Seals, chains, cable carriers, springs, retaining rings, and general power-transmission (PT) components continue to see new materials at critical surfaces; proliferation of application-specific versions (especially for compression and wave springs); and increasingly practical online purchasing for both off-the-shelf components and customized orders. Here we explore some of these trends.
Online B2B ordering of very specific components — increasingly common
Forrester Research projects that by 2021, about 13% of all B2B sales in the U.S. will take place through ecommerce. Rather staggering is that (according to other research from Statista Inc.) last year B2B ecommerce activity generated $7.7 trillion in sales globally — triple that of B2C sales. Even very specific engineered components are coming to be sold this way.
Case in point: Now the fastener, spring, and shim manufacturer SPIROL offers engineers a new ecommerce platform at shop.spirol.com for purchasing coiled spring pins — and plans to eventually offer all its engineered components at the site. Engineers can purchase pins in several materials and finishes (in light, standard, and heavy duties) from 0.8 to 20 mm in diameter — and get certifications or search by specification at the site. Designers can also get 2D and 3D models there. More after the jump.
In a similar move, Klüber Lubrication (a Freudenberg Group company) will soon supply its specialty lubricants and tribological formulations to OEMs and end users through an Cloud-based portal as well. Management company JAGGAER will build the digital-procurement platform to serve engineers. The tool will be implemented in modules for digital-complaint processing based on QDX standards; integration of SAP contracts; and electronic RFXs. All will integrate into existing IT and ERP systems for automatic documents and information exchange (to manual data entry). Connection of ERP systems will create a platform to give purchasers a uniform lubricant database.
Other industrial-lubricant suppliers have taken a different tack to solve mechanical challenges with tribological product design. Over the last several years, Nye Lubricants has cultivated technical competency for better integration of R&D and product development. “We focus on … understanding fundamentals of applied tribology and combining this with simulations of customer applications,” said Jason Galary, engineering development and applications manager at Nye Lubricants. More after the jump.
Usually, a lubricant supplier develops formulations and then ships samples of it out to the OEM or end user for testing (in turn based on quantitative data and sales engineers’ experience. But this arrangement burdening users with testing — which is why Nye established its applications development and validation testing (ADVT) team. So today, this ADVT executes applied mechanics as well as component testing and simulation.
Bearings continue to inspire material science for oils and greases capable of extreme pressure survival, sound damping, seal-life extension, and more exotic ends. “Materials used for bearing lubrication in particular have advanced considerably — even allowing safe operation in food applications with high-performance characteristics,” said Steven Feketa of LinMot USA. “In the past one got one or the other characteristic … but not both.”
Materials for PT performance characteristics
Motion-component manufacturers are leveraging advanced materials to improve designs — in lubricant formulations (as just mentioned) as well as forgiving linear-rail materials; composite disc-packs for couplings; alternative rare-earth magnet formulations in motors; engineered sleeve-bearing formulations; new plating and coating options; and performance-grade 3D printed parts for PT components.
One example of the latter from Haydon Kerk (of AMETEK Advanced Motion Solutions) is a 3D-printed leadscrew-nut insert prototype service called 3DP. Read more about this in our leadscrew trends coverage; the 3DP service gives machine builders a way to verify linear-motion design iterations quickly and more accurately.
Others also see the value in boosting the performance of parts generated through additive manufacturing. “We currently offer a variety of tribo-filament materials for 3D printing,” said Nicole Lang, iglide product manager at igus.
“These materials are tested and offer excellent wear rates … and service life exceeding those materials commonly used in 3D printing.” In fact, the manufacturer also offers high-temperature materials and materials that offer high chemical resistance to work in challenging applications.
Aerotech Inc. also uses additive-manufactured components in certain designs to increase design freedom, reduce weight, and boost dynamic stiffness. “Because we service the high-performance automation space, new materials and methods are often needed to meet exacting design parameters,” said Brian O’Connor, director of product and market development at Aerotech.
Emphasis (for now at least) is on the use of 3D printing for preliminary design builds. “Most of the new materials we’ve been using are for prototyping,” said Laura May of Thomson Industries. “Thanks to advances in 3D printing and laser forming, we produce prototypes much faster and less expensively than before.” May also points out that besides freeing time for product innovation, having more (and better-performing) prototypes facilitates the product-development process.
Of course, traditional power-transmission (and electric motor) components leverage the most advanced materials. Consider NORD Drivesystems’ relatively recent alternative offering to stainless steel for gearmotor resistance to harsh washdown environments. Called NSD TupH, the coating is a molecular conversion of aluminum-alloy housing bodies to resist blistering (to ASTM D714) and corrosion (to ASTM D610-08).
Prevention of corrosion is also essential to exposed motion components. Manufacturer U.S. Tsubaki Power Transmission sells several variations of chain, including power-transmission chain with its proprietary NEPTUNE surface treatment (to resist corrosion when outdoors or subject to seawater) and nickel-plated chain (for moderately corrosive environments). In contrast, its AS Series chain made of 304 and hardened 600 stainless steel delivers high load capacity and adherence to FDA regulation. Still other chain for situations requiring nonmagnetic power transmission and conveying components use other materials — including polyacetal stainless steel.
Elsewhere, ceramics are an advanced material used in gearing, motor shafts, linear components, and stage bases. Aerotech makes use of silicon carbide in some of its planar air-bearing stages. “We’re always looking at ways to employ newer materials, coatings, and construction methods in our designs to improve performance and reduce cost,” said O’Connor of Aerotech. “Various composites and ceramic structures in our designs increase stiffness and reduce weight, which means higher-accuracy and throughput of the motion system. We also employ engineered coatings to reduce wear and friction in mechanisms for standard and customized products.”