3D printed plastic gears out-perform machined alternatives

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The time and costs involved in the production of prototypes can soon become challenging for start-ups. Easelink relies on the 3D printing service from igus, which enables components such as gears to be configured online, 3D printed cost-effectively and shipped within 24 hours.

3D printed plastic gears out-perform machined alternativesE-mobility has not yet experienced the big breakthrough. One of the reasons for this is that the charging infrastructure is in its infancy and many drivers fear their cars will not reach the next charging point. Easelink wants to change this with Matrix Charging, a vehicle charging system consisting of two components. A charging pad is connected to the mains and installed in the car park; a connector on the bottom of the EV drops down when parked over the pad and 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 per cent 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 by utilising the 3D printing service from igus to make the gears in the mechanism of each of the connector prototypes.

Online gear configurator

The igus 3D printing service includes an online configurator that enables engineers to create a gear model in seconds. The designer only needs to select the gear module, and set the number of teeth and the torque to be transmitted. The configurator creates a 3D model of the gear, which is used as the basis for 3D printing. Hundreds of variants of single and double gears can be created without using computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Industrial selective laser sintering (SLS) machines print the gears and these are usually ready to ship within just 24 hours. Hermann Stockinger, Easelink founder, says: "In prototype construction, high flexibility and fast delivery times are crucial. It is precisely these factors that we appreciate – to quickly select and print gears in many variations via the igus online configurator."

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

For more information about the igus 3D printing service, go to

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