be used to implement axle offsets between drive and output. Large outputs can be transferred in very small spaces. Hence, the worm wheel's primary areas of use are conveyor systems, robot technology, profile processing machines, separating systems, extrusion devices, mining machines and rowing machines. Worm gears are also used in presses and rolling mills, stage and theatre equipment, actuators, in machinery construction and lift technology.


How does a worm gear work?

A worm gear is a special kind of gear in the shape of a worm. The tooth winds around the gear's shaft, much like that of a screw. The mating gear is the worm wheel. The worm can be thought of as a spur gear with diagonal threads. Its special feature is that the worm only has one tooth. However, there are worms with two or more teeth. This design makes the gear ratio relatively high. A popular property of the worm gear is its self-locking feature. The worm can drive the worm wheel. If the roles are reversed, this is prevented by the self-locking feature. Moving large masses can also be problematic, since abrupt gearbox stoppage is not recommended in such applications.


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