Can construction machinery manufacturers rely on plastic bearings?

By Erin Kemal

This topic is one that will continue to circle and never disappear. The comparison between plastic and metal, how reliable can plastic components be in harsh, heavy- hitting industries and can construction machinery manufacturers trust them. For many designers in industries such as agricultural and construction machinery, the development in the construction machinery market represents a revolution and with this revolution comes a need for change and new solution concepts.

construction machine

Over the years there have been many changes and developments in the way construction machinery manufacturers develop components within their machines. The demand in this particular industry along with the increasing efforts to protect the environment and reduce the ecological footprint has meant people are looking at alternatives to traditional and conventional parts. The innovative concepts are being put to the test, boundaries and being challenged and perceptions are being changed.  But can construction machinery manufacturers rely on plastic bearings?

Issues with lubrication

For the wearing parts of the machines – especially bearings – the requirement for reliable and low-maintenance solutions is imperative. The time required and sometimes wasted for the daily lubrication of the numerous bearing points (for the 20-30 bearing points of a medium-heavy crawler excavator, 30-60 minutes a day go on it), is often simply no longer an option. The result is that this stage is being missed or neglected, leading to insufficient lubrication and often catastrophic failures.

Normally grease guns are used and central lubrication units facilitate this process to save manual lubrication. However, these devices are an additional cost, they must also be refilled regularly and cannot be accommodated in small machines with space restrictions. So, in many cases, construction machinery manufacturers are looking for an alternative solution.

The environmental aspect of lubricating bearings

dirty bearing

In large construction machines, it is not uncommon to see greasy, oily parts which look like they could seize at any moment. If using conventional bearings, these require regular lubrication of the bearing points. At these points, any excess lubrication can be squeezed out into the environment, contaminating the area with dirt and dust. This not only reduces the life of the bearing but also ruins the more expensive mating partner, for example the shaft. Recently, directives and regulations were put into place to ensure that the use is limited to environmentally friendly lubricating greases. But these are significantly more expensive and sometimes give poorer performance than conventional oils and greases so are not being welcomed as they should be.

So, what is the best solution for construction machinery manufacturers?

The most obvious solution to these problems is self-lubricating igus® plain bearings. They are dry running, therefore, without any external lubrication. Not only do you eliminate the harmful grease, you reduce downtime and maintenance time.

However, as is true whenever specifying bearings in an application there are some aspects to consider when deciding to change from conventional bearings to igus® bearings in construction machinery.  Loads need to be considered, bearing behaviour of the different materials right up to corrosion protection. Luckily, we have free online configuration tools that help identify the right bearing materials dependent on the application information provided. Choosing the best bearing to match the shaft material is also imperative to prolong the life of both and eliminate catastrophic failure which often occurs in traditional steel- lubricated components.

There is an increased necessity for buildings to be completed in less time than before and civil engineering work is also increasing. As a result, the requirement for humans and machines to come together and work in unity has never been so valuable. Maintenance or failure-related downtime of construction machinery consume valuable time and unplanned downtime causes delays in projects and drives costs up even further.

In conclusion, the plastic bearings can be relied on in construction machinery. If you have any doubts, please contact an igus® expert and for more information on similar blogs visit

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