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igus fixed flange bearings become intelligent

igus fixed flange bearings become intelligent

March 13, 2024 6:41 pm

New generation of igubal spherical bearings is equipped with a predictive maintenance system.

Expensive machine and vehicle breakdowns due to undetected faults in heavy-duty fixed flange bearings will soon be a thing of the past. This is attributed to a new generation of two- and four-hole fixed flange bearings. What sets these bearings apart is their composition of lubrication-free high-performance plastic. They have miniature wireless sensors, enabling condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

Examining his smartphone, a technician observes that a fixed flange bearing in the conveyor belt of a beer bottle discharge system is nearing its wear limit. Previously, the problem might not have been detected and caused an expensive system failure. Today, however, the technician can replace the bearing during a break in production – assured by the fact that the hundreds of other bearings also communicate with him.

Thomas Preißner, Head of Business Unit igubal Spherical Bearings at igus says, “This scenario is no longer science fiction. As part of our smart plastics range, we are gradually equipping plain bearings made of high-performance plastics with networked sensors. Our two- and four-hole fixed flanged bearings from the igubal series enable condition monitoring and predictive maintenance to prevent unforeseen damage.”

Flange bearings transmit their status wirelessly

The latest Industry 4.0 bearings from igus, integrates an abrasion sensor within the polymer spherical ball. A thin circuit board is integrated near the running surface, accompanying the battery and the power supply without cables. This means that the bearing for spherical levelling can continue to move independently. Wear interrupts the conductor paths of the circuit board. If the electronics lose the signal of a conductor path, they know that the wear has reached a certain level.

The sensor transmits a digital signal via a long-range network (LoRa), a wireless standard known for its energy efficiency for the Internet of Things. The receiver is the i.Cee switch cabinet module, which analyses the data. The associated software now knows that the conductor path is worn out, which infers the abrasion percentage. Over time, the sensor wears away layer by layer – parallel to the bearing’s running surface. It continues to send out signals that allow conclusions to be drawn regarding the bearing’s condition. Users can see the remaining service life and when maintenance is due on a web-based dashboard, which they can access from anywhere in the world with a PC, tablet or smartphone.

Luxembourg’s national railway company is the first pilot customer for smart fixed flange bearing

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The new fixed flange bearings are currently in the prototype phase. However, they have already convinced one pilot customer: the Société National des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL). Luxembourg’s national railway company operates a 200-metre washing system that cleans local and long-distance trains daily. Historically, gearbox malfunctions on the washing trolley repeatedly led to costly system failures. The operator, therefore, abandoned lubricated standard ball bearings and instead used the networked spherical balls from igus in the UC bearing housings. The advantage is that the spherical balls made of high-performance plastics are corrosion-free, resist chemicals and enable low-friction and maintenance-free dry operation thanks to incorporated solid lubricants.

CFL Maintenance Manager Mike Feinen says, “The other bearings must be lubricated every few weeks, which is very time-consuming. We have, therefore, ticked off this maintenance issue.” Thomas Preißner says, “The new networking feature puts the icing on the cake. Thanks to continuous condition monitoring, CFL can prevent failures, plan maintenance work ideally, and fully use the polymer bearings’ service life.”

Find out more about smart condition monitoring and predictive maintenance in the train washing system from CFL here: https://www.igus.in/info/smart-plastics-train-washing

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