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Designing Small Diameter Drive Pulleys to Achieve Linear Motion for a 3D Printer Carriage

Feb 1, 2017 | Case Studies

Recently, a provider of on-demand 3D printing services ranging from rapid prototyping to full-scale production contacted Belt Technologies, Inc. for help with their 3D printer. The project would be a linear application to actuate the movement of the printer carriage during the printing process in an environment with high vacuum and high temperatures.

Design Challenges: High Heat, High Tension, and High Vacuum

The printer carriage is supported by two parallel rails. During 3D printing, the printer carriage moves back and forth to apply thin layers of material to build up the part being printed. In designing a way to generate smooth, precise motion of the printer carriage, our engineers were faced with several challenges:

  • Small diameter pulleys
  • High tension/high load
  • High vacuum
  • High temperatures

Pulley diameter is an important factor that must be considered in any metal belt design. A proper ratio between pulley diameter and belt thickness must be maintained to avoid bending stresses that will reduce the belt life. The ideal pulley-diameter-to-belt-thickness ratio is 625:1. This particular application required smaller-than-average pulley diameters which had to be taken into consideration.

This application required extreme precision and resistance to high temperatures. Our engineers recommended the belt be made of 17-7CH900, a heat-treated stainless steel that provides the rigidity, temperature resistance, and cleanliness required for this kind of 3D printing application. Additionally, the pulleys were made of 304 stainless steel.

Custom Pulley Solutions for Every Application

The customer provided a detailed presentation with a system model and the required load information. With this information on hand, we were able to design and produce a drive tape and pulleys that would provide linear motion of the printer carriage. Our team of engineers supplied the customer with a perforated drive tape made of 17-7CH900 stainless steel, a friction drive pulley, and a narrow bodied timed idler pulley to reduce stress on the perforations.
The drive tape and pulleys are currently in use with excellent results. For custom stainless steel conveyor belts, drive tapes, and timing pulleys for your automated application, contact the experts at Belt Technologies, Inc.

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