Environmentally Friendly Solutions from igus
Let's start this story off with a riddle: What is the most expensive bearing in any machine in the whole wide world? Please write your answer here in the blank before reading further. _________________. Before our visit with country manager Steven Lin at the igus Taiwan , the powers of “tribopolymers” were a mystery. That word isn't even in dictionary dot com. Based in Germany, igus has developed around thirty types of very special plastics designed to minimize the need for steel bearings and lubrication systems in machinery. They also specialize in linear guideways, chain guard systems and indestructible cables for automated machinery. The company should go down in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world's fattest catalogue. It's thicker than an epic novel, and contains well over eighty thousand different products. The list of industries that employ igus products ranges from clean rooms to off-shore oil rigging; from medical prosthetics to sports equipment; from aerospace to submarines… You name it, igus is either there already or bound to be. And sure enough, igus' role in the Taiwan woodworking machinery industry is gaining ground quickly. Straight Up, the Limitations I hate it when companies tell me that their product can do more that it actually can. Steven started off by telling us what igus plastic bearings cannot do. For example, a CNC machining center demanding nano precision performance under heavy loads is not a candidate for these bearings. However, the cable guide systems and cables themselves are. Those are the things that resemble the tracks of an earth digger. As the machine travels along its axes, the cables need to travel with it. That produces a lot of wear. Typically, cables are supplied by a cable manufacturer, and they are harnessed by guide chains by another manufacturer. When they fail, the guide chain companies blame the cables for being too weak, and the cable companies blame the guide chains for being abrasive. Guide chains by igus use plastics with lubricant embedded in the plastic. That means minimal wear. The cables they harness are specially woven for extreme flexibility, and extruded/ embedded in super tough thermoplastic elastomers (TPE). Looking at a cross section of the cable, each strand of copper is thoroughly surrounded by TPE, a material which crosslinks the toughness of plastic with the elasticity of rubber. Lifespan When it comes to woodworking machines, igus bearings are ideal in many applications. Woodworking is a dusty endeavor. With metal bearings, the only way they can last is to supply them with lubricant. Right here is where substantial costs in fabrication exist. Components need to be made with lube nozzles, hoses need to feed the lube, pumps and cooling systems need to be incorporated, seals need to protect the bearings from dust, etc. With igus plastic bearings, the dry lubricant is imbedded in the plastic. This is the gist of “tribopolymer” technology. Take a lathe for example. The cutting tool is bolted to a tool rest which travels on a cross slide which travels on a carriage which travels on guides in the bed. All of these friction points are candidates for igus slideways. The plastic emits a constant supply of dry lubricant with each motion. Because the lube is dry, it does not attract dust. It merely pushes it aside from the action where it can easily fall with gravity or be extracted. Now the question here is, “if the plastic is constantly emitting lube, isn't it losing its own mass? Isn't it growing less accurate as it shrinks?” The answer is, “Yes, but that process takes a long, long time.” Steven explained that igus takes temperature, speed, load and acceleration into consideration when selecting which of the thirty plastic types to employ, and that they can tell you exactly when it will be time to swap them out. Every situation is different, but when compared to the lifetime of metal bearings, igus plastic bearings can last up to twice as long, within permissible tolerances. In fact, one may visit their website, enter the parameters a specific working situation, and calculate lifespan in seconds. Off to the Planet Mars Here are some examples of what certain companies are manufacturing with igus products: PIAGIO is using them for suspension systems in Vespa scooters. BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi and PORSCHE incorporate them in transmissions and many systems in their cars. TREK, SCOTT AND SRAM make derailers with them. In fact, industries one would never think of are incorporating these products in multiple aspects. In robotics, manufacturers are using their multiple axis joints, universal fiber rods, heat protection jackets and cables. Construction machinery is using polymer bearings, chainflex systems and hydraulic cylinder bushings. Aeronautics is using their linear guides, brake flaps, rotor heads and boarding bridges. Other industries include agriculture, fluid technology, shipbuilding, solar technology, medicine, cameras, textiles and a whole lot more. And guess what. Because of its resistance to heat and chemicals as well as its shock dampening attributes, the bearings and clevis joint yokes in the robotic vehicle on its way to Mars are all furnished by igus. Environmental Impact If replacing steel bearings with igus bearings where appropriate not only can lower production costs in woodworking machinery by 25%, think of all the other industries that stand to save a buck. Environmentally speaking, one could say that plastics come from petroleum. How can that be environmental? What it comes down to is that it requires 3 to 6 times more petroleum to produce metal bearings and guideways. And of all the lubricant that gets replaced and disposed of, guess how much of it leaks back into the environment. Forty percent! That's tantamount to 8 thousand tanker trucks each year. Getting back to the riddle, we understand that steel bearings require lubrication. In general, companies budget 2% of their operation costs on lubrication alone. Between 50 to 80 percent of all machinery failures come down to the fact that somehow, lube didn't get to a particular bearing. If a bearing goes, it usually takes other components down with it. Costs in down time and repairs just in US industry alone make up for six percent of loss in the GNP, OR ABOUT 240 BILLION DOLLARS, according to MIT. So, which is the most expensive bearing of any machine in the whole wide world? THE ONE THAT FAILED TO GET ITS LUBRICATION! Gotcha.
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