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Engineering Materials

Manufacturing automotive bearing cages optimized for EVs

Automakers are accelerating production of electric vehicles (EV) to meet the rising demand for zero-emissions transportation. With the global EV market projected to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.1% over the next eight years — resulting in nearly 34 million EVs on the road by 2029 — metal material solutions are increasingly being replace with advanced thermoplastics to reduce vehicle weight and lower production costs.

Compared to conventional internal combustion engines (ICE), EV motors are more powerful, resulting in higher torque and bearing speeds up to 30 times faster. This increases the mechanical stress on rolling and ball bearings that support the vehicle’s transmission system. EV bearing cages are often made from metal that withstands high torque and friction levels, operating temperatures above 150°C, and harsh oils.

Due to its lightweight structure and reliable performance to price ratio, Polyamide 66 is used to manufacture various automotive parts. Yet, high torque and friction levels often cause PA66 bearing cages to break at weldlines – which may lead to transmission failure. Although additional design efforts can improve the durability of PA66 cages, these processes often result in thick-walled components that may not fit final bearings properly.  

Although Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is lightweight and offers high resistance to torque, heat and chemicals, it is expensive and typically needs to be heated to at least 350°C to be used for injection molding processes. To drive more business from EV producers and their partners, bearing cage manufacturers must leverage thermoplastics that respond to every performance, design and cost concern they face.

DSM’s Stanyl® PA46 enables manufacturers to deliver lightweight, thin-walled components that demonstrate outstanding mechanical performance in high-stress automotive applications. The material’s best-in-class stiffness, fatigue resistance and weldline strength minimize the risk of parts failing due to prolonged heat and chemical exposure. In addition to being more cost-effective than PEEK, Stanyl PA46 offers high flow and fast crystallization speeds that accelerate cycle times and reduce operating costs.

Heat and chemical aging tests confirm that Stanyl PA46 bearing cages perform as well as or better than PA66 and PEEK alternatives. Our team also developed a Stanyl PA46 bearing cage with significantly thinner walls. Compared to a standard PA66 cage, the Stanyl PA46 design reduced part deformation by 21% after running at speeds up to 9,000rpm.

Testing & analysis tools

DSM helps customers save additional time and money through comprehensive simulation testing on part performance. We provide Moldflow analysis services that accurately predict key strength factors, such as flow dynamics, clamp tonnage, weldline formation and fiber orientation. As bearing cages typically expand during assembly and while in operation, we offer finite element analysis testing to ensure parts meet durability requirements throughout vehicle lifetimes. We also conduct automotive transmission fluid (ATF) and oil immersion testing to verify that cages are well-suited for the environmental conditions they’re built for.

By combining our material and design expertise, we’ve enabled auto-parts manufacturers worldwide to produce different types of bearings with strict performance needs. In 2015, Stanyl TW241F6 was selected for producing complex EV needle roller bearing cages that require enhanced dimensional stability, temperature resistance and weldline strength. Another one of our customers use Stanyl TW200F6 to develop tandem pinion bearings that achieve a very low coefficient of friction and reduced rolling resistance.

Thermoplastic innovation is rapidly transforming auto-parts production processes. By 2026, the global market for polymers used in EV manufacturing is estimated to be worth $27.3 billion USD. At DSM, we’re constantly evolving our material portfolios to better respond to the design, performance and cost challenges our customers face.

Our teams are also developing bio-based or fully recyclable grades of all our polymers to offer our partners more sustainable solutions. We are committed to caring for the planet by helping our customers strengthen relationships with automotive industry leaders and bring more reliable and affordable clean-energy vehicles to market.

View related data sheet
 

Learn more about designing bearing cages

Published on

25 January 2022

Tags

  • Car engines
  • Stanyl
  • Automotive

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Senge

Market Development Manager

Bill Senge is currently Market Development Manager at DSM Engineering Materials. In this role, he is responsible for identifying and globally translating new and improved solutions for our customers using DSM’s specialty materials portfolio. At DSM for more than 15 years, Bill has held a variety of customer-facing and leadership roles in sales, marketing, R&T and strategy. Previous to his career at DSM, Bill worked for 12 years in the electronics industry in process/development engineering and management roles. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Penn State University.

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