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What Are Common Misconceptions About Plastic Bearings

Some may say that having “plastic” and “bearings” in the same sentence is a juxtaposition!

plastic bearings vs metal bearings

However, I can confirm that this misconception is simply that, a misconception. Plastic bearings are proving to hold their own in a world where many still believe metal is better. But on what grounds are these judgements made.  

When you consider how essential plastics have become in every aspect of our daily lives, it soon becomes clear why the plastic bearing is fast becoming the go to product over its counterpart metal bearing.

Let’s have a look at some of the common misconceptions surrounding plastic bearings.

Plastic bearings won’t last as long as metal bearings.

longer lifetime with plastic bearings

There are a few parameters that need establishing first. What is the application? What are the criteria regarding loads, speeds and temperatures?  Once these are established, there will be an igus® polymer material suitable for the application. Not only that, we can offer a lifetime calculator so you know how long your bearing will last. Furthermore, our iglidur® polymer materials are made from wear resistant, self-lubricating polymers so require no lubrication as opposed to metal bearings. If the application parameters are correct from the offset and remain unchanged, the bearing chosen should fulfil the lifetime suggested on the calculator. In addition to this catastrophic failure is avoided when using high-tech polymer materials due to their linear wear properties.

Plastic bearings are too soft

This assertion is of course plausible, however, it depends, as stated above, on the parameters of the application. Plastics are “softer” than metal, there is no disputing that. All values such as compressive strength or surface hardness are significantly lower in plastic than metal. Plastic plain bearings are also “less durable” than metal. However, the most important point here is that these are plain bearings and purely load-bearing elements. Plain bearings should be used dynamically and should not simply carry loads statically. And how do you achieve this movement with metal bearings? You lubricate them. So really it is not a case of plastics being softer, this becomes irrelevant when you consider the load bearing, as the igus® materials filled with reinforcing fibres and filaments make the bearings ideal with high forces and edge loads.

The walls are too thin on the bearing

The wall thickness does not actually directly relate to its strength capabilities. There is a lot more to consider than just the thickness of the part and in fact, space constraints can mean that a thin walled component works more effectively than the thicker walled metal bearings. Due to the internal makeup of the igus® polymer bearings, the thinness of the bearings is not detrimental to the life span of the bearing. The polymers are able to dissipate heat which actually prevents failure

polymer bearings

For decades, polymer bearings have been replacing plain metallic bearings in thousands of applications for a wide range of different industries; such as agricultural machinery, medical equipment, fitness equipment, packaging machinery, the food industry and automotive.

Read more blogs about the benefits of igus® plastic bearings here.

The continued development, testing and investment that igus® makes every year, allows more and more applications to be realised and for igus® bearings to be implemented.

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Can igus® become part of the circular economy?

Many businesses are using historic failures and are creating a better resource from it. This is known as the “circular economy”. In this blog, I look at whether igus® could be seen to be part of this “circular economy. ” If not, can we take steps towards joining?

What is a “circular economy?”

We have collectively become a throwaway society. However, thanks to some large names, such as Sir David Attenborough, large investments have been made to reduce this wasteful economy. This has created a pivot point. Companies have started focusing more towards innovation and regeneration. This what is effectively known as a circular economy.

A circular economy is a system which relies on regeneration as opposed to waste. There is a significant shift in this direction for many companies. Many companies now are heavily investing in green incentives and renewable initiatives. igus® is no different. We have a strong green ethic as a plastics company. Many of our green incentives are striving towards eliminating waste and regeneration. You can read about these here; https://blog.igus.co.uk/why-is-sustainability-important-and-how-is-igus-contributing/

Why is it important for businesses to change to a new model of production and consumption?

