They can be compounded and molded for specific applications utilizing materials that can withstand a myriad of load requirements. Speed requirements will also dictate the plastic resin to be specified. The balls can also be made from a vast number of materials ranging from steel to engineered plastic resins.
Due to the lower coefficient of friction between plastics and metals, plastics bearings have lower inertia than metal, allowing plastic bearings to spin freer than metal bearings. Another reason for lower inertia in plastic bearings is that plastic bearings do not require lubrication (grease or oil), as do metal bearings. Plastic bearings are also lighter in weight than metal bearings. This is yet another factor in lower inertia in plastic bearings.
Metal bearings require lubrication (oil or grease) for proper operation. Due to metal to metal contact in metal bearings, lubrication is required to reduce friction and dissipate the heat. Since plastic bearings have a lower coefficient of friction, less heat is generated. Various plastics can be designed with self-lubricating features to help dissipate heat in bearings operating in rollers that are powered. Various lubricants in metal bearings may cause contamination, whereas, in plastic bearings, the solid lubricants are compounded into the plastic resin and do not cause contamination.
Steel bearings are standard in the conveyor industry. Steel bearings are heavy and will corrode in corrosive applications. Plastics are approximately 4 – 5 times lighter than metals, this reduces the amount of energy required to move them. Benefits may be lower costs of shipping and reduced stress on workers moving your products.
Where corrosion resistance is a concern, plastic raceway bearings have a significant cost advantage over stainless steel ball bearings. A variety of plastic resins are available for specific corrosion resistance applications.
In corrosive applications, plastic raceway bearings should be given serious consideration.