Shocking statistics reveal that approximately 50% of lubricants used on industrial machines and equipment eventually makes their way into the environment where just one litre of used oil has the capacity to poison about a million litres of water.

Significantly, the global market for lubricants is rising and in 2019 increased by 2% to more than 45 million tons showing how dire the consequences are becoming. These figures also indicate just how much needs to be done and changes made in order to reduce the amount of pollutants making their way into our water sources every day.

Solutions are hard to find considering the importance of lubricants in machines ranging from cars to tractors, ships and manufacturing equipment, almost every moving application that bears weight or creates friction needs lubrication to avoid abrasion and heat. Bearings, shafts, spindles and gears are just some of the items that keep the wheels of industry “working like a well-oiled machine” but there is hope with newer and better ways that have already been developed to mitigate the need for grease and oils.

At the forefront of these is world-leading motion plastics manufacturer, igus, who has embarked on a decades long development journey to produce thousands of different formulae of polymers that are tribologically designed with built-in lubrication to operate without oils and grease. As a result, polymers such as its iglidur and others are rapidly replacing steel in applications such as bearings, bushings, gears, robotics and is even used in tandem with steel in applications such as shaft linear guides, energy chains and other friction and abrasion applications.

With no requirement for lubrication these developments have quickly found favour in global clean room applications, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals and other applications, while its applications in heavy industry, earthmoving, agriculture and some of the toughest environments have enjoyed a slower uptake thanks to its initial scepticism over plastic’s ability to withstand tough tasks. However, the skyrocketing cost of lubrication and the ongoing cost of maintenance in recent years has pushed the agenda and thankfully has steadily filtered through to the point where today the use of plastic bearings is commonplace in the heaviest machines where they have proven to outlast other materials in a wider range of applications.

“One must remember that In earthmoving alone, a small 16-ton excavator uses about 60 litres of grease per year which is mostly destined to end up in the ground and ultimately in our rivers. Larger machines and industrial plants use proportionately much more and can often be replaced by our igus’ motion plastics solutions,” says igus South Africa managing director, Ian Hewat.

He adds that South Africa is rapidly catching up to global benchmarks and the uptake of its motion plastics solutions is gaining pace across applications in heavy engineering, chemical plants, agriculture and other tough environments, never mind the food and beverages and other “clean environments” who already enjoy the benefits if its lubrication-free products. In fact, several high-profile instances of its products outlasting other materials in bearing and anti-abrasion, noise reduction, as well as corrosion resistance applications, have shown local engineers and designers the value of polymers across all applications.

More recently the company even introduced a free-to-use App for smartphones that automatically scrutinises photographs of machines or applications uploaded to the application to identify igus solutions to improve performance with solutions that also negate the use of lubricants. igusGO App is a cutting-edge solution that is free for anyone to download and use. Fortunately, wherever more complex solutions are required, igus’ team of polymer experts are at hand to advise users on applications and are able to call on its German and international laboratories and counterparts to find solutions for customers’ unique requirements.

Igus has developed thousands of different formulae of polymers that are tribologically designed with built-in lubrication to operate without oils and grease

By Admin