It’s not hard to understand why some product designers and engineers would hesitate to use plastic bearings in their designs. After all, they’re probably used to rugged product and subsystem components like bearings being made from alloys such as steel and bronze or they simply don’t think plastics can handle tough applications or extreme environmental conditions.
The truth of the matter, though is that modern plastic bearings can endure extreme temperatures, heavy loads, and high speeds. However, it’s important to understand both the advantages and disadvantages of the options available.
Self-lubricating polymer bearings contain solid lubricants embedded in millions of tiny chambers of the fiber-reinforced material. During operation, the bearing transfers lubricant onto the shaft to help lower the CoF. Unlike a sintered-bronze bushing, polymer bearings release solid lubricants as soon as the bearing or shaft is set in motion. The fiber-reinforced materials inside the bearing withstand any high forces or edge loads. Plastic bearings can also be used on many different shaft types.
Here are five major benefits of using plastic bearings:
- Minimal maintenance
Plastic bearings can replace bronze, metal-backed and custom injection-molded bearings in almost any application. Their resistance to dirt, dust and chemicals make plastic bearings a ‘fit-and-forget’ solution.
- Cost savings
Plastic bearings can typically reduce costs up to 25 percent. With high wear resistance and a low coefficient of friction, plastic bearings can often replace more expensive alternatives in a variety of applications.
- No messy lubricants
Self-lubricating bearings transfer lubricant onto the shaft to help lower the coefficient-of-friction and are impervious to dirt, dust or other contaminants.
- Consistent coefficient-of-friction (CoF)
Plastic bearings are designed to maintain a consistently low CoF over the lifetime of the bearing. Compared to metal-backed bearings, which can become scratched and increase the CoF, plastic bearings often last longer.
- Corrosion and chemical resistance
Plastic bearings can be used in wash-down applications, salt water, and harsh chemicals without compromising performance. Water can even be considered as a lubricant for plastic bearings.
Plastic bearings are particularly well-suited for food industry applications. With plastics bearings provide better sanitation, reduced maintenance, and improved production rates compared to steel bearings. From single machines to complete product lines, plastic bearings are an excellent replacement for steel bearings on the workhorses of the food industry — conveyor systems, hoppers, mixers, fillers, packaging arms, bottling equipment and more.
Five key benefits of plastic bearings in food industry applications:
Different varieties of plastic bearings provide USDA, FDA, NSF and 3-A sanitary compliance. These different certifications designate the bearings are safe for a wide-range of food applications, and can eliminate food contamination. Steel bearings are not as sanitary as plastic.
- Temperature tolerance
Many plastic bearing compounds operate easily in temperatures ranging from freezing to 500°F, ideal for use in a wide-range of food-processing applications. In general, metals have a limited temperature range or require expensive, specialized, high-temperature food-grade lubricants.
- Resists swelling
Many plastic bearings have relatively low moisture absorption rates (from either food ingredients or wet processing environments). Steel bearings can corrode or lose their lubrication from constant clean downs, which can cause production lines to seize up. Even higher cost stainless steel bearings can fail for these same reasons.
- Strength and durability
Plastic bearings are built for extended use and can last significantly longer than steel, enabling food processors to reduce replacement costs on the production line.
- Low maintenance
Plastic bearings have a self-lubricating design which eliminates the need for manual lubrication and promotes longer bearing life.
Offering a great combination of strength, corrosion-resistance, and grease-free service in linear, oscillating, and rotary applications, chances are good there’s a plastic bearing that’s perfect for your application. Slideways experienced sales staff can assist in the selection of the correct materials for your application.