No lubrication needed with these types of bearings is a key feature. Dust and contaminates will eventually settle on the operating surfaces and cause performance degradation. This feature (along with preventing food contamination) is an important advantage with this product over lubricated bearings.
This is a very interesting article on plastic ball bearings...from what I understand they are also lighter and quieter than other types. I wonder what the cost comparison is regarding steel or ceramic ball bearings but you would also have to factor in the plastic bearings comparitively lower maintenance and longer expected cycles into the equation...
Very informative post Michael. One of the most difficult consulting jobs I have ever had was specifying bearings for conveyors used in a chain of bakeries. The issue was sugar granules getting into the bearing components and creating a remarkably short bearing life. Sealed bearings did not seem to do the job adequately. For this one department, I did specify a polymer. That saved the day. Again, very good post. Good information.
Plastic bearings do offer very real advantages in some applications, but it is absolutely vital to assure that the bearing selected is adequate for the application. Of course, that is true with all bearing types, but sometimes the failure of an incorrectly applied plastic bearing can be quite impressive, even spectacular. So just as with other types of bearings, the application is not a trivial matter. The correct selection will assure satisfactory performance.
The resistance to water and other liquids that are quite hard on regular bearings can be a very big benefit.
Cost effective, robust and easy to manufacture? What's not to like but like, however I agree with William in that it depends on the application as well as the environment on which type of bearing works best.
Another place these plastic bearings are being used is in a concept car, the Personal Transport Vehicle by Redbud Technology http://www.redbudtechnologyllc.com/3.html according to an igus press release I just saw here http://igus.com/Corporate/Press/5536/student-built-personal-transport-vehicle-uses-plastic-bearings
Everyone has had the experience of trying to scrape the last of the peanut butter or mayonnaise from the bottom of a glass jar without getting your hand sticky. Inventor Ron Jidmar thinks he has a solution to all of that nonsense with a flexible jar design that can be squeezed with one hand to lift contents from the bottom to the top of a jar or container, leaving the other hand free to scoop the contents out cleanly.
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