Technologically advanced materials have revolutionised many applications in the industrial environment with engineered plastics able to outperform and outlast steel in heavy-duty applications such as bearings, bushes and protective housings.
At the forefront of these technological developments is German manufacturer, Igus, which introduces several hundred advanced plastic products and chainflex cables to the market every year.
It has production facilities across the globe, including a fully autonomous local operation – Igus South Africa – which, according to Managing Director Ian Hewat, is actively engaging with industry to introduce these new solutions into the local market.
This includes the replacement of bearings with greaseless and maintenance free polymer alternatives on heavy duty excavator, grab hooks and massive port cranes, as well as simple high-glide linear polymer bearings that reduce wear and eliminates wear on the shaft of the machine.
“We have been a mainstay of the e-chain market in South Africa for more than a decade. Our e-chains are providing continuous protection on some of the country’s largest cranes at our ports and harbours, while similarly tough and durable e-chains serve the mining, automotive, packing, and other industries wherever cables or hydraulics are required to run in linear applications,” Hewat said.
“It is time for the local industry to embrace new motion plastic materials and tap into a world of reduced maintenance, safer working environments, greaseless operation and vastly simplified mechanics offered through the use of polymers.”
He said the company’s e-chains, for example, “allow direct continuous control with no slip rings or joints required for added reliability, while our specially developed chainflex cables are tailor-made to required applications”.
Simultaneously, advanced new materials in the manufacture of polymer plain bearings and bushes allows engineers to replace a wide variety of steel and other traditional bearings. Igus polymer bearings make use of Tribology materials that include polymer, fibre and dry lubricants into the polymer.
“They are manufactured with the latest materials for self-lubrication that provides a lifetime of maintenance free operation that is usually far longer than traditional types. Even in the heaviest and dirtiest of conditions these materials can perform flawlessly and can even run underwater with no contamination.
“Similarly, they can maintain continuous operation in the hottest and driest of conditions or provide corrosion or chemical resistance with any one of its 40+ different standards base materials.”
This, said Hewat, is evidenced in the uptake of Igus products in the country’s largest projects on mining drill rigs, metals recycling, high speed packaging plants and throughout the logistics supply chain, from lifting and manufacturing to distribution and shipping.
He added that the products are well suited to operations within the robotics and automation industries and the company provides low-cost delta robot and linear automation solutions, as well as shafts, linear pads, motors, drives and cable chain and more for use on 3D printers, routers and CNC machines.