Self-Lubricating Ball Bearings Are a No-Brainer

June 15, 2020 Patrick Czaja

If you are reading this post, you have probably asked yourself on occasion, “Do I actually have to lubricate ball bearings?” The answer is actually pretty simple—ball bearings made of metal, yes. However, with xiros® plastic ball bearings from igus®, no!

Grease and other external lubricants are necessary when designing applications with metal ball bearings, but xiros® plastic ball bearings require absolutely no lubrication—no more grease, no more oil, and no more slimy residue dripping onto other parts or your hands. In most applications where ball bearings are used, low loads and low speeds are often required; however, ball bearings made from dry-running plastic materials can be used in a wider range of applications due to the materials used. For example, plastic ball bearings can be used within applications that come into contact with liquid media, water or chemicals, whereas metal ball bearings are only able to partially meet these requirements, and it’s never guaranteed. Additionally, plastic ball bearings can withstand extreme temperatures and are often a better alternative than metal or ceramic ball bearings, even in applications with elevated temperatures of up to 150 ° C.

Ceramics & Polymers

Xiros® plastic ball bearings provide much smoother running compared to metal ball bearings since they do not have to overcome the resistance of the lubricant because they start with a much lower breakaway torque. On top of that, plastic ball bearings are much lighter and available with glass balls so that they are completely metal-free and non-magnetic if needed.

Igus® has a large number of cage, raceway and ball materials, which makes these smaller ball bearings more versatile and suitable for a larger number of applications across more industries. Additionally, they are very cost effective compared to their counterparts that are made from alternative materials.

Another lubricant-free alternative are ball bearings made from technical ceramics. Generally speaking, ceramic materials are very resistant to wear, corrosion and extreme temperatures in addition to being lightweight, firm and electrically insulating. Despite the significantly higher costs when compared to metallic materials, technical ceramics, such as silicon nitride, silicon carbide and aluminum oxide, have been established as a trusted material for various applications. However, due to the higher cost, they have only been used within applications where the advantages of the ceramic materials are truly beneficial and the end buyers won’t be deterred by the larger price.

As mentioned above, metallic ball bearings rely heavily on external lubricants, and without consistent lubrication, these bearings would quickly rust and warp due to the high frictional forces and lack of cooling. In the worst case scenarios, lack of consistent lubrication can cause the bearing to seize up. Lubrication is also particularly important with sealed ball bearings so that the rubber seals don’t become porous, which can occur when the grease escapes and the bearings run dry. However, ball bearings made of stainless steel are an exception since they do not corrode. But, they are much more expensive to buy than plastic ball bearings.

The World Would Not Turn Properly Without Ball Bearings!

Sometimes we cannot fully see how complicated an application is, or how complex something may have been constructed since everything around us is in constant motion. If we took the time to appreciate the technology behind all of the simple luxuries we enjoy, we would begin to notice how large the role is that ball bearings play. Even when we travel, whether by bike, train, bus or car, there are ball bearings at work in all our modes of transport. Although, you don't have to drive far or start searching for ball bearing applications—just take a look at your kitchen appliances, or your fitness equipment, and you’ll see that ball bearings are everywhere.

Ever since the development of the steam engine and the beginning of industrialization, ball bearings have become an integral part of our everyday lives, and in modern times, we have more options to choose from than ever before.

Now you have a choice: metal and grease or our lubricant-free xiros® plastic ball bearings

To speak with an expert about ball bearings for your application, please do not hesitate to contact Preston Souza, dry-tech® Product Specialist. 

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