The relationship between economic growth and use of natural resources has always struggled to establish a balance. Today, we use almost twice as much of the earth’s resources than it can regenerate. Many people may not realise the catastrophic effect this will have on us all. Research shows that by 2030, it is projected that globally the demand will increase by 35% for food, 40% for water and 50% for energy. If we are not successful in changing the way we produce and consume, it will begin to have severe negative implications. Areas such as air pollution, ocean life, weather, food shortages and energy shortages. In a world where we are demanding more and more, how can we reduce, preserve and still survive?

What steps can igus® take to become a part of this?

circular economy

igus® is already fast becoming part of the circular economy. As mentioned, a previous blog I published highlights the areas that igus® is targeting globally. Areas such as preservation of natural resources, reduction of waste and pollution. As a plastics company, we are aware that we can always do more. Some key areas that we already promote is offering an end-of-life recycling programme for our energy chains into new plastic components. We have also heavily invested in the chemical recycling company Mura Technology. We have invested in helping with tree-planting in our local area. This action of committing to help new woodlands is in part to help igus® counterbalance any negative impact we could be having in our local surroundings.

Through sympathetic research and development of igus® material recycling, we are endeavouring to be less damaging to the environment. This is comparable to single use plastics. The igus® technical materials are designed to be long life and suitable to be used as a metal alternative, therefore lending themselves to regeneration. This is a positive thing. It is not single use plastics; it is polymers that solve arduous applications with no lubrication.

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How to return an igus® product?

how to return an igus product

How to return a product quickly and easily? The drum-beat mantra of igus® is “Yes We Can”! This attitude continues after the sale. Once a customer takes delivery of the product, that doesn’t signify the end of the relationship, it is merely another step in the journey. Occasionally, the item might not be the correct fit for the application and you may need to return it. Here you will find how to return an igus® product, should it be required.

How to return an item:

  1. Please contact igus® by calling 01604 677240 or by emailing lstavciuc@igus.co.uk to obtain the return authorisation code (RMA number) before sending the goods back.
    If an item is returned prior to an RMA number being issued, the delivery will be rejected.
  2. Ensure that the items are returned in suitable packaging, to avoid damage in transit.
  3. Any returned part must be received back in the original condition – unused and without damage. 
  4. Depending on the reason for return, igus® can arrange collection as part of the returns process. If the collection attempt is unsuccessful due to reasons the courier is not responsible for, the customer will be charged for the second collection arranged.
  5. Allow at least 2 working days for igus®’ chosen courier to collect the goods. Please contact igus if the collection is not made after this, so we can avoid a delay in the returns process.

Are there any reasons why an item cannot be returned?

There are some circumstances where we are not able to accept returns such as:

  • Cut rails under one metre in length
  • Cut cables under ten metres in length 
  • Items that are not included in the igus® standard range: for example, 3D printed parts, custom machined items, specially designed bespoke products.

Does igus® charge for handling the return?

A handling charge may be applied, subject to case review. The handling charge will be agreed prior to an RMA being issued. 

What is the process once the return item has been received and processed?

How to return quickly and easily

Once the return has been received it will be inspected. If a credit note is applicable, it will be issued within five working days and any associated documentation will be sent electronically. If the items are not in an acceptable condition, you will be contacted immediately to discuss how to proceed. Please be aware that if we do not receive a response within 5 working days, the item will be returned to the original address and the RMA cancelled with no credit note.

Please note that a credit note is automatically applied to your igus® account. It does not automatically get refunded into your bank account.

I have a non-conformance for the product. What should I do?

If you have discovered any non-conformance regarding your order, please contact us within 5 working days from receipt of delivery. Replacement(s), re-work or a credit will be issued depending on the nature of the reported problem and mutual agreement.

If you are unhappy with your purchase or no longer require the item, please contact us within 30 days from delivery. The return and will be arranged according to our Terms & Conditions.  We want you to be 100% satisfied with every igus® product which you buy!

Still not sure how to return a product? Contact us directly via our website igus.co.uk or alternatively visit our blog contact page here.

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The igus® alternative to a cable reel system, tidy away easily and safely!

