Bowman International

  • Bowman International optimize design and performance in bearings using HP’s 3D printing technology Multi Jet Fusion
  • 3D printing with PA11 gives parts better mechanical and isotropic properties
  • The pros are easier assembly, maintenance and repairs

THE CHALLENGE

Bearing cages can be one of the most significant factors in bearing performance and they are also the most complex part of a bearing. As such, they are difficult to manufacture using traditional methods. Bowman’s standard range of cages—which are available on the market in 17 different sizes—would traditionally have been produced using steel, bronze, or aluminium, all of which can result in noise and vibration during operation, compromising the material’s durability and, thus, the quality of the part.

Extremely complex geometries made it impossible for Bowman to use traditional processes like injection molding to produce the thousands of bearing cages they needed to manufacture per month. Seals for split roller bearings were previously produced using aluminum, which can result in damage to the steel housings and made assembly and disassembly difficult to achieve. Operating in environments where parts must be regularly maintained and downtime is at a premium, the bearings require seals that can be assembled and reassembled easily and quickly.

Bowman International ball bearings

THE SOLUTION

Bowman initially used SLS to develop its new products, but this technology increased the likelihood for warping and inconsistent mechanical properties in the final part, so it was not suitable to produce reliable production parts. Faced with this challenge, Bowman sought new ways to design and manufacture their parts and subsequently opted for HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) as the appropriate technology to take prototyping into production, and then on to volume production, particularly for bearing cages and seals.

 

Using the design capabilities available with 3D printing, specifically with HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, engineers at Bowman invented a new patent-pending design for bearing cages and seals, which allowed them to modify other aspects of the bearing that surround the 3D printed components.

 

Bowman noted that using HP PA11 material results in parts that offer better elongation at break, which is critical when assembling parts, as well as improved isotropic properties. Thanks to this improved performance, parts require less maintenance and fewer spare parts are needed.

The company has also been able to reduce the number of different components in stock by up to 75%. The wear resistance offered by HP PA 11 makes it easier to assemble the seals and cheaper to manufacture them, which is a major advantage when used in a potentially harsh industrial environment. The material also offers excellent natural low-friction properties, which also lend themselves to this application.

By producing bearing cages with HP MJF technology, they have also extended the life of a traditional split bearing by 3 to 5 times. The newly designed split roller bearing now features 3D printed bearing cages that not only increase the radial load capacities by 70%, but also increase axial load by 1,000%.

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Products: HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200

Industries: Application Case