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4 min read

Why Material Selection Matters for Bearings and Beyond

By Dave Biering on June 2, 2020

Why Material Selection Matters for Bearings and Beyond

Bearings and similar components often have serious implications for the performance and reliability of the design where they are employed. But in many cases, bearing selection is conducted based only on a vague, abstract preference for one material over the other.

In TriStar’s experience working with applications ranging from advanced military to food processing, taking the time to carefully match component materials to specific application demands can pay real dividends.

In this blog post, we take a look at why careful materials selection can offer serious value across a wide variety of use cases. If you’re looking for an overview of bearings, what they’re made of, and why they matter, please see our Bearings 101 page here.

Bearing Materials Selection: An Engineering Priority

Generalities about bearings materials can be limiting (and even dangerous). Sometimes, an organization will stick with a particular bearing type because it has “always worked for them.” But new applications put new environmental stresses on bearings.

Anything ranging from a dusty desert (where particulates can rapidly stick to lubricated metal bearings) to a corrosive cleaning chemical (like those used in food processing plants) can cause an otherwise reliable material to fail.

Meanwhile, misconceptions about material limitations can prevent an organization from taking advantage of the best materials available. Sometimes, for example, we run into a vague belief that plastics can only be used in low-load, load temperature applications. But this couldn’t be further from the truth: as you can see in our materials database, polymers can thrive when faced with a wide variety of loads, temperatures, and environmental risks. With this knowledge in hand, engineers can take advantage of self-lubricating polymers in a huge range of applications.

Priorities for Effective Bearing Selection

  • Careful material selection: performance characteristics can vary widely within a broad material category like polymers. It’s important to resist broad generalizations and look at specific data points on material properties. In many cases, materials can even be customized specifically to your application. Materials like TriSteel take advantage of the desired properties of multiple materials at once, another great reason to resist generalization about materials.
  • Application-specific engineering: there is no “best” bearing material. Rather than relying on a wholesale preference for one material over the other, it’s important to consider the performance requirements and operating environments of each application. Different components within the same design can even call for very different materials. TriStar works hand-in-hand with client engineers to find the best solution for each application.
  • Consideration of full TCO: finding the right bearing is about more than just preventing catastrophic failures. It’s important to consider how material selection will affect broader operational concerns like maintenance schedules. Or to consider the costs of dealing with massive amounts of grease often required by traditional metal bearings. With one client, for instance, we were able to save over $300,000 per year in downtime losses and reduced maintenance expenses, just by changing a simple material.

Materials Matter: Advantages of TriStar’s Advanced Materials for Bearings

  • Self-lubricating design means lower lubrication costs, less maintenance, and cleaner operation.
  • Vibration and impact resistance is vital for service life. Transferring less vibration throughout the machine can be beneficial for the service life of other components as well, while also reducing noise from metal on metal contact.
  • Superior strength and wear resistance. They also wear and age more predictably and gradually, reducing the risk of a sudden, catastrophic failure that can damage far more than the bearing.
  • Low friction coefficients help improve performance and increase component life.
  • Corrosion resistance maximizes service life while enabling production in conditions that are acidic, wet, or full of abrasive particulate matter.
  • Polymers offer minimal moisture absorption. This trait helps reduce bearing expansion, even in wet environments.
  • These materials are capable of handling high loads yet are lightweight, with a compact strength-to-weight ratio for good durability and flexible design options
  • Our materials are approved for regulation-intensive applications like food processing and pharmaceuticals, giving manufacturers a path to speedy, simplified regulatory compliance.

Using The Right Materials to Build the Best Product

The advantages of effective bearing material selection can go beyond obvious failure modes of the bearing itself. These critical components can play a huge role in how much heat, vibration, and even electricity are transferred throughout the broader design where they are incorporated.