A newly developed cable reel system was unveiled within the igus® Autumn 2020 product range. Not to be confused with the original e-spool® system, the e-spool® flex 2.0 has been designed for single cable feeding control panels. For example, within the robotics industry. This system efficiently avoids trip hazards in automated production lines.

I have recently written about other products we can offer within warehouse automated production which you can read here.: https://blog.igus.co.uk/automating-warehouses-can-igus-technology-improve-your-processes/

What is the e-spool® flex?

The new e-spool® flex 2.0 alternative to a cable reel system, moves a single cable or hose safely and stows it away quickly, whilst retaining an end-to-end connection.  This new cable reel will guide a power or data cable or a hose for air and liquids, all without interruption. Thankfully, this new solution does not use slip rings and the emergency stop button can also be integrated into the system.

e-spool cable reel systems

It is available in four versions:

  1. I: with a hand crank.
  2. II: using a cordless screwdriver.
  3. III: with retraction spring and locking mechanism.
  4. IV: with retraction spring, locking mechanism and brake.

How can the e-spool® flex cable reel system help in my application?

igus cable reel system

Previously, solutions for connecting machines and mobile operating panels were simple However these were not as effective as they could be. Therefore, some concerns for health and safety were highlighted, such as when the programmer takes the panel from a holder on the machine. Normally they would drag a cable along behind, which would potentially remain on the floor. It is probably the most common occupational issue. The cable represents a trip hazard or could potentially be damaged if run over by industrial vehicle. Worst case scenario, situations such as these can shut down entire production plants.

So, what’s different about the e-spool® flex?

The e-spool® flex 2.0 is a cable reel that allows cables to be guided from start to end without slip rings or other connecting elements. This is made possible by a spiral guide which reels the cable in a controlled manner when it is rolled up. This new type of cable reel can carry all cables and hoses for the following

  • signals
  • data
  • liquids
  • compressed air and vacuum

without interruption.

Fully harnessed cables can be used, which can be inserted into the drum in a few easy steps. The user simply inserts the cable into the spiral guide and fastens the cable stowed in the outer housing of the e-spool® flex 2.0.

The e-spool® flex 2.0 is also suitable for retrofitting existing cables. The entire system is housed in a compact installation space and can be installed easily on the machine enclosure.

If you need an alternative to a cable drum, this could be the system for your application. Contact Justin Leonard, e-chain® director in the UK, jleonard@igus.co.uk

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dryspin® vs trapezoidal lead screws, which is better?

trapezoidal lead screws

Trapezoidal lead screws have long been the leading term, however, this term limits the range. There are lots of variations of lead screws: acme thread, square threads, high helix to name a few. But how do you know which one is better than the others?  

What are trapezoidal lead screws?

A trapezoidal lead screw primarily has two main forms, a square thread and a trapezoidal. The latter is easier to manufacture and has a higher load capacity, however, this lead screw form has increased friction. This in turn means lower efficiency.

What is dryspin®?

dryspin® or DST as it can be referred to, is igus®’ own design and manufacture of a high helix thread. The dryspin® range has been specifically engineered for optimum lifetime in high speed screw applications. As with all igus® products, the lead screws are maintenance- free and offer lubrication- free use. They have a predictable lifetime, are corrosion- resistant and are resilient to dirt, dust and other media, such as chemicals.

Further key features of the dryspin® range

It is worth discussing the versatility of the motorising options for the dryspin® range. igus® has created a connection between motor and lead screw. This perfect partnership was designed to highlight and strengthen this intricate bond between spindle motors or lead screw motors and the humble lead screw. The stepper motor is a motor designed to mechanically fix directly to the lead screw itself. We have motors in three different NEMA sizes, NEMA11, NEMA17 and NEMA23. We can offer the motor with or without encoder and we can also fully assemble the screw to the customer’s desired length, delivering a complete unit that can be assembled straight into the customer’s design.

