A company known as ‘igus’ claims to have developed the “world’s first intelligent plain bearing”.

Apparently, it’s a “high-performance plastic that warns of failure and allows machine and equipment operators to plan maintenance, repairs or component replacement – in advance”.

Stefan Loockmann-Rittich, head of the ‘Plain Bearings’ business unit at igus GmBH, explained: “Plain bearings have to withstand considerable adverse influences, such as abrasive dust, chemicals and high speeds.

German company

“The intelligent bearing from igus – a Germany-based company with a significant US operation – allows operators to schedule replacement and thus reduce unexpected, costly and lengthy downtime.

“If a machine fails due to a plain bearing [bushing] failure, the breakdown creates stress for operators and equipment.

The intelligent bearing detects wear and sends a signal to the user [operator] if the bearing threatens to fail.

“Maintenance work can therefore be planned. Operators of agricultural machines, for example, are not surprised during the harvest season by an unanticipated breakdown or work stoppage.”

He added: “We have primarily developed our so-called ‘iglide’ for difficult-to-access bearing points and for applications where no regular maintenance intervals have been planned.”

‘2 components’

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 designed to protect the bearing.

The customer can choose the material that is “most suitable for the application”.

In order to measure the amount of wear, an “intelligent” sensor is used between the two components. The measured data can be “integrated in different ways”.

For example, it is possible to “inform the operator about wear by means of a warning light”. An automatic cut-off is also a possibility.

For “high-end” applications, the data can be sent directly to a control system, which, after its analysis, passes the data on to a customised web interface (via a communication module). This, claims the company, allows maintenance to be planned with a device of the user’s choice.