igus Bearings beat the heat in Solar Racing Cars

Aided by igus motion plastics, German students claim sixth place at World Solar Challenge in Australia.

Aided by igus motion plastics, German students claim sixth place at World Solar Challenge in Australia.

Team Sonnenwagen took on the challenge in the Australian desert, covering more than 1,900 miles in its solar-propelled vehicle. Image courtesy of Covestro Sonnenwagen Aachen.


Motion plastics from igus helped 70 students from Germany develop a solar-powered vehicle that traveled nearly 1,900 miles in the Australian desert at the World Solar Challenge.

Team Sonnenwagen Aachen from RWTH Aachen University developed their solar-powered car with wear-resistant, self-lubricating plain bearings from igus. The solar vehicle covered 1,877 miles in just one week in the Australian desert. Team Sonnenwagen finished sixth in the field of 27. Six teams did not finish the race.

The World Solar Challenge travels from Darwin to Adelaide, and the cars are required to be propelled by solar energy. Temperatures average in the 90s during the event. Teams from all over the world developed various vehicle concepts, demonstrating the diversity of sustainable technologies. The biennial competition started in 1987.

In addition to iglide plain bearings in the steering and in the wheel suspension, printed bearings made of the tribo-polymer iglide I3 are used in the cover mechanism for a quick entry and exit. Image courtesy of Covestro Sonnenwagen Aachen.

The lightweight iglide plain-bearing technology of igus can be found in countless places in the solar-powered car. Self-adjusting igubal clevis joints made of iglide J were used in the telescopic mechanism for the solar car cover and in the steering wheel. The same material was also found in the form of plain bearings in the suspension of the rear wheels and in the steering gear. 

The wear-resistant and self-lubricating endurance material has a low coefficient of friction on a variety of shaft materials, especially in dry operation. The product’s vibration-dampening is advantageous for steering. In the hinges of the cover lock the team used plain bearings made of iglide G. The tribo-polymer is cost-effective and has a high wear resistance.

Special Solution Printed Quickly

The cover of the solar car posed a special challenge to the team. The driver must be able to open and close the car independently when entering and exiting, which was one of the rules of the Challenge. It is a difficult task, because the cover is 5 meters long, about 1 meter in width and weighs 25kg (about 55 pounds) with the solar cells. 

In the vehicle’s early stages, the opening proved jerky and needed a lot of force. Heavy printed bearings made of standard polymer proved to be the problem. The team gave an urgent order to igus for 3D-printed bearings made from high-performance polymer iglide I3. The laser sintering material is characterized by its low coefficient of friction and, like all iglide materials, is resistant to dust and dirt, making it suited for the desert. Thanks to the use of the 3D printed bearing, the vehicle’s driver could exit and enter swiftly.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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