Find the right lead screw for your application: blog.igus.co.uk/identifying-the-right-leadscrew-nut-for-your-application/

Power is in your hands

lead screw configurator

With the online lead screw configurator, you can go from concept to the completed lead screw in a matter of minutes. With the ability of adding machining on the lead screws, perfecting your ideal part for your application is easy. The tool generates the following:

  1. An instant price for a specially configured thread.
  2. A technical drawing available to download.
  3. A 3D model of the part is also generated.

No other manufacturers are offering this level of tool, for FREE!

If you have an application that requires a trapezoidal lead screw, try the dryspin® range and judge for yourself why it is seen to be superior to the trapezoidal.

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Brexit, will igus® deliveries affected?

When we woke up on 1st January 2021, the UK was a different place.  Leaving the EU has a significant impact on logistics and here at igus®, we have been working tirelessly to ensure that reliable shipments continue to our customers. 

What has igus® implemented in relation to Brexit?   

Some of the implemented processes were essential, small and easy. However not all were so simple! Here is a list of a few that we have put into place:

  • Official customs agents for pallet deliveries were appointed. This covers deliveries to both the UK and Eire.
  • UK stock levels were increased to ensure that key products are on our “master planning” system with min/max ordering levels.
  • We will continue to receive regular collective deliveries from Cologne every day, ensuring the delivery time remains as low as possible.
  • Almost all of the weights for each product have been added to the relevant technical data section on the website. This can be required for paperwork and is now be easily obtained.

Are we prepared?

deliveries during brexit

Having the manufacturing centre in Cologne means that we have been preparing for this event for some time. As a result, we have had extensive advice as to how to continue working as smoothly as possible.

As a customer, there are things that you can do to ensure we continue to provide you with a fast service:

  • Forward plan. Try and forward plan downtime and maintenance. If this is pre-planned, any products that will be required can be ordered in advance.
  • Order online. The website has live stock availability and is very quick to use. This allows orders to be placed 24 hours a day. You can also see if the stock is available when you place the order.
  • Consider lead-times. Sometimes it can take 10 days to manufacture and deliver a part, and this should be built into lead-times.

2020 was a challenging year for a lot of us. I foresee this one bringing new challenges, but one promise is that igus® will remain open! We will continue to support customers in every way possible.

For up- to- date information on Brexit and igus®, go to https://www.igus.co.uk/info/brexit

Alternatively, if you have any questions about igus® see our FAQs.

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Are your products cold resistant?

In the UK, being cold resistant isn’t necessary as we don’t really suffer from extreme temperatures. Some of the warmer bodied among us may think we do, but in reality, we don’t. This being said, we ensure that the products that we sell as a company are able to withstand the extremes of temperature.

Now we are in the depths of winter it seemed fitting to highlight a few product groups that are designed to function outside in sub-zero temperatures. It is products such as these that enable your machines to continue running with no problems. Below are a couple of key products that are quite happy in a freezing cold environment, even if you won’t be! 

Energy chains

energy chains in cold temperatures

A large majority of our energy chains are cold resistant and suitable for temperatures as low as -40°C. These are suited for much colder climates than our small island! Knowing that the energy chains have the capability of keeping the cables secure at these low temperatures is very reassuring. It also puts the customer’s mind at ease that the chain will not fail up to that temperature. When you have applications such as offshore applications, it is essential that the weather is not a concern when choosing the correct products.