Within a complex machine, issues like excessive vibration can have detrimental effects on the reliability of a design even when the bearing is still operating properly. This can result in sub-optimal performance (or excessive failure) that is very hard to pin down. TriStar often finds bearing replacement options that solve chronic reliability issues within a mechanical design.

If you’re interested in chatting with the TriStar team about finding the perfect material to tackle your engineering challenge (or just building a longer-lasting product) you can reach out using the button below.


Bearings 101: What They Are, How They Fail, and Why They Matter

Topics: Material Selection
2 min read

Reinforced Plane Bearings: The Pros and Cons of Different Liners

By Dave Biering on September 3, 2013

Blog 20130903bIn our last post we reviewed the key questions to ask when selecting a liner material for reinforced bearings. Ultimately, the final selection will depend on the exact parameters of your application (load, speed and temperature), and we also recommend that you review the size and shape, plus cost and machinability of your material.   When you’ve evaluated all of these factors, here are some liner option to consider, and common uses of each:

Low friction, high PV, high speed, no lubrication required, high-operating temperature.   An enhanced-wear PTFE liner for use in lubricated and dry environments. With lubrication, PV ratings can exceed 1,000,000.

Uses: Material handling, agriculture, and hydraulics. The PTS version is lead-free for use in food-grade applications.

Good for use in lubricated or dry environments, and offers high PV. With lubrication, PV ratings can be met without limitations. Lubrication reservoirs are available on the liner to produce a constant storage and pumping action for better hydrodynamic film generation. 

Uses: mining equipment, chassis components

Operates with or without lubrication, high PV, and high temperature. With lubrication, PV ratings can exceed 1,000,000. Lubrication reservoirs are available to produce a constant storage and pumping action for better hydrodynamic film generation; reservoirs unnecessary in dry applications.

Uses: chemical pumps and valve bushings

PR and P4
Good for high-speed reciprocating, self-lubricating, high-temperature and high-load applications. Liner is designed specifically for high-frequency dither applications. 

Uses:  valves, shock absorbers, hydraulic controls – both lubricated and dry

High-PV and high-speed applications, and this liner will run with zero lubrication. Liner thickness allows for secondary machining to accommodate misalignment.

Uses:  ski lift chair clip bearings, lift and tilt on medium-speed and mid-load applications.

TriSteel reinforced bearings are metal-backed and contain various self-lubricating liner materials that are sintered to the substrate for longer wear.  Read about our newest variation, TriSteel P4.

Interested in learning more about reinforced bearings?  Submit your design specs or request a quote!

Topics: TriStar Material Selection
1 min read

Rulon Bearing Tape = 500x Industry Standard for Wear Resistance

By Dave Biering on June 18, 2013

Rulon Bearing TapeWe recently answered a question via our Ask the Experts forum from a client searching for a tape with outstanding wear qualities.  Rulon tapes outperform all products in their category.  In rotation tests, this material offered 500x  wear resistance, and very low friction.  Rulon tapes are available in both low temperature acrylic and high-temperature, clean-release silicone adhesive.

Rulon® tapes are manufactured from skived, PTFE films and are available in thicknesses ranging from 0.002 in. to 0.260 in. Standard widths are 6” or 12” and custom widths are available.   All tapes can be chemically etched to provide a bondable surface and just the right tack strength. 

Consider Rulon tape for use in liners, and chute and rail coverings.  You can also review our Rulon Comparison Chart for specifications on different grades

Topics: Material Selection Rulon Materials High Performance Materials
1 min read

Increasing adhesion on hard-to-bond materials like Delrin

By Kevin Smith on December 4, 2012

Blog 20121204Question: How do I bond Delrin to other materials?

Delrin (also known as Acetal, Polyocymethylene (POM), polyacetal, and polyformaldehyde) is an engineered polymer that is commonly used in the manufacturing of precision parts.  It is a fairly rigid plastic that exhibits low friction and maintains good dimensional stability and good abrasion resistance.  It also has low moisture absorption, good heat resistance, and (like most plastics) is a good dielectric.

