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1 min read

Self-lubricating Bearings vs. Greased, Metal Bearings

By Dave Biering on June 24, 2014

Self-lubricating Bearings vs. Greased, Metal Bearings”Why do bearings fail?”  It is a pivotal question that we hear all too often.

Interestingly, one of the primary reasons for bearing failure is related to lubrication.  
Without proper lubrication, metal bearings can overheat and wear prematurely.  And by “proper lubrication” we are referring to a total lack of lubrication, use of the wrong type of lubricant, or even the evaporation that occurs through oxidation or environmental exposure.  Self-lubricating polymer bearings eliminate this concern entirely since they are oil-free.  So what are some other benefits of self-lubricating bearings over metal? 

No maintenance = cost savings

Plastic bearings are the no-maintenance replacement for bronze and metal-backed bearings.  Their oil-free/dry-running nature reduce time-on-maintenance and unplanned production stoppages when a bearing fails.

No grease = resistance to debris

Dirt and dust from agriculture, construction and other punishing environments are no match for self-lubricating bearings.  Since they run dry, they resist environmental debris.

High-tolerance = chemical and sanitation tolerance

In certain industries such as food processing and medical applications, regulations call for frequent wash downs.  Unlike metal bearings, plastic bearings easily tolerate these corrosive chemicals.

These are just a few of the many advantages of self-lubricating bearings.  Here’s how they work to eliminate greasing.

Interested in learning more?  Let our Experts answer your questions, or see an overview of self-lubricating bearings.

Topics: Plastic Bearings Self-Lubricating Bearings
1 min read

Q&A - What is a sleeve bearing?

By Dave Biering on May 20, 2014

Sleeve BearingThis is a simple question that is worth repeating.  Sleeve bearings are the most common type of plane bearing, and are suitable for use in a range of applications.   Sleeve bearings are designed to carry linear, oscillating or rotating shafts, and function via a sliding action.  Plain and sleeve bearings are often compact and lightweight, and generally offer good value.   To compare various bearing configurations, see our recent post on common bearing types.    Where are sleeve bearings found?  

Common sleeve bearing applications include:

  • Auto industry - Transmission shafts, links, pins and crank components
  • Ag Industry – Linkage assemblies on attachments, steering gear
  • Off-road Industry – Clevis bearings for hydraulic cylinder pins
  • Marine industry - Steady bearings for drive shafts
  • Food industry - Processing and packaging applications where lift and tilt devices are used

Plain and sleeve bearings are also referred to as bushings or journal bearings.  For assistance in choosing the right sleeve, see our Rulon sleeve bearing selector chart.

Topics: Plastic Bearings Plastic Sleeve Bearings
2 min read

Q&A How do plastic bearings compare to standard metal bearings?

By Dave Biering on May 8, 2014

Plastic Bearings vs MetalIt is a question that is still widely debated ― how do plastic and metal bearing compare?   In some industries, plastic is regarded as a premium bearing material, while in others there is a prevailing misconception that plastic is inferior to metal.  We decided to compare the two by looking at a few of the key factors that determine bearing performance ― namely maintenance, durability and service life.  Here’s what we discovered:


Bearing lubrication is extremely important to overall performance, particularly at initial equipment start-up when machines are starting “dry.”   Without the right level of lubrication, aging and wear rates are accelerated. 

Plastic bearings have the maintenance advantage.  They have built-in lubrication properties so components are continuously greased from initial start-up.  Plastics resist the force of stick/slip to deliver longer wear without ever needing additional maintenance.

Conversely, metal bearings require regular manual greasing to reach the proper level of lubrication.  These greasing schedules are a burden to equipment maintenance crews, and contribute to a lower productivity as the manufacturing lines are halted for greasing. 


Another common misconception in bearing design is that thin-walled plastic bearings do not last as long as their thick-walled metal counterparts.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Thin-walled bearings are able to dissipate heat, which extends their durability.  A thinner wall design also contributes to better clearance between shaft and bearing for lower friction levels.

Metal bearings are designed thickly to compensate for wear, but even with the extra material, the metal surface can fail.  Ultimately, bearing materials should be chosen based on their predicted wear, not on the thickness of the part.

