Igus has developed an intelligent plain bearing, a high-performance plastic that warns of failure and allows machine and equipment operators to plan maintenance, repairs or part replacement in advance. Plain bearings have to withstand considerable adverse influences, such as abrasive dust, chemicals and high speeds. The intelligent bearing from Igus, a Germany-based company that runs its United States operations out of Providence, R.I., allows operators to schedule replacement and thus reduce unexpected, costly and lengthy downtime.
If a building machine fails, packaging equipment comes to a standstill, or a wind turbine no longer revolves due to a bearing failure, the breakdown creates stress for operators of the machines and equipment. The intelligent bearing detects wear and sends a signal to the user if the bearing threatens to fail. Maintenance work can therefore be planned, and operators of agricultural machines, for example, are not surprised during harvest season with an unanticipated breakdown and work stoppage.
“We have primarily developed iglide for difficult-to-access bearing points and for applications where no regular maintenance intervals have been planned,’’ said Stefan Loockmann-Rittich, head of the business unit iglide plain bearings at Igus GmBH.
Smart plain bearings are individually designed
The body of the new smart iglide plain bearing consists of two components: the internal, lubrication-free iglide material and an outer hard polymer shell that protects the bearing. "The customer can choose the material that is most suitable for the application. “The complete range of iglide materials is available,” Loockmann-Rittich said.
In order to measure the amount of wear, an intelligent sensor is used between the two components. The measured data of the sensor can be integrated by the machine and equipment operators in their systems in different ways. For example, it is possible to inform the operator about the plain bearing's wear by means of a warning light, where an automatic cut-off is also a possibility for integrated use of the sensor data.
For high-end applications, the data can be sent directly to a control system, which, after its analysis, passes the data on to a customized web interface via the icom communication module. This feature allows the user to plan maintenance and replacement with a terminal device of the user’s choice.