Unfortunately, like many engineered and high performance polymers, it can be very difficult to bond, especially with conventional adhesives.  However, Delrin can be made easily bondable with any number of simple pretreatments such as chemical etching, flame treatment, or surface roughening (abrasion).  Of these treatments, the most effective is a plasma treatment to clean and functionalize the material.  Although a corona treatment can be effective, it does not offer the same level of uniformity or treatment lifetime that can be achieved with a low-pressure (vacuum) plasma treatment.  In the case of Delrin, and many other engineered or high-performance polymers, an oxygen plasma treatment may be all that is required to make the material bondable with conventional epoxies, urethanes, or cyanoacrylate adhesives.

Is Delrin right for your next application?  Consult our Experts to find out more!

Topics: Material Selection Surface Modification
1 min read

Turcite Materials – Common Applications

By Dave Biering on August 7, 2012

Q&A  Can you tell me about the acetal Turcite for industrial use?  What are some common applications?

Turcite™ is a family of materials made from both Acetal resins and PTFE.  The acetal-based Turcite products are known for exhibiting good strength and stiffness, dimensional stability, resistant to abrasion with very low stick-slip in dynamic applications.

Turcite A and X are the most popular of the acetal-based versions where copolymer resins are blended with low friction and wear additives.

Turcite A and X are common to many industrial applications since they are chemically inert to most solvents.  They are a good choice for enhanced extrusion resistance in dynamic load applications. 

The other side of the Turcite family are modified PTFE materials used for both bearing and seal applications. Turcite B is a popular linear bearing material for the machine tool industry and there are many Turcite grades used in industrial seals, wipers and wear rings for hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders, valves and other control devices.

 Ask Our Experts for more information on Turcite, or consult our Materials Database.

            ™ - Turcite is a registered trademark material from Trelleborg.

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Topics: Material Selection Q&A
1 min read

Plastic Bearings and Coefficient of Friction

By Dave Biering on May 29, 2012

We all realize that friction generates heat, and heat can be problematic for plastic plane bearings. So how can you choose the right plastic bearing material for a high-friction environment?  Which materials will give you the longest wear? Our video below reviews key design considerations such as temperature, load, and speed, plus surface finish, hardness and more.

Topics: Material Selection

Q&A: Is there a seal material that will operate at 600° continuously?

By Dave Biering on February 7, 2012

This question was posed to us from an aerospace client. Temperature is always a big issue in aerospace, particularly in military aircraft and vehicles. And continuously maintaining 600°F can be a challenge, given that the materials that resist such high temperatures are usually more rigid.

TriStar has a range of high-pressure, high temperature seals available. More details, including the key considerations to help you improve performance in seal material, are available in our video. Or let us review your design specs, and we’ll help you match the right polymer to the right hardware.

Topics: Material Selection Q&A
2 min read

Material Selection Process (MSP)

By Dave Biering on December 13, 2011

What type of material should I use?  Can you review the pros and cons for this application?  What are the technical specs?  

These are just some of the questions we are often asked on our Ask the Experts forum.  Since selecting the right material is crucial to the ultimate performance of your application, TriStar offers an on-line Materials Selection Database.  But here are some key considerations to help you find just the right solution:

  • Physical Requirements

Is the part being designed going to be in a tensile, compressive or flexural state? All plastics will vary in their inherent strengths and with the addition of reinforcing additives we can change these strengths to meet specific demands.

  • Temperature

All plastics are impacted by ambient heat and have a maximum continuous service temperature. The maximum continuous service temperature is not a melting point, but is the highest temperature at which a material will retain physical integrity. Important: Note that elevated tempera­tures impact material properties in a negative manner and should be carefully reviewed before use.

  • Temperature Variation

All plastic materials have coefficients of thermal expansion. Measured in in/in/°F, plastic materials vary greatly not only from each other, but in some cases ten times that of metallic counter parts. As a result, we consider temperature variations. Components should be designed to meet required service temperature. Not doing so may result in premature failure.

