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2 min read

Q&A - How Do Self-Lubricating Bearings Lubricate?

By Adrian Carrera on April 4, 2017

How Self-Lubricating Bearings Lubricate

Self-lubricating bearings can lower your bearing maintenance costs without sacrificing performance. But have you ever wondered how they lubricate? There are two common systems for lubrication; smearing systems and debris systems which contribute to the surface finish. Here’s a review:

Plastic plane bearings are self-lubricating via two unique processes:

  1. Smearing systems - Smearing occurs when small amounts of lubricating media such as PTFE, silicone, graphite or MOS2 are wiped into the surface micro-finish.
  2. Debris systemsDebris systems process when small particles of the polymer are removed during normal operations and develop plastic “ball bearings.”

Next, let's discuss these two processes in detail.

Smearing systems are typical of PTFE and PTFE-filled polymers. As the shaft makes initial contact with the mating contact surface, softer lubricating material is wiped into the micro-finish of that surface, which builds a thin film of lubricant. The lubricant remains in place and will not migrate, which helps to reduce friction and wear on both the shaft and the bearing.

Some common materials for producing self-lubricating bearings include:

  • Rulon
  • Fluorosint
  • PTFE Blends
  • Delrin AF
  • Ertalyte TX
  • Graphite PI
  • TriSteel PT/PI
  • Ultracomp

The largest family of self-lubricating bearing materials are the filled PTFE materials. And the best known of these is Rulon, a family of blended PTFE materials designed for bearings, seals and structural components.

Debris systems are found in harder thermoplastic or thermoset polymers that deposit particles of the actual resin between the shaft and bearing. These types of materials tend to be less efficient, since the debris remains on the surface area between the dynamic faces rather than embedding. Over time the debris is “cast off” as residue and the wear process tends to be on a slow but continuous basis. Debris materials have inherently low friction, but not as low as smearing systems with migratory lubricants. Debris materials are generally less costly than the smear materials, but also have lower P, V, PV ratings and limited temperature ranges.

Common debris system materials include:

  • Nylon 6/6, 6/12
  • Acetal/Delrin 100/500
  • Cast Nylons
  • UHMW

Want to review any of these self-lubricating bearings materials with our engineering experts?  Fill out a Engineering Worksheet to submit your specs!

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Topics: Self-Lubricating Bearings
1 min read

Ultracomp Conveyor Bearings Roll Along for the “Toy of the Century”

By Dave Biering on September 11, 2014

Ultracomp Conveyor Bearings Roll Along for the “Toy of the Century”Agriculture, railroad, construction and other heavy-duty applications are primary areas for Ultracomp bearings – but did you know that the material also helps the “Toy of the Century” meet their holiday production goals? Here’s how:

As the holiday gift-giving season revs into high gear, toy manufacturers look for every advantage to meet increased demand. After all, a breakdown on the production line can lead not only to costly repairs, but potentially missed shipments to toy retailers worldwide. 

When the maker of plastic building blocks approached us to replace their failing metal bearings on their conveyor systems, Ultracomp was the natural choice. Our client described how the blocks begin as granulated plastic and are sent to the high-temperature molding machine. Once molded, the blocks roll along to packaging where they are sorted by shape, color and size and packaged into specialized kits. The metal bearings our client had installed on the conveyors would seize up from the dust generated in molding. The dust adhered to the grease that was applied to the metal conveyor units. The grease also dripped onto the formed parts, which caused a serious quality control challenge.

Since switching to grease-fee Ultracomp bearings, our partner reports the conveyor belts resist plastic dust to run more efficiently and deliver better quality products. And unlike metal bearings, Ultracomp bearings resist friction and vibration and excel against the stainless components of the production line. 

We might even say that Ultracomp delivers the performance of the century to the “Toy of the Century!”

Have you seen the latest Ultracomp Video for more applications of this self-lubricating material? Check it out below!

Topics: Ultracomp Self-Lubricating Bearings
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

Meet TriStar’s Business Development Manager

By Dave Biering on May 27, 2014

Judy Cedrone - TriStar PlasticsJudy Cedrone solves bearing challenges and gives industry insight

“I love helping our engineering clients solve their tough bearing challenges,” says Judy Cedrone, Business Development Manager at TriStar Plastics, “and in this position, no two days ― or two applications ― are ever the same,” she adds with a smile.  

Serving over 70 industries for more than three decades, the TriStar team has mastered every type of bearing application ― from replacing tried-and-true automotive brake bearings to fabricating high-performance bearings for elite America’s Cup vessels.   “There is so much innovation in the marine industry right now,” says Judy, “and self-lubricating bearings such as the Ultracomp 300A give marine engineers an unbeatable combination of extended service and corrosion resistance for superior design flexibility.”

Judy recently celebrated her 26th year at TriStar, and has held several positions within sales and management.  She notes that she is just one of many employees with long tenure at TriStar, “Our customers are amazed at the continuity of care they receive from TriStar; even years after their initial contact with us, they can usually reach the same person to answer any questions.”   

Beyond helping customers solve tough engineering challenges, Judy loves “nature, hiking, and virtually all water activities ― especially kayaking,” from her base in North Carolina.  And she has a real soft spot for rescue dogs.  But it is her latest canine addition, Savannah, who has stolen Judy’s heart!

To find out how self-lubricating bearings can help your businessget in touch with Judy!
Topics: TriStar Self-Lubricating Bearings Marine 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
1 min read

Tech Tip: How do Self-lubricating Bearings Work to Eliminate Greasing?

By Dave Biering on March 11, 2014

Self-lubricating bearings

I read an interesting article recently that estimated up to 80% of all industrial bearing failures (catastrophic, functional and premature) are related to improper lubrication. The article listed a number of common challenges associated with manual greasing; everything from poor lubricant selection and incorrect application, to lubricant contamination and eventual degradation. Without the right level of lubrication, of course, bearing surfaces are less able to distribute heat, and are prone to failure from corrosion, friction and other issues.

This brought to mind a question we see often on our Ask the Expert portal ― how do self-lubricating bearings actually work to eliminate the need for manual greasing?

Polymer bearings possess inherent lubrication characteristics; in fact, manually greasing a self-lubricating bearing can actually deteriorate the material, since the grease becomes more of a lapping compound. The lapping action will attract debris and shorten wear life.  Check out our video below to learn more about how self-lubricating bearing systems work:

Could self-lubricating bearings be the right fit to replace your metal bearings?  Talk to our team and request a quote today!

Topics: Self-Lubricating Bearings