Polymer gives gear the edge

Performance Plastics of Cincinnati, OH turned to Victrex, suppliers of PEEK polymer, for help in developing a replacement for conventional bronze alloy gears.

To drivers on race car circuits, performance is everything. It’s all about getting horsepower to the drive wheels. However, when a distributor gear wears out during a race, vehicle performance significantly declines.

In its quest to develop a longer lasting gear, Performance Plastics of Cincinnati, OH turned to Victrex USA, suppliers of PEEK polymer for help in developing a replacement for conventional bronze alloy gears.

Working closely with Victrex, the company developed a proprietary PEEK polymer compound which outperforms the bronze alloy. According to Frank Mills, National Sales Manager for Performance Plastics, ‘Tests have shown that the PEEK polymer gear lasts more than five times longer than the bronze alloy gear. Bronze alloy gears, on the other hand, can wear out in the course of just one race.’

One of the major advantages of PEEK polymer is its ability to survive high temperatures and the wear common to dry and lubricated material contacts. The polymer has a continuous operating temperature of 500 degrees F (260 degrees C) and retains a high level of physical properties close to its melting temperature of 645 degrees F (343 degrees C).

Another advantage of using PEEK polymer is weight reduction. ‘It is actually 81% percent lighter than the bronze alloy gear,’ says Mills. ‘The benefit of using lighter weight components is that less power is required to operate the engine. In turn, more power is available to go to the drive wheels.’

The PEEK polymer gear is manufactured to the same dimensional standards as the bronze alloy gear. Polymer gears can also be made oversize to reduce backlash and increase horsepower.

Performance Plastics developed proprietary compounding and machining technology in order to make the polymer gear. ‘We developed a technology that allows us to make the PEEK polymer gear at a price that’s attractive to consumers,’ says Mills.

The polymer gear is currently being used by a number of manufacturers including Mel’s Ignition of Siler City, NC, a well-known manufacturer of custom made distributors. Owner Mel Perry includes the gear in his highest performing distributors. ‘I am extremely pleased with the gear’s performance,’ says Perry.

‘I have tested it and see practically no wear at all. With conventional metal gears, you have to replace them every 700-800 laps. The PEEK polymer gears are wearing more than five times longer and that can mean an entire season. I’m looking forward to replacing the gear only once a year. The savings are significant in just that one area of maintenance alone.’