  • Environmental Conditions

Always consider the following environmental conditions under which the material must operate:

- Contact with debris such as sand, grit or dust

- Contact with chemicals such as strong acids, bases and caustics

- Contact with water, constant spray or wash downs

- FDA or USDA compliance

- Thermal/electrical conductivity or insulation

- Radiation exposure

- Microwave exposure

  • Other important considerations

- Size and shape availability

- Material cost/economy

- Machinability

- Standard or custom runs

- Custom compounds

TriStar’s custom solution experts are always available for consult.

Topics: Material Selection
1 min read

Q&A: Why are PTFE Teflon prices going through the roof?

By Dave Biering on March 9, 2011

All of us in the fluoropolymer business are suffering what could be called a perfect storm of bad news! First, the raw material situation. One of the key ingredients in the processing of fluoropolymers is a mineral called fluorspar. This is a material that is critical in the production of not only fluoropolymers but pharmaceuticals, hydrofluoric acid, refrigerants and any other product that requires a fluorine based stock. China controls most of the worlds resources on this mineral and it became part of a war of words and ultimately manipulation in the world market. Countries, including the USA, are now scrambling to reopen old or open new mining resources of this critical mineral. So this shortage, as well as a worldwide surge in demand for fluoropolymers and a reduction in processors of the PTFE resin, all leads  to this very difficult situation. The bad news is there is no end in sight. The EU has declared fluorspar to be on it’s worldwide shortage list until 2030. So we all  will have to deal with this out of control pricing escalation for years to come. Best if you call Tri Star and place blanket orders for your requirements for the future!!

Topics: Material Selection Rulon Materials
1 min read

Plane bearings for a wet environment

By Dave Biering on September 22, 2010

Over the summer — at the height of boating season — I was asked how to choose the right bearing for use in a wet environment.  As a whole, plastics do not do well in wet applications; most traditional polymers tend to absorb moisture and saturation. Nylon materials, for instance, are susceptible to humidity and swelling issues.  Even those polymers that do well in water can usually withstand freshwater only, not saltwater. 

So what are your bearing choices for a wet environment application?  Polyesters and Acetron materials hold up well.  And our marine clients have done extremely well with Ultracomp for their rudder bearings, since they are durable and excel in linear, oscillating and rotary applications.  Our CJ product line is another good choice, since they remain dimensionally stable in liquid.  No matter what material you choose, we recommend that you avoid graphite, because it gives a cathodic charge in saltwater.

Very few PTFE-based materials excel in water, but we can help you find the right one for you freshwater, saltwater, DI, or chemical blend submerged applications.
Topics: Material Selection CJ Bearings Ultracomp Marine
1 min read

Effect of Crystallinity on PCTFE at Liquid Oxygen Temperatures (-320F)

By Dave Biering on December 7, 2009

PCTFE has long been the go to material for valve seats, seals and gaskets used in cryogenic applications. But one thing that makes PCTFE unique is that it can be processed to meet a broad molecular state, i.e. crystalline or amorphous. PCTFE is a melt fluoropolymer and when molded in either sheet, rod or tube form it can be set at a specific crystalline state through a unique quenching process. This process is not as easily manipulated with extruded PCTFE rod so if you are looking for controlled molecular values you need to consider molded product.

As an example of some of the differences in physical properties between the amorphous PCTFE and crystalline PCTFE, consider these values:

Property differences between amorphous PCTFE and crystalline PCTFE

Crystalline/amorphous values are monitored by specific gravity and performance in cryogenic service utilizing amorphous grades of PCTFE has been well documented in terms of service life, sealability and property retention.

Ask The Experts at TriStar for more information on how PCTFE can be "custom tailored" to your application through molecular manipulation!

Topics: Material Selection Misc Products
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