Igus has rolled out bunch of bearing technology developments at the Hannover Fair this week. Though seemingly unrelated, the developments employ manufacturing technology advances as a way to improve the cost and performance of high-end plastic bearings.
One of the new developments is a new ball bearing family. Its races are injection molded from igus' high temperature iglidur A500 material, which offers temperature resistance to 250 C. Gerhard Baus, managing director of igus' bearing business, notes that high-temperature plastic ball bearings like these have traditionally been machined from PEEK or similar materials, driving up lead times and costs. By molding them, igus can offer the ball bearings as a stock item, driving down their price by a factor of eight.
The company has also come out with an improved sealed bearing design in which the elastomeric seals are molded onto the engineering plastic bearing using a two-component injection molding process. “It took us six years to perfect this bearing,” Baus says, noting that the molding process that produces them is tricky. Previously, igus had to assemble the elastomer component—which seals the bearing on the shaft. But the more economical molding process drives costs for these bearings down by about 40 percent, Baus reports. And whether molded or assembled, the sealed bearings simplify the assembly of components such as pneumatic cylinders. As Baus explains, the integral seals on the plastic bushing eliminate the need to assemble separate seals and bushings—as well as the need to machine a seal-retention groove in the cylinder.
The third manufacturing-driven development involves micromolding. Igus has been injection molding plastic microbearings that measure just 0.7-mm across. According to Baus, these tiny bearings are currently under evaluation by a large cell phone supplier as a replacement for the sintered metal bearings used as motor mounts in the tiny cell-phone vibration assemblies.
And while we're on the subject of plastic bearings, igus will tonight announce the winners of its Manus Awards tonight. Held every two years, the award honors products that put any type of plastic bearing to good use. And this year's winners sure don't scrimp on the number of bearings put to good use. In a preview of the winners, Baus noted that the Gold award will go to a leather splitting machine that uses more than 200 plastic bearings while the Silver Award winner used more than 300 bearings in folding exercise machine. More information on the awards can be found here starting tomorrow.