Airwolf 3D Headquarters, Costa Mesa, CA
Designer Cameron Williams pulls a thin, white cylinder off the heated print bed of the Airwolf HD2x. Smooth on the outside, the interior is pillowed, textured like a cloud. It is a new, experimental bearing that Williams just designed and printed- one that, until now, could not exist.
“The only way you can produce this bearing is by 3D printing it,” Williams says. “You cannot machine or injection mold it. With this technology we now have the ability to test design concepts that were previously impossible.”
The proprietary design, which Williams refers to as a “point matrix multi-axis” bearing, features minimal part-to-part contact while simultaneously providing maximum radial support. This reduces friction while maintaining the structural integrity of the bearing. Moreover, the complex geometries that give the bearing its unusual point-contact features can only be produced by a 3D printer using a unique self-lubricating filament called iglide.
Produced by German plastics manufacturer igus, iglidur l180-PF is the first filament to be optimized for repetitive movement and is up to 50 times more abrasion resistant than other 3D printable materials. The unique characteristics of this new filament make it possible to 3D print functional, self-lubricating bearings for the first time, and the 3mm filament size is compatible with Airwolf 3D printer MODELS HD, HDX, HD2X and XL.
3D Printed Bearings could revolutionize the industry
“This blows the doors open on what designers can do with bearings,” says Erick Wolf, cofounder and chairman of Airwolf 3D. “Not only can you now print custom, functional bearings on your desktop, but you can also create designs that have never even been considered before because of the limitations of older technology. The possibilities are practically endless.”
In addition to increased functionality, 3D printed bearings save time and money by eliminating expensive tooling and manufacturing procedures. “The implications for prototyping alone are immense,” says Wolf. “There is no more waiting for manufactured bearings, which could turn out to be expensive or out of stock. You can create your design, modify it if necessary, and print again in minutes, not weeks or months.”
The future of Williams’ point matrix bearing is yet unclear. It is one of many iterations of a new type of radial linear bearing that engineers at Airwolf 3D have been testing for improved multi-axis performance. “We are in a constant state of evolution,” says Wolf. “3D printing is evolving rapidly. We are on the cutting edge, and it is developments like this that keep us here.”
The point-matrix multi-axis bearing is a proprietary design of Airwolf 3D, but you can download the traditional linear bearing and modify the design to your heart’s content.
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