Bearings are crucial components in all sorts of machines. But did you know you could 3D print them? Dig into the guide on 3D printed bearings to learn more!
A bearing is defined as a mechanical component that constrains relative movement to the desired motion within the same axis and also reduces friction between moving parts. Bearings come in many different guises, including but not limited to the following:
There are many reasons for using plastic rather than metal for your bearings. Plastics require no external lubrication, are corrosion resistant (when used with glass or plastic balls), and operate quietly. They’re also non-magnetic, lightweight, and cheaper compared to metal.
Although 3D printed bearings are primarily being used by individuals looking for niche workarounds to industrial bearings, steps have been taken to introduce them to industrial applications. Acetal (POM) represents a low-friction plastic, and manufacturer Igus produces a range of practical materials.
If you don’t have the resources to print your own bearings, or if you require a material or level of accuracy outside your reach, consider reaching out to a 3D printing service. With Craftcloud, the 3D printing and price comparison service from All3DP, you can easily find the right provider and price for your needs. Benefit from a global network, a wide range of materials, and round-the-clock support.
Listed below are some important terms related to bearing design and operation:
Here are the key steps to matching your bearing type to be 3D printed with your specific application:
Key types of printable bearings to help with your selection in Step 2 include the following:
There are a wide variety of materials that can be tested and used to great effect for your 3D printed bearings. It’s first worth understanding some of the key properties and functions that will help you to filter out which materials will be suitable for your application:
Note that plastic bearings will not be as strong as traditional steel bearings. Consult your material supplier for technical datasheets to determine if the desired material will withstand the loads required from the bearing within the operating system.
In addition, check out some great ways you can post-process your 3D prints to remove support material, sand, protect, and finish your bearings. Metal plating could be useful in this instance, as the metal shell will increase the strength of the 3D printed part. It’s also a very thin surface coating, so your original tolerances should still hold.
Take a look at some current bearing designs, with a mixture of caged “print-in-place” bearings and also bearings designed around existing ball bearings in metal:
Also check out this great guide for calculating axial and radial forces for a deep groove ball bearing. Note that this should be used as a guide only and not as your definitive calculation for selection.
With great strides in material and process technologies, the future is looking bright for the partnership between additive manufacture and bearings!
(Lead image source: DIY 3D Printing)
License: The text of "3D Printed Bearing: Tips & Tricks to 3D Print Your Own" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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