Learn how reinforced plastic bearings extended wear and reduce costs in high-speed rotary applications.


Generally speaking, plastic bearings routinely deliver longer service than oil-impregnated bronze bearings.  In fact, service life can be predicted through tribology testing, which measures friction and other properties of plastic materials in simulated industrial applications.  Tribology can also protect the end user of the material by ensuring that the components meet all applicable industry standards.   Metal bearings are not regularly tested for service life. 

Ask our Experts about the benefits of plastic bearing for your application.

Topics: Plastic Bearings Self-Lubricating Bearings Bearing Performance
2 min read

Common Types of Plastic Bearings

By Dave Biering on April 29, 2014

Types of plastic bearingsOur plastic bearing blog has covered hundreds of topics over the years ― everything from questions on the surface energy of plastics to the advantages of high-performance bearings aboard America’s Cup.   This week we wanted to take a “back-to-basics” approach by reviewing some of the common types of plastic bearings.

As a quick review, bearings enable rotational or linear movement, and are designed to reduce friction for easier movement and speed.  Here are 5 common configurations:

  1. Flange bearings

    20140429_flangeFlange bearings are designed to handle both axial and radial loads. In some designs the flange is also used as a locating mechanism to hold the sleeve portion in place. Flange bearings require a little more machining to the housing but can solve the unique load conditions of a shaft and some type of thrust surface.

  2. Mounted bearings

    20140429_mountedMounted bearings come in the form of pillow block or flange style housings. These can be in many different forms with 2, 3 or 4 mounting holes. Mounted bearings can be retrofit with several different plastic plane bearing materials to improve wear and reduce or eliminate lubrication.  

  3. Thrust bearings

    20140429_thrustIn plane bearing speak thrust bearings are simple washers made from any number of materials. These are generally thin, easy to install and prevent metal on metal contact in any thrust load conditions. Much simpler to use than ball or needle thrust bearings and do not require lubrication of any kind in most conditions.

  4. Sleeve bearings

    20140429_sleeveThe most common plane bearing, sleeve bearings, are simple ID/OD/Length cylinders that are designed to carry linear, oscillating or rotating shafts. The key to successfully designing a plastic sleeve bearing is paying attention to temperature, P, V and PV ratings for the material and match it with your application. Watch our video on designing plane bearings for more information on this process.

  5. Spherical bearings

    20140429_sphericalSpherical bearings are designed to allow for shaft misalignment, as they can rotate from two directions. Spherical bearings typically support a rotating shaft in the bore that calls for both rotational and angular movement. 

For applications with unconventional parameters, the above standard bearings may not be the right fit.  Instead, the best solution may be custom-fabricated bearings. 

See our Materials Database for more technical data on the above bearings, or just Ask an Expert!

Topics: Plastic Bearings Plastic Sleeve Bearings Flange Bearings
1 min read

Tech Tip: 5 Common Signs of Bearing Failure

By Dave Biering on January 28, 2014

5 Common Signs of Bearing FailureWhy do bearings fail? This is a common manufacturing question, but one that is not always easy to answer.  Failure can be a result of many factors; extreme working conditions, maintenance and lubrication schedules, or industry-specific demands.  Early indications of bearing failure can include machinery that is running unevenly, or at an exceptionally loud volume, or with reduced accuracy. There are also some visual signs to look for.

Here are 5 common signs of bearing failure:

  1. Abrasion - Generally caused by excessive wear and friction against mating hardware.
  2. Creep - Occurs when there is slipping at the surface fitting.
  3. Flaking - Particle flaking is common with rolling element bearings.
  4. Seizure - This often occurs when bearings are overheated from continuous rotation.
  5. Excessive loads - A bearing with an overloaded capacity is susceptible to premature wear and fatigue.

In most cases, we’ve found that there is an inherent rush to just replace the faulty bearing and move on with production. There’s no time to analyze the root cause of the failure. But by taking the time to understand the cause, you can actually extend the life of the bearing and prevent long-term damage to your equipment. We suggest instituting a regular inspection schedule to avoid bearing failure before it ever happens.

Trying to identity a bearing failure in your application? Our engineering experts can guide you to an answer.

Topics: Bearing Failure Plastic Bearings