Still Using Metal Ball Bearings in Packaging Equipment? Consider This Maintenance-Free Alternative

March 23, 2021 John Nebbia

Ball bearings are a common wear component in the packaging industry. They find their way into many packaging apparatuses, from labeling and bagging equipment to web rollers and cutters. Even downline equipment, such as diverters, often see these components used for their low rolling resistance and smooth operation. Oftentimes, this comes at a cost. Literally. Rollers that are sealed and machined to the highest precision are expensive, and the maintenance required for rollers in harsh environments adds up quickly.

What if I told you there was an alternative? A dry-running, lightweight polymer ball bearing that can withstand harsh environments and often costs less than the competition? This type of solution does exist!

In this blog post, we’ll get more into the technology behind these plastic ball bearings, discuss their benefits and introduce you to some new products from igus® that can help increase the service life of your packaging applications. Let’s get started. 

Behind the technology

100% free of external lubricants

Lubrication is essential for metal ball bearings; otherwise, they will rust quickly and deform during use. With a  xiros® polymer ball bearing from igus®, you won’t need even a single drop of lubricant. As a result, this massively reduces the risk of contamination of bags, labels, wrap, etc. Additionally, this helps with the “smoothness” of operation, as they do not need to overcome the resistance of the lubricant to start moving; this also creates lower breakaway torque.

Elimination of external lubricants also brings another inherent advantage: There is nothing to “attract” debris into the roller. If you have powdered media that you are bagging or even if there is corrugate in the area, the debris from these items can often create a cutting paste when combined with a lubricant or grease. This can drastically decrease the life of a standard metal ball bearing. This is not the case with a lubricant-free design.

Corrosion-resistant construction

All bearings constructed of plastic have a distinct advantage when compared to those made of metal: they are 100% rust-free.

Even when used in corrosive or washdown environments, xiros® plastic ball bearings always keep their smooth-running and long service life - completely maintenance-free.

Weight savings

While metal ball bearings are robust, they are also heavy. xiros® plastic ball bearings offer the perfect alternative for a wide range of applications because they are lightweight, reliable and durable. Beyond their use in packaging applications, they have also seen extensive use in the automotive and aerospace industries. Polymer ball bearings are ideal wherever low weight is important.

New products from igus®

With the recent growth of the xiros® product line, we have continued to push the envelope for standard and custom polymer ball bearing options. With the innovative designs to fit the needs of our customers, the opportunities are endless for custom rollers. A few designs to consider are shown in the graphic below.

Beyond some of these custom and unique designs, igus® has released three new versions of our xiros® tube rollers as standards. This brings the total offering up to six versions of the xiros® roller. These products have massively grown to meet the demands for cost-effective, maintenance-free rollers in the food and packaging industries. The three new designs are shown below and include an anodized black aluminum option, a fully non-magnetic design, and a stainless-steel tube option.

Keep ‘er movin’

As a common wear item in the packaging industry, ball bearings see their fair share of use and abuse. We have reviewed some new products from igus® as well as some of the technology employed to help create maintenance-free solutions that excel in demanding packaging environments.

To review, some of the benefits of self-lubricating ball bearings are:

  • No contamination risks from external lubricants
  • 100% self-lubricating and maintenance free designs
  • Corrosion-resistant options that are washable.
  • Wide operating temperature range (-148⁰F to 302⁰F)
  • FDA-Compliant
  • Low breakaway torque and weights
  • Custom lengths up to 1.5 meters with no minimum order size

If you are interested in seeing more specific applications, products, or want to learn more about igus® and our success in the food and packaging industries, visit our website. Not only can we suggest designs and materials, we can also evaluate your unique applications with our lifetime calculation tool. If you are interested in speaking with an expert about this technology for your machine or equipment, contact me, John R. Nebbia, Packaging Industry Manager – dry-tech® Division.

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