For much of the history of manufacturing, steel has been the material of choice for manufacturing ball bearings. Modern steel bearings are typically made from either 52100 steel or 440C stainless steel. However, steel has one major weakness: it rusts. This makes steel a poor choice for any application that involves large amounts of water, such as food processing, swimming pools, boating, and medical applications. Plastic bearings, on the other hand, are easily machined or molded for such purposes, and have several advantages over conventional steel. In this blog, we will list several of those advantages.
Weight is a concern in numerous applications, especially aviation. Plastic is five times lighter than steel, thereby reducing the energy required to move them.
Corrosion is a serious issue for metal bearings, which often require special treatment to be able to operate safely for long periods of time. Plastic ball bearings can operate in environments inimical to steel, such as sea water, silicon wafer processing, and swimming pools.
Metal bearings require lubrication to reduce friction, dissipate heat, and prevent corrosion. Plastic, however, has no metal on metal contact, which results in less friction. Additionally, the liquids that plastic bearings operate in can dissipate heat and act as lubricant.
Because of its greater elasticity compared to metal, plastic is better at absorbing vibrations. This is helpful in both shock absorption and sound dampening, especially when supplemented with lubrication.
Plastic bearings typically operate cleaner than metal bearings because they do not need lubrication, are resistant to corrosion, and can be washed without worrying about re-lubing. This makes them an option for clean room environments, and wash-down applications.
Magnetism is a serious concern in equipment such as MRI x-rays and similar sensors vulnerable to magnetic distortion. Bearings made entirely from plastic, however, are completely nonmagnetic.