3D printed parts were once limited to prototypes suitable only for visual observation and dimensional checks, but with new advances in both technology and working materials, companies can now produce go beyond fragile prototypes and use 3D printing for actual production of limited run parts.
In this blog post, we are going to discuss the effects this can have on the realm of polymer bushings and bearings.
Impact on Prototyping and the Design Phase
The advent of 3D printing has truly revolutionized prototyping and design. Recall that prototyping allows initial iterations of the design to be evaluated and refined as needed. A basic 3D physical model of a bearing design is usually limited to assessment for fit, dimensions, and the most basic functionality tests.
However, with the ever-expanding availability of performance plastics including self-lubricating plastics for use in 3D printing systems, bearing and bushing prototypes can now be quickly manufactured for real-world testing and simulation. Such test results feed back into the evaluation and refinement, and because new prototypes can be produced so quickly there is a significant time savings during the design phase.
Dramatic Reduction in Lead Time for Custom and Experimental Bearings
This also means that engineers can design, prototype, and test experimental bearings in record time. And the same applies to customized polymer bearings. A custom bearing can be designed, prototyped, tested, and then put into production in a matter of weeks rather than months.
[ 3D printed parts can now be produced using engineering plastics that have the strength, rigidity, and wear resistance required for bearings. ]
In addition, parts including bearings that were simply not feasible to manufacture by existing methods can now be 3D printed, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities. Engineers are no longer limited to developing polymer bearings that can be injection molded or machined.
As mentioned earlier, 3D printed parts can now be produced using engineering plastics that have the strength, rigidity, and wear resistance needed for bearings. This means that custom bearings can not only be designed and prototyped more quickly using 3D printing, but be manufactured using 3D printing. This manufacturing method also saves money when it comes to expensive custom tooling for traditional manufacturing process, especially for short run parts.
The realm of 3D printing has thrown open the doors for all kinds of innovations and advances in the design, testing, and production of bearings and bushings. Going beyond bearings just suitable for fit and basic functionality tests to the actual production of implementation-bearings, 3D printing is beginning to offer advantages over traditional manufacturing methods, including shorter lead times on custom bearings, a more efficient design process, new innovations, and economical short run production.