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3 easy ways to solve the obsolete part issue

Obsolete parts, isn’t it incredibly frustrating when a component in your machine or application breaks and you find out the OEM has discontinued it? This can be costly if it means that individual component is no longer available potentially rendering the machine useless.

But what do the terms “obsolete and obsolescence” truly mean?

Obsolete or obsolescence

“Obsolescence is the state of being which occurs when an object, service or practice is no longer maintained, required or degraded, even though it may still be in good working order”.

“Obsolete also refers to something that is already disused or discarded or antiquated. Typically, obsolescence is preceded by a gradual decline in popularity”. – Both quotes were taken from Wikipedia but give a clear insight as to the definitions and differences of the two terms.

There are disadvantages and advantages of obsolete parts. Disadvantage, as mentioned earlier, can mean expense if you are unable to locate a replacement.  However, an advantage, you have the potential and freedom to design an improved part!

Luckily, technology has advanced to the point that obsolete parts should be a thing of the past.

igus® has many methods of helping solve this issue: from 3D printing parts to machining from stock materials.

I have identified 3 ways to help solve the obsolete part issue….

  1. 3D print
  2. Machine from stock materials
  3. Complete redesign of part

3D print

3D print obsolete parts

3D printing is ideal for obsolete parts. It is cost-effective with no set up costs, it allows flexibility if you want to adjust the component design and it is quick to produce.

With igus® 3D printing options using either FDM filament or SLS (selective laser sintering), you have the additional benefit of using an igus® material that is not only hard wearing but has the high performance tribological properties that all igus® materials have. With the 3D drawing system, you can drop a CAD file into the configurator, select the best material based on the parameters shown and order it. It really is that simple.

Machine from stock materials

machined parts

We can assist with this option too. We can help you take a physical part, model it and quote it. With a large variety of igus® materials to choose from, it allows flexibility with design whilst still offering technical material properties. With no minimum order quantity, this method of manufacturing obsolete parts is perfect if you need something specially designing. We have capabilities of machining using CNC milling, turning, routing and even laser cutting, whichever method is the best and most cost-effective.

An example of this process:

Not long ago we had a new customer who required a problem solving. He had a milling machine that had obsolete steel bearings that could no longer be sourced due to the age of the machine.  The customer had the measurements and the worn piece.  After some lengthy discussions we settled on producing the parts in iglidur® J material. We had a very similar application that we had worked on a few years ago so we had an idea of what to do. Luckily having engineers all over the UK allows us to share our expertise along the way!

The discussion had been coupled with the igus® online expert systems to provide wear data on the parts to give a predictable lifetime. If the application information is available for the loads, speeds, shaft material, shaft size and housing materials along with the dimensions then the online calculators on our website are a great aid to planning your parts.

The part was then drawn in the iglidur® J material and samples sent for in application testing.

Testing went well, and the problem was solved using igus® technical polymers. We have materials to cover all industries, and we will aim to provide the best material for your application based on data we hold in our system and from our tests results.

Complete redesign of part

Sometimes the part that has become obsolete is so worn that it is beyond recognition! This can make recreating and manufacturing the part tricky but with the expertise of the igus® engineers in all that is plastic, we are able to guide you through recreating the part. Not only that, we offer samples for testing and can tweak the design along the way.

We are currently working on a new system for the website that will allow customers to add their part and not only get the best material selected for the application, but also the price and lead time!

This will be a great tool for customers to use alongside any assistance that is required by the igus® experts, so watch this space!

Obsolete parts are annoying but no longer mean the end of a machine’s life, so talk to us, we can help.

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