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For efficient machines: tribo-polymers increase service life

Igus tribo-polymers display their advantages in maintenance-free and lubrication-free iglidur bearing technology

Anyone who wants to be relaxed about a future with Industry 4.0 goes a long way towards getting things right by keeping a close eye on costs. A consideration of service life must take account of all those costs that are incurred over the long term, in addition to the costs of purchase, procurement and installation of a machine. Operation, maintenance and repair are examples of what can lead to such costs. The use of wear-resistant materials and low-maintenance components reduces not only costs but also the risk of unscheduled shutdowns and extensive maintenance work. Motion plastics specialist igus has many years of experience and knowledge in the development and production of wear-resistant solutions made of tribo-polymers, and also keeps a large database in its own test laboratory – all of which makes the company the ideal supplier for mechanical engineers. The reason is that machines today are often utilised all day long in three shifts. In the light of the growing challenges, searching for the tribologically optimised component is time well spent for every mechanical engineer.

The combination is the secret

Design engineers know all about looking for and finding the right material. Users often find that the best tribologically optimised component for them is to be obtained from the plastics specialist. This is because igus develops polymers specifically for dry operation. Use is made of base polymers, solid lubricants and, last but not least, strengtheners in order to develop even better materials for increasingly challenging applications and to achieve better wear results.

Continuous further development based on many years of experience

Whereas some of these materials are developed specifically on behalf of individual customers who indicate special requirements, others become part of the catalogue portfolio. In more than 12,000 wear tests per year on over 450 test stands, the engineers from igus analyse wear behaviour systematically. In this context, more than 135 trillion test movements take place. The large number of tests is due to the different ambient conditions that are considered, such as temperature, humidity, the type of movement and the contact materials.  All these factors have an effect on the wear patterns in the individual scenarios and have to be taken into account. The analysis is used not only to evaluate the materials generally but also to create the basis for a service that is unique throughout the industry: namely, calculation of the service life of components in any application.

The test laboratory as a reflection of industrial reality

This large number of parameters alone, shows how much work is involved in the acquisition of research results that are essential for the successful development of high-strength polymer components. This is why plastics specialist igus operates a test laboratory covering an area of 3,800 square metres. The tribological quality of the polymers is tested here with linear, rotating and flexing types of motion as well as in combination with other materials. But it is not just the mechanical properties that are important for the generation of relevant information and the continuous improvement of customer solutions; igus components are used in different branches of industry and, accordingly, must be able to withstand different external influences. Examples of the latter are, on the one hand, classical manufacturing equipment and methods involving a normal degree of dirt and, on the other, extremely dirty environments or the presence of aggressive chemicals. This is the case when components made of tribo-polymers are used in the area of agriculture, the building industry or offshore installations. Other branches, other challenges. And this is exactly why the tests in the igus laboratory are so important.

Test laboratory: diverse influences have an effect on the polymer products

In meadows and fields there is always a lot of dust, while ambient conditions tend to be aggressive in the building materials industry due to chemicals or in the offshore area due to salt water. Components that are used in cleanrooms of the pharmaceutical industry or in environments where they come into contact with food have to cope with other conditions. Here, hygienic design is of utmost importance. In the igus laboratory, the engineers are very well prepared for all the challenges they encounter, from tests underwater to the simulation of very dirty environments. Of course, such a large variety of test environments also includes the use of different temperatures and tests in a cold chamber. All this has resulted in products such as iglidur plain bearings, drylin linear bearings, xiros ball bearings, energy chains and cables whose polymers have the best tribological properties for almost any application.

A continually growing database

Year after year, the laboratory's test databases are supplemented with more research data on the basis of which new materials are created, whose technical performance today is already at the level of what customers will not be looking for until tomorrow. Just how closely and effectively the igus engineers focus on the future is also shown by the fact that, thanks to the huge amount of recorded test data, the service life of a product can be calculated in an expert system specially developed for this purpose. This service, which is unique throughout the industry, is a significant benefit for the customer, especially when it comes to bearing technology products that are of central importance for the operational readiness of machines and installations. What is also important is that the consequences of a bad choice of material can be devastating.

Tribologically optimised polymers ensuring the smooth operation of bearings

Anyone who wants a safe and reliable production process on a large scale should first think of the small things, namely the bearing. This component should be as wear-resistant as possible so that everything operates smoothly and also for a long time. There are many different types of bearings such as rolling bearings, linear bearings and plain bearings. The latter are supplied by Treotham as lubrication-free polymer bearings. A product range with over 8,500 catalogue dimensions and specialist parts according to customer specifications made of more than 60 different tribologically optimised materials offers the user a wide range of choices.  Simply the fact that no lubrication is needed reduces the customer's costs. Maintenance work is also reduced. igus polymers are corrosion-free and even able to withstand high loads. In addition to the classical plain bearings, Treotham supplies a wide range of polymer slewing ring bearings (iglidur PRT). Last but not least, the tribologically optimised xiros polymer ball bearings are the result of intensive research. In many places today, they are the first choice of mechanical engineers for whom classical ball bearings made of metal are inadequate. For customers who are looking for more freedom in the design of lubrication-free spherical bearings, it is worthwhile looking at the igubal series of bearings. The complete system of self-adjusting bearing elements has the best tribological properties and consists of a wide range of swivel heads, clevis joints, flange bearings, spherical bearings and pillow block bearings.

Tribo-polymers: a good option for do-it-yourselfers as well

Customers who love creating as much as they do freedom, can obtain iglidur sold by the metre, which is a type of bar stock that offers many possibilities of design. iglidur bar stock is a good choice for the creation of test samples, very small series and, last but not least, complicated prototypes, which often entail searching for the right material.

Where durability is more of a concern than design, the tribological properties of igus lead screw systems, trapezoidal threads or high helix threads from Treotham are more important. This is because the functioning of such products and therefore process reliability, depends on an abrasion-resistant surface structure. In the drylin series, mechanical engineers can find polymer solutions that do their job reliably and without fault, even under very stressful conditions. igus is able to say this for each of its products because of the tests it carries out in its own laboratory. Today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and even the day after that.

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