I am attempting to construct model tank tracks with accompanying wheels and sprockets. All parts will be printed in PLA. The tracks will be driven by electric motors.

What would be a suitable grease for this project to minimize friction without damaging the plastics.

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    $\begingroup$ I've also found this link on reprap wiki reprap.org/wiki/Lubrication it covers all aspects of lubricating stuff (not only plastics) $\endgroup$ May 30 '16 at 9:41

I use cosmetic vaseline - petroleum jelly. Usually it is white to transparent and odorless. It's cheap and available in all drugstores and cosmetics stores.

As suggested by Tom van der Zanden I'm adding additional info about interactions of vaseline and plastics. I've found many web sites which claim that vaseline can damage plastics but none of them really proved that statement. There is nothing about it neither on producers sites nor wikipedia or any other believable sources I've found. So according to it and my practice I'm pretty sure that vaseline won't damage popular plastics (including common filaments).

The only information I've found is that vaseline can damage natural rubber but I cannot confirm that on my own.

Of course it might not be true for some materials so be careful and check the interactions first on invisible side or on refuses.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer could benefit from some additional motivation, especially concerning the possibility of vaseline damaging plastics and whether it minimizes friction (compared to other lubricants). $\endgroup$ May 31 '16 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ @TomvanderZanden you are right, I'll add such information soon. $\endgroup$ May 31 '16 at 9:32

You may find a solution with the common lubricant containing PTFE, often called Super Lube. It is described in manufacturer's literature as non-reactive with virtually everything. It is available at a reasonable price as plumber's grease (look for either Teflon or PTFE in the ingredients) in various quantity containers. When used on metal, you may get black residue. With plastic, some color of the plastic will appear as the surfaces wear. It has good sticking power too.


I have been using sewing machine oil for my 3D printed extruder gear for a couple of years, without any noticeable wear so far.

In general, I believe any kind of low viscosity oil would do, but then again, it also depends on the environment in which you plan to use the model. If you plan on using it outside, for instance, you probably should get some grease that does not attract dirt, as the dirt itself will grind down the gears quickly.

  • $\begingroup$ darth pixel's link for lube information indicates that light oil provides relatively poor lubrication, but reduces noise and collects dust. Interesting to read that WD-40 is listed as the worst. Cyclists have discovered that it's worse than no lube at all for a bike chain and it's not a surprise to learn that it's not good for 3d printers either. $\endgroup$
    – fred_dot_u
    May 30 '16 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @fred_dot_u I totally agree that WD-40 is the worst grease and it's sometimes worse than no lube at all. IMO it's too light to use it as grease. Especially for long term greasing. I use WD-40 all the time but NOT as greas but to clean links and to relax and unscrew a screw only. IMO there is too less grease (lubricant) in WD-40 for application as bike chain or even door hinge. fred_dot_u please notice that there is special WD-40 bike which confirms that WD-40 (regular) is not very good for bikes. $\endgroup$ May 31 '16 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ @fred_dot_u, I am not familiar with the WD-40 series, but I understand and agree your concern. The OP does not specify the environment in which the tank treads will be used, but if it is to be used outside, protection from grit and dirt probably should be considered. That being said, my 3D printer stays much cleaner than my bicycle chain. :-) $\endgroup$ May 31 '16 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ Updated the answer. $\endgroup$ May 31 '16 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ @TormodHaugene there is really strange issue with WD-40. I don't know how is it possible that this stuff is a synonym of grease in some groups of people. WD stands for water displacement and it was "developed" to remove greasing (sic!) and rust as far as i know. I don't know any mechanics specialist who would use WD-40 as grease. $\endgroup$ May 31 '16 at 16:25

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