Drives and Controls Magazine
Car will tour the world using polymer bearings
Published:  26 March, 2014

The German engineering polymer specialist igus has replaced many of the conventional bearings in a small car with its own polymer-based plain bearings and is sending the vehicle on a global tour to demonstrate their capabilities.

The tour, which celebrates 30 years of igus’ iglidur materials, started in India and is taking in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, before crossing North America from coast-to-coast and then returning to Europe.

Altogether, the car is expected to travel about 100,000km before being dismantled at the 2015 Hannover Fair to demonstrate how the polymer components have endured the tour.

To prepare the car for its journey, it was first retrofitted (above) by a team from Cologne University of Applied Sciences, working with igus. The aim was to replace everything possible with igus plastics – as long as it was technically feasible and allowed under TÜV regulations. For example, the metal bearings for the brake pedal, windscreen wipers, window lift mechanisms, handbrake, throttle valve, alternator and convertible roof mechanism, were all replaced by polymer bearings. In total, the plain bearings were used at 56 points in the car.

Many of the vehicle’s original modules had to be disassembled and rebuilt. Although standard plain bearings were used in many locations, in some cases, customised parts were needed. These components were designed using a CAD system and then milled or turned from stock polymer bar chosen from the 45 available iglidur materials. Attention was even paid to ensuring visual likeness – for example, for the seat locking mechanisms.

The igus car's world tour has already taken it to India and China

Igus argues that certain of the polymer bearings’ characteristics – such as their insensitivity to dust and dirt, and pressure resistance – make them especially suitable for the use in the chassis, engine compartment and gearbox of a car. They are also corrosion-free, self-lubricating and silent, making them suitable for use in door hinges and other moving applications. The lightweight parts can also help to cut a vehicle’s fuel consumption.

Rob Dumayne, a director with igus in the UK, reports that automotive suppliers are increasingly discovering the potential of tribopolymer components, and predicts that this trend will accelerate. “This is because maintenance and corrosion-free polymer plain bearings that require no external lubrication, and weigh seven times less than metallic rolled bearings, speak for themselves – they are kind on both the environment and the pocket as they reduce production costs and offer a longer service life thanks to their wear resistance,” he says.

“In vehicle interiors, they are the ideal solution for dampening noise,” Dumayne adds. “At the same time, however, their robust structure and resilience make them equally predestined for outdoor use, which will be clearly manifested when they encounter the many weather conditions, high altitudes and road types along their journey. The range of potential uses has far from been exhausted and perhaps the polymer-bearing-packed car’s demonstration trip around the world will inspire developers to come up with further new and exciting ideas and concepts.”

The vehicle’s conversion and its progress around the world are being charted in an online blog.