Creative cage design

Jon Lawson

Craig Clydesdale reports on an innovative new advance in bearing cages

An expert in bearing design and manufacture recently introduced a new bearing cage that’s designed to offer up to three times longer life expectancy and 40% higher load bearing capacity than traditional solutions.

In an industry where increasing bearing performance by as little as 5% is considered significant, the new Evolution cage technology from Bowman is an impressive innovation.

The Evolution cage design allows much closer spacing of the rolling elements compared to conventional ‘cap and body’ cage designs, creating enough additional space around the roller track to incorporate up to 45% more rollers than existing products.

It is these additional rollers that allow the load to be spread over a higher number rolling elements, which increases the performance of the overall cage, making it a suitable specification choice for any application that would benefit from higher load capacity or extended life expectancy, without having to amend any other part of the bearing assembly.

Jacob Turner, head of additive production at Bowman, explains: “By using the roller to pin together the cage structure, we essentially create additional space for more rollers, increasing the load bearing capacity and therefore lifespan of the component.

“This structure also facilitates easy mounting and maintenance with no fiddly pins or clips to manoeuvre or maintain.”

Low- to medium-run non-split bearings

The new cages are manufactured without tooling and therefore offer a highly competitive cage option for low- to medium-run bespoke bearings across many sectors, not limited to split bearings.

Manufactured from engineering-grade ‘printable’ nylon (PA1102) with bronze-alloy inserts made from the well-known ToughMet3, the cage delivers the wear properties of ultra-high load bronze with the design complexity synonymous with 3D printing. It delivers greatly reduced wear on rolling elements when compared with conventional steel cages.

The Evolution cage has been precision engineered to almost touch the inner and outer races (race riding) and give full contact support of the rolling elements. These features help to increase stability and reduce vibration and noise, further improving load capacity.

Turner comments: “The cage combines the very latest in selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing with advanced engineering principles. Together, this offers OEMs and plant maintenance engineers a split- bearing cage that delivers superior performance and longer product life, alongside simplified mounting and maintenance procedures.”

From concept to reality

Turner adds: “The cage design integrates a number of complex forms, which means additive manufacturing is the only manufacturing method capable of bringing this concept to reality in an economically viable way.

Combining this new production method with our experience in materials innovation has proved a formula for success for the split-bearing market.”

High-grade Nylon 11, or PA1102, is Bowman’s preferred choice of additive manufacturing material - a polyamide characterised by its elasticity and high impact resistance.

Although most manufacturers remain focused on using aesthetically tuned materials for visual prototyping, Bowman AP will join a select group of companies in the UK able to offer this engineering-specific material for the production of functional parts.

Paul Mitchell, managing director of Bowman International, concludes: “The Evolution cage is a demonstration of our commitment to bringing to market products that are designed for purpose, longevity and performance. We are incredibly excited to see how the future of manufacturing evolves, and how we can maximise the new technologies available to us.”

Craig Clydesdale is with Bowman

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