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igus develops “green” ball bearings made of recycled plastic as durable as the original

08 November 2022

igus has taken a further step towards sustainable plastic production by using residues of the high-performance plastic xirodur B180 from injection moulding production, to produce a sustainable variant of the xiros deep groove ball bearing.

The recycled version has almost the same technical properties and load limits as a virgin xiros bearing.
 
Even the best injection moulding production cannot recycle plastics in a 100 percent closed loop. Missing parts and sprues are often unavoidable. This also applies to the production of igus deep groove ball bearings, whose inner and outer rings are made of the high-performance plastic xirodur B180, among other materials.
 
However, manufacturers can choose what happens to the excess material. Discarding them in the industrial waste is not an option, for obvious reasons. And emissions from incineration add to pollution. 

"As a plastics manufacturer, we are aware of our responsibility to people and nature, so we have developed a process to recycle residues of the high-performance plastic xirodur B180 into a regranulate," says Rob Dumayne, Director of the dry-tech division at igus UK. 

Excess amounts of the engineered plastic xirodur B180 ECO, which is a characteristic green colour, are used in injection moulding production at igus to produce a recycled version of the xiros deep groove ball bearing.
 
Recycling variant with proven physical properties in tests
The new ECO (igus trade name) variant is made of four components. The inner and outer rings are made of recycled xirodur B180 ECO, the cage is made of recycled iglidur J4 material, and the balls can be either stainless steel or glass. Here, customers don’t have to worry about any compromises in quality. 

"Our test laboratory in Cologne proves that the recycled version of the ball bearing achieves almost the same technical properties and load limits as the original," says Dumayne. 

"The only drawback is that the recycled plastic xirodur B180 ECO is no longer FDA-compliant, and therefore no longer suitable for direct contact with food. But there are so many non-food applications that make a recycled version worthwhile.”
 
Just like the original, the green recycled ball bearings enable quiet, lubricant-free and hygienic dry running in machines and systems, for example in the printing industry, in labelling and packaging machines. 

Here, the ECO variant polymer bearings also show some advantages compared with classic metal bearings. The recycled deep groove plastic ball bearing is corrosion-free, particularly resistant to chemicals, non-magnetic, and electrically insulating. In addition, it is up to 60 percent lighter and 40 percent cheaper than the equivalent metal bearing.
 
Step by step to sustainable plastics production
The new recycled material xirodur B180 ECO is a further step in igus’s journey to sustainability in plastics production. Cylindrical plain bearings made of high-performance plastics have been available in an ECO version since mid-2022. 

For 16 of its iglidur materials, igus provides the exact CO2 footprint as Scope 3 emissions. In addition, in 2019 the company launched “Chainge”, a recycling programme for disused energy chains, from any manufacturer. 

The cradle-chain E2.1CG is the first energy chain in the world made of 100 percent regranulate material. 

Since the start of the programme, igus has collected 60 tons of high-performance plastics, recycled them into new chains and transferred them from the classic linear economy to the circular economy.

And another exciting “net zero” measure is igus’s investment in Mura Technology, a company whose technology converts non-recyclable plastic waste into petroleum within 20 minutes. The oil can then be used to produce new plastic granulate.


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