Frequently asked questions about igus® 3D printing

3D printing is a process a little like printing ink on to paper, except the process builds a three-dimensional object from a computer-aided design (CAD) model. It does this by adding material, layer by layer, which is why it is also called additive manufacturing. There are three key types of 3D printing. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Selective Laser Sintering(SLS) and Stereolithography (SLA).

The terms ‘additive manufacturing’ or ‘rapid prototyping’ are often used as synonyms. When the 3D printing method is used to make components, material is added layer by layer – as the term ‘additive’ makes clear. This differentiates 3D printing from machining and cutting methods whereby material is removed in order to make components (subtractive method). This makes 3D printing very economical in its use of material as there is little or no wastage.

3D printing a part can take anywhere from 30 minutes up to 1 week, this is due to the 3D printer being used for this job, the geometry of the part, and the ultimate size of the part being printed.

Cost is relative. Filament, or materials, for 3D printing is one part of the full production cost. The methods in traditional manufacturing are considerably higher in cost than 3D printing due to the inevitable wastage from moulding and machining parts. In addition, by using 3D printing for prototyping, you can eliminate unnecessary overheads by preventing large amounts of waste material and tooling costs.

• Fast to manufacture from the moment the CAD is complete
• Manufacture with no minimum order quantity
• Easy to make changes and print another component. (ideal for prototypes and pre-production runs)
• High degree of flexibility in the manufacturing process. (You can try different materials and different print methods).
• Complex models can be created in shapes that would be impossible or expensive to produce.
• Lightweight solutions easy to implement by hollowing out parts.
• No tool or set-up costs

3D printing is now used in many areas of manufacturing. The possibilities are practically unlimited. Applications that really lend themselves well to the process are:

  • Prototypes
  • Small batch production
  • Trade fair models and concepts
  • Replacement parts where difficult or timely to source.
  • Architectural models
  • Research and science
  • Medical
  • Product design
  • Hobby model making
  • Food and Packaging
  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • Musical instruments

And many more…

igus® makes its 3D print parts from the high performance and highly tested iglidur® materials made from high quality plastics. In addition to long service life and self-lubricating, their properties include low coefficient of friction, low wear, and low absorption which are specific and beneficial to each application.

  • Plain bush bearings
  • Rollers
  • Gears and pulleys
  • Grippers
  • Racks
  • Linear bearings
  • Lead screw / drive nuts
  • Sliding elements
  • Integrated bearings and housings.

and all other parts that are optimised in terms of friction and wear

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is a 3D printing method whereby a material such as one of our polymers is melted to create a 3D object layer by layer. Fused Deposition Modelling is an additive manufacturing method and is also referred to as the fused layer modelling method, Hence FDM or FLM. The plastic or metal material that is processed is called filament. Filaments are usually available in reels known as spools and two different diameters. 1.75 and (2.85mm) 3.00mm. Spools can be sold by weight or by material length.

The filament is heated to a liquid (plastic) state so that the individual layers of the model can be added through the nozzle of the printer head. The filament is heated accordingly and forced through a fine nozzle. This produces a thin thread of plastic, which is used to make layers that are placed one on top of the other to finally end up with a 3D component. Different materials require different settings. Nozzle temperature, bed temperature, and chamber temperature are three of the main variables that need to be set with a material.

Thanks to the expertise of igus®, their presence as a tribological specialist stands out for all types of moving applications; whether ordering in small batches or for a serial production requirement, igus® is able to ensure the application properties, how ever extreme or precise, are met with the appropriate polymer.

The igus® filaments and SLS powders for printing vary hugely in terms of their properties and specialities. Below is a list of some of the most popular 3D print materials, specific to certain industries and applications.


I150 – food compliant filament, high resistance to abrasion

I180-PF – high resistance to wear, strength, available in black or white

J260 – maximum service life of Tribo-Filament, up to 120°C resistance

SLS materials

I3-PL – high resistance to wear, highly accurate details, good mechanical properties

I6-PL – abrasion resistance, very tough, specifically for worm gears

The two forms of 3D printer that igus® works with are:

SLS – selective laser-sintering

In SLS printers, a laser is used to sinter the powdered material (often polyamide or nylon) which aims at a predefined 3D space to bind the material together and produce a solid structure. This method is widely used for challenging projects, such as for medical devices like bespoke prosthetics. 

FDM – fused deposition modelling

In FDM printers, the filament is heated up and passed through a tiny syringe to deposit the material on the base plate according to the predefined 3D shape.

This method is mainly used for its main benefits of: cost effective, quick, good results. The materials used in FDM printers are also often much wider-ranging than those used in SLS printers.

The service life of igus® 3D printed parts is proudly guaranteed by our 130 trillion test movements occurring annually. During these experiments, we test the iglidur® plastics for coefficient of friction, wear, heat resistance, and many other relevant properties. Thanks to these rigorous tests, we are able to predict the life and wear rates for our polymers according to the applications they work in.

Required application properties can be obtained from all of our standard materials, such as higher and lower temperatures, contact pressure, water absorption, and many more.

The ESD feature means that the material is able to dissipate a build-up of static electricity caused by tribo-charging or electrostatic induction. This makes it hugely appealing for the electronics and packaging industry.

Absolutely. Although we can colour and dye our parts, it is indeed black which means it is more resilient to UV damage than if it was dyed.

Contact resistance 106 to 109 ohms * cm

3D printing parts is simple and can be manufactured after 3 steps:

  1. A CAD file is required to be transferred into a STL file format.
  2. igus® print the part is layers.
  3. The final object is cleaned and then if further work is required, i.e coating or polishing, this step is then completed.  

There are multiple industries that can use 3D printed parts. Recently we replaced a gear in a tractor which you can read more about here:

This blog also gives you other examples such as the automotive industry.