Plain bearings

plain bearings in cold temperatures

Some of the igus® plain bearings are capable of even lower temperatures than the e-chain®. Materials such as iglidur® A350, Z and X are suitable in environments that can reach -100°C. These bearings are designed to continue to work efficiently at such temperatures which, is pretty amazing. These are off- the- shelf products that are available in both flange and sleeve options. This allows us to be able to offer cold resistant bearings for the majority of applications.

xiros® ball bearings

Our xiros® ball bearing range has a large variety of materials that are suitable for -40°C.  However, this product group can cope with lower…. the iglidur® A500 material will go to -100°C, similar to the plain bearing materials.

chainflex® cables

chainflex cables in cold temperatures

As the applications using chainflex® cables vary so significantly. It is therefore imperative that we offer cold resistant cables that can operate continuously in hot conditions and also extremely cold temperatures. Low- temperature cables are often used in refrigeration and air conditioning, reaching temperatures of -35°C. igus® was the first company to develop complete energy chain systems consisting of both chainflex® cables and e-chains® from one individual source, which are suitable for such extreme adverse conditions. The TPE jacket material is ideal for such cold temperatures, ensuring the cables are completely protected and unaffected by the weather.

Watch our specialists talk about all igus® products in our watch section.

When our products are used in outside applications it is essential that they cope with whatever is thrown at them; high temperatures, low temperatures, moisture and humidity. Having a large variety of materials allows the igus® products to adapt to any environment and when designing your next application, how low does your product need to go?

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Do I need to lubricate bearings if they are plastic?

Do you need to lubricate bearings? Not with igus® products! It is no secret that igus® is an advocate for not lubricating bearings. However, this doesn’t stop the reoccurring question from customers, “can I use WD-40 to lubricate my bearing?” Many people think that because for some products it is essential to add grease and lubricate bearings to ensure that they don’t seize and they continue a smooth-running motion, it is not a requirement for ALL products.

This blog is to reemphasise you don’t need to lubricate bearings if they are igus® polymer bearings. It is also to explain why you CAN use WD-40 but why you don’t NEED to. Obviously, there are other forms and brands of lubrication but this is a universally renowned one that is regularly mentioned so I will use this as my example.

Let’s look at what WD-40 is.

When you dive a bit deeper into the makeup of WD-40 it could be seen as not the best product potentially to use if your aim is to keep a bearing lubricated and not impact on the friction. This is due to the fact that WD-40 is referred to as a “penetrating oil”.

What this means is that it can seep into cavities and mixes with dirt and dust particles, bringing them to the surface of the bearing. This lubrication is also not feasible as a long-term option due to the runny consistency of it, it isn’t long lasting as a lubricant and dries out very quickly.

Does using WD-40 effect the performance of igus® bearings?

To obtain answers to questions like this it is essential that we run tests in the laboratory. So, that’s what we do. We have chemical tables to show the effects of WD-40 against the iglidur® materials. These tests show the mechanical strength as well as other properties and abilities. All of these can be found here (will link)

Controversially though, the results indicate that the iglidur® materials are in fact resistant so surely it can’t be detrimental if customers lubricate their bearings with WD-40? At this point we have to look at resistance and wear effect as two separate issues. Yes, the materials are resistant to such oil lubricants, however this doesn’t mean that they don’t affect the bearing. Further, different tests show that the bearings react differently over certain periods of time.

lubricate bearings

So, why don’t I need to lubricate bearings with igus?

Although initially the lubricated bearing performed the best, this was a short-term result and required a fair amount of WD40 to get those results, far more than people normally would consider using.

After 4 days of continuous rotation in the test laboratory, both the dry running bearing without lubrication and the lubricated bearing showed similar amounts of wear. This allows us to conclude that in theory there really is no reason to lubricate igus® bearings with any lubrication, including WD40, which as previously mentioned is not designed for long-term use and once dry can leave small residue particles on the bearing, potentially leading to increased wear and noise. If you lubricate bearings, consider igus® bearings for long lasting lubrication-free motion plastics.

Find out more frequently asked questions about igus bearings here

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Predictive maintenance products Can Help You Save Time & Money.

predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance seems to be the topic of every article and video I see it is understandable as to why. This technology really can save companies and customers time and money by pre-warning the user when wear is starting to occur. It is very clever when you think about it. This technology is “talking” to you.

