Hard on the outside, smart on the inside: intelligent plain bearings enable continuous condition monitoring

Richard Habering | 7. April 2021

Plain bearings often have to withstand considerable adverse influences such as abrasive dust, high speeds or chemicals. In order to detect the degree of wear of such plain bearings in good time, igus developed an intelligent bearing – i.Sense – with iglidur high-performance polymers last year. This uses condition monitoring and warns in good time of an impending failure. Machine and equipment operators can plan maintenance, repairs and part replacement in advance.

If a building machine fails, packaging equipment comes to a standstill or a wind turbine no longer turns due to a bearing failure, this causes a lot of trouble for the operators of such machines and equipment. That is why igus has expanded its smart plastics product range to include the world’s first intelligent plain bearing. It detects wear in extremely stressful applications in advance and sends a signal to the user proactively if the bearing threatens to fail. In contrast to numerous alternative offers of condition monitoring, the condition of the bearing is not “only” measured at regular time intervals, but continuously, 24/7, so to speak. Maintenance work can therefore be planned and operators of agricultural machines, for example, are not surprised during the harvest season. Especially for difficult-to-access bearing points and applications where regular maintenance intervals are not planned, this brings enormous advantages.

iglidur i.Sense – individually design smart plain bearings for condition monitoring

The basic body of the new iglidur i.Sense plain bearing consists of two components: the internal customised lubrication-free iglidur material and an external hard polymer shell that protects the bearing. The customer can choose the material that is most suitable for his application. Five materials are included in the catalogue product range. The FDA-compliant material iglidur A180, which is specifically designed for use in the food industry, the heavy-duty bearing iglidur Q2E for use in construction machinery and agricultural engineering, the all-rounder material iglidur G, the endurance runner iglidur J as well as iglidur P210 as a specialist for pivoting and rolling applications are also included. igus offers all intelligent i.Sense plain bearings in three dimensions each with an inner diameter of 20, 30 and 40 millimetres.

Condition monitoring with iglidur

In order to measure the amount of wear, an intelligent sensor – i.Sense – is used between the two components. The measured data of the i.Sense sensor can be integrated by the machine and equipment operators in their systems in different ways. For example, it is possible to inform the operator about the plain bearing’s wear by means of a warning light, which constitutes the core of the condition monitoring, where an automatic cut-off is also a possibility for integrated use of the sensor data. For high-end applications, the data can be sent directly to a control system, which, after their analysis, passes the data on to a customised web interface via the i.Sense:module communication module for the purposes of maintenance and repair. In this way, the user can plan maintenance and replacement by means of a terminal device of his choice.

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