7 Reasons Why Plastic Bearings be Illin’ Within Lab & Hospital Devices

November 9, 2020 Nicole Lang & Matt Mowry

For many years, the lab and medical industries have successfully used plastic bushings and linear bearings within their equipment—syringe pumps, fluid handling and blood analyzers, diagnostic and imaging equipment, stretchers, beds, medical carts, and countless other devices. Why plastic? Well, there is the little fact that there are absolutely no wet lubricants present to potentially contaminate the sensitive lab or hospital environment. Despite this fact being the one of the main deciding factors, there are many other unique benefits that polymer bearings bring to the table.

Space Saving

Plastic bearings take up very little space, which means you can keep the footprint of your machinery or equipment much smaller within those "packed-like-sardines" lab and hospital environments. With linear slides that can be as small as 6mm, in addition to miniature linear actuators, low-pro slewing rings, and plastic bushings that take up less space than ball bearings, you can easily and confidently drill into your setup to minimize your design.

From left to right: drylin N, iglide® PRT-04, iglide® plain bearing (material A181), drylin® SLN

 
   

Weight Reduction in Comparison to Metallic Bearings 

“Let’s keep it light!”—a phrase that becomes especially important when designing medical carts, beds, lighting, and other mobile hospital apparatuses. Whether it is the pivot point on a medical lamp, a chair, or a bed, a drawer on a nursing station, the ergonomic adjustments on a wheelchair, or a scooter, all of these benefit from the lightweight linear slides and bushings that are available these days. Need to actuate something quietly and smoothly? Think of using a polymer lead screw nut instead of a ball screw. 

From left to right: drylin DST-J350 & drylin NT-35

Ssshhh! Quiet! Silence! (Well, Certainly Low-Noise)

Sliding plastic bearings are up to four times quieter than recirculating ball bearings, which is essential within labs that are often jam-packed with automation machines and other equipment that relies heavily on motion control products. Since polymer bearings slide instead of roll, they help keep the db’s down in the hospital room, in the research facility, etc. Similarly, iglide® bearings are extremely quiet due to their composition, which in turn, helps keep your equipment quiet.

Corrosion-resistance

Resistance to corrosion is another massive benefit when using plastic linear bearings with the appropriate adjoining rails, shafts, pins, and lead screws. Thanks to plastic liners and bushing combinations that include FDA-Compliant bearing materials, along with elements that provide chemical resistance against cleaners and the ability to run on corrosion-resistant anodized aluminum and 300-series stainless steel materials, machines can operate clean and trouble-free. Not to mention great radiation resistance! For more info on the chemical-resistance of iglide® bushings check here.

 
   

Magnetic-free Properties

This is especially important within the Laboratory Diagnostics and Imaging industries—CT/MRI/X-Ray—where magnets are a no-no. Polymer bearings are not only non-magnetic, but they can also operate on a variety of shafting materials, such as aluminum, carbon fiber, and plastic rails. This even includes some linear actuators and linear components. Another solution, depending on your machine, is to use plastic radial ball bearings that contain glass or plastic balls.

 
   

Clean & Lubrication-free

All right, I know I mentioned this up within the very first paragraph, but I definitely need to go over this again since it’s importance should never be underplayed. Polymer bearings are not only CLEAN and do not require messy oils or lubricants, but they also completely restrict the buildup of dirt and grime within the equipment, which will keep patients, lab researchers, and medical staff from getting oil or grease on themselves. To read more on this benefit, check out one of my recent posts, "How Do Plastic Linear Plain Bearings Work Without Lubrication".

Complete Automation Systems for Your Lab’s Machinery

Over the past few years, we have all seen the rising uptick in customers that are looking to purchase complete automation systems, like gantries or other linear robotic systems, for their machinery. With the rise of Covid, this demand has begun to increase even more than ever before, since engineers are looking to purchase complete systems in order to more quickly assemble machinery so that they can stick to the core competency of their business. Plastic linear bearings can play a very helpful role within these larger gantry systems by providing motion control for pick-and-place, spraying, and inspection processes. They also do not require maintenance, can be provided with motors and drives, and offer lightweight benefits for laboratory machinery

I am always amazed when I go to the doctor or dentists office and see all of the equipment that uses plastic bushings, leads screws, and plastic linear bearing technology. There are so many areas of motion, all of them benefiting from the clean, low cost operation of these advanced bearing technologies. 

If you have any questions, or are working on any applications currently, please do not hesitate to reach out to us here.

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