I have mentioned this in previous blogs, but this is not new technology. However, igus® have recently adapted the way in which the “smart plastics” are described to customers. We now offer 2 different approaches to this technology. We offer condition monitoring (our name “i. Sense”) and predictive maintenance (our name “i.Cee”).

The idea of this blog is to describe the differences between these two approaches and provide a greater understanding to which would be best suited to your application. Maybe both options would be useful for you, you can decide.

How it all began

Initially, igus® started with this predictive maintenance in energy chains many years ago. This technology, as with all technology, has grown, adapted and advanced and became known as “smart plastics” within the igus® world.

Read more blogs about our energy chains here: blog.igus.co.uk/faq/faq-e-chain/

We have had numerous success stories with this technology being used in energy chains on cranes, within large automotive plants and on main production lines within factories.  Their success lies in the ability to communicate the current state of the energy chain to the control box and make someone aware of damage and therefore potential failures. The sensors within this system were able to detect if the energy chain was suffering from an overload or breakage at the early stages and prevent further more costly damage. This is classed as condition monitoring. Let’s look at features of this;

Condition monitoring in energy chains:

  • Push/pull force monitoring (“EC.P”); this measures the forces and can detect an unexpected increase in force and therefore an impending breakage. The sensor recognises the change in force or breakages and warns/shutting the system down.
  • Breakage detection; There are various parameters which can change within applications that are unforeseen, so this detects breakages and notifies the control box immediately, preventing additional damage.
  • Pull force monitoring; This is more relevant for the cables. It can identify stress on the cables and can trigger a shutdown if required.

Condition monitoring is easy to integrate within your machine and operates without any additional external processing modules. This is a key difference between the condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

Predictive Maintenance:

The concept of this system is to determine the products life span. A great analogy would be; in a car you may get a warning message to say your car requires a service in 1000 miles. This is predicting when your car requires the maintenance. If you thrash the car this will decrease rapidly as the parameters have changed from the cars algorithms where it has analysed the driving data.

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What Applications Would You Use A Knife Edge Roller?

knife edge roller

The title is reflective to the type of questions we regularly get as a company surrounding our products. “Where would you use bearings?” or “what application do you find your products in?” With such a simple product such as a knife edge roller it might be better off starting with; What is a knife edge roller?

What is a knife edge roller?

Knife edge rollers can be overlooked and considered not to be essential within machines. These inconspicuous rollers can make applications exceed performance expectations! Made from the high-performance tribologically enhanced iglidur® materials, these rollers are designed to sit silently, undetected supporting the end of conveyor belts, forming a tight radius for the belt to run around

application for knife edge roller

The rollers have a small outer and inner diameter. They fit snuggly over a metal shaft and sit side by side forming one long roller. The standard range of these rollers come in 50mm or 70mm long starting from a 3mm id up to 10mm id. Without these rollers, industries such as food and packaging, which rely on smooth sliding motion, would struggle to keep the products on the conveyor running effortlessly. There would be more breakages as the momentum wouldn’t be as fluid, causing unbalancing of products. 

What are the benefits of using knife edge rollers?

These rollers don’t just provide a tight deflection radius. The lubricant and chemical free materials these are moulded in ensure no contamination of food/product within applications. Therefore providing a reliable solution for packaging and food industry applications. Selected iglidur® materials are FDA approved which allows customers to be confident when operating in a food environment.

Read about the products we offer FDA approved here: https://blog.igus.co.uk/introducing-the-range-of-igus-fda-eu-compliant-products/

igus® polymers are renowned for having a self-lubricating element which is a unique feature. It not only makes changing these rollers less messy, it reduces costs and again concretes in customers minds the significance of having no contamination.

What other applications could you use knife edge rollers in?

The main industries and applications you may find these rollers in are food and packaging on conveyors however these can be used anywhere that you require a smooth edge. An edge which requires low co-efficient of friction and a smooth gliding surface. Industries such as medical, pharmaceutical and labelling all use these clever understated rollers. Which application could you use them in?

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