igus rolled out a bunch of plastic bearing developments at this year's Hannover Fair. Though seemingly unrelated, the developments all involve manufacturing technology advances that improve the cost and performance of high-end plastic bearings.
One such development is a new ball-bearing family. Its races are injection molded from igus' high-temperature iglidur A500 material, which offers temperature resistance to 250C. Gerhard Baus, managing director of igus' bearing business, says 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 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 says. 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.
